A plain, repressed spinster falls for a dashing young medical student who prefers the wilder life, until it's too late.A plain, repressed spinster falls for a dashing young medical student who prefers the wilder life, until it's too late.A plain, repressed spinster falls for a dashing young medical student who prefers the wilder life, until it's too late.
'Summer and Smoke' is for me though one of the lesser Williams film adaptations. Part of the problem is the play itself, which is nowhere near Williams' best in my view (though that is not saying it's bad). There are undeniably powerful moments, with the ending being an emotional powerhouse, and Williams' dialogue is unmistakable Williams and sears in its best moments. Other Williams plays however have far richer character and story development, don't think there's enough of either in 'Summer and Smoke' and there is has erratic spots, and are bolder with the melodrama not being quite as over-heated.
There are good things with 'Summer and Smoke'. It looks great, beautifully photographed with quite opulently coloured and never gaudy art direction. Bernstein's score is one of those that gets to the emotional core of the story, doing it in a way that's poignant and nostalgic. The main theme being a primary example. The film's highlight when it comes to individual scenes is the ending, which is a real tear-jerker.
All the supporting cast do well, with the battleaxe performance of Una Merkel standing out. There is one reason to see 'Summer and Smoke' though and that is Page. She goes full-throttle and gives a simply miraculous performance that smolders in a way that most of the rest of the film didn't.
Did find Laurence Harvey though dull and thought he didn't always look comfortable. He and Page don't ignite enough together. That the material itself comes to life in spurts but generally doesn't ignite enough is a big part of the film's problem. Some very interesting themes here, translated on screen with not enough passion and could have been bolder regardless of how subtle the play is compared to other Williams works.
Furthermore, the material didn't feel opened up enough or cinematic enough. Feeling rather stagy and like a filmed play production, with some of the more melodramatic parts being over-heated. Peter Glenville's direction gets the job done with no disasters really but came over as little more than workmanlike.
In conclusion, a lesser Williams film adaptation of a play that doesn't see him on top form. Watchable certainly but am on the fence. 5/10
- Aug 13, 2019