Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ask Any Girl (1959)

Director: Charles Walters
Writers: Winifred Wolfe (novel) and George Wells

Reviewed by Hugh


    Thursday, June 25, 1959
       When Shirley MacLaine, as Meg Wheeler, age twenty-one, comes to New York from a provincial home-town, she has three objectives: to find a job, to find a husband, and to retain her chastity during the struggle. In achieving her first objective she is employed by a sweater manufacturer (Jim Backus) who requires only that she wear sweaters of his manufacture, one size too small, while on the job. This requirement turns out to be so effective that it compels a young business visitor (Rod Taylor) at the office to methodically carry out a campaign aimed at seducing the young lady. But when the boss himself comes under the influence of his own fulfilled knitwear, Miss MacLaine quits in panic, indignant that her chastity is so often placed in jeopardy.
 She goes to work at an advertising agency which is operated by two brothers, one of whom is David Niven portraying a sober minded egghead who holds a dispassionate view of wine, women, and the world. The other is Gig Young, his brother’s opposite in personality, a man whose preoccupation with women is occupational.
The provincial girl is dazzled by the relaxed charm of Mr. Young, and while realizing that he dates her only after his extensive female listing has failed him, she nevertheless is out to snag him for a husband. For this purpose she becomes a client of her other employer, Mr. Niven, and engages his talent in motivational research, the method by which a subject is unknowingly induced to show preference for a specific product.

Mr. Niven masterminds the project brilliantly, and through researching his brother’s preferences in women by personal contact, he succeeds in creating a Miss MacLaine who is an irresistible composite of all that appeals to Mr. Young’s overly libidinous mind. The victim is a dead duck, but such conniving is bound to backfire, and both client and expert become their own victims. You won’t regret finding out how this comes about if you care to watch a neat bit of acting professionalism in one of the most pleasurable movie vehicles anyone can see.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Labor Day (2013)

           

Directed by Jason Reitman
Screenplay written by Jason Reitman
Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard


Reviewed by Hugh

            Be prepared when watching this film for several surprises. Not surprises all of a sudden, but rather a gradual revelation of them as the story progresses. While Adele (Kate Winslet) and her teen age son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) are shopping in the local supermarket Henry is approached by a wounded man, Frank (Josh Brolin) who asks for assistance. When, in his naivete, Henry asks his mother to help him, Adele refuses, but becoming fearful of possible violence, eventually agrees. The viewer cannot help but identify with Adele’s caution. Aren’t mother and son taking an awful chance following Frank’s demand that they drive him to their home? After all, unbeknownst to mother and son, at this stage anyway, Frank is a newly escaped convict.  
            But soon enough they learn who he is from the news on TV. Incarcerated for having committed murder, although we don’t yet know the details, Frank protests simply that the accusation is not the full story. Still, both mother and son, as well as the viewer, are alarmed by the possibility that Frank, a declared murderer, will harm them. But as the film progresses he doesn’t. Quite the contrary, he is sympathetic; he understands their unease and makes every attempt to alleviate it. In fact, at one point he binds Adele’s arms and feet to a chair on which she is sitting, explaining that he is doing this only to relieve her of being accused as an accomplice were he discovered.
            To reveal more of what happens in their respective relationships, plus the many complications that arise, would not be fair to a prospective viewer. It would spoil the surprises that develop later. But to reveal some things about Frank would not qualify as a spoiler: he is a man of many talents, surprising both Adele and Henry, and this viewer as well. In other words, you learn about the whole man, not that he is only an escaped prisoner, but why he was sent to prison for murder. Eventually, you learn why Henry’s father, now remarried, left Adele, and of Adele’s resulting depression due to her loss of a husband’s love.

            Beautifully directed and acted, this luscious, powerful, simple and tight film is a delight to watch as the complications between the characters begin to disappear, developing into full-fledged commitments. I expect that most viewers will become totally involved in both the characters and the story. Watch it and enjoy a special human experience. 

A Comment on Labor Day from Suz:
"The intensity of emotion happened far too quickly to be believable for me.  Three days?  No.  Even under the most heightened emotional experiences, people don't change and/or reveal themselves with that depth that quickly.  Unfortunately, that got in my way, despite the fact that the emotions displayed were all terrific."

My response:
I don't disagree with you at all about the un-likelihood that two adults would fall in love in three days. But I chose to overlook it because 1)Adele was ripe for a man and 2)Frank was such a kind and admirable character. The writer could have chosen a week or two weeks to develop the relationships, which would have been more realistic, but the story was so intriguing and the acting and directing so good that I found myself captivated anyway. I simply didn't let probability intervene because I found myself so identified with the characters that I put aside realism. Y'know in several of my short stories I could be accused of the same stretching. I think we authors often gamble that the reader or viewer won't notice; after all, character's the thing, eh. And also, remember Suz, with we humans anything is possible.