Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Suspicion (1941)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Too much has been made of the fact that Hitchcock changed the ending of this film because the studio didn’t want it’s star, Cary Grant, portrayed as a murderer. It’s true of course, but it’s strange then that RKO was comfortable with the rest of the movie, in which Grant plays a complete shit.

In “Suspicion,” Joan Fontaine (in the only Oscar winning role in a Hitchcock film) plays “Lina,” a shy spinster who falls for “Johnny,” a charming playboy (Grant) and gradually learns he is a penniless gambler, using her family fortune to fund his habit. She believes he is planning to murder her to collect a life insurance policy. Yes, Lina could be suspicious of Johnny because he keeps stealing her money, but really, shouldn’t she be suspicious simply because he is expressing interest in her -- and she is a complete wet blanket? Lina is the friend who, when you’re packing a cooler, uses up all the room with fruits and vegetables ("I just want to make sure we have some healthy choices.") Thirty minutes into this, I'd kill Lina for free, Oscar notwithstanding.

The reason RKO showed about as much savvy as Lina going on a picnic is because Cary Grant is exceptionally watchable in this because it is such a different role for him. Grant, whose long, distinguished career featured role after role playing Cary Grant, should have played more murderers. Or at least problem gamblers, or whatever. Nigel Bruce plays Beaky, the dopey but lovable best friend, who is allergic to brandy. What, does that seem too trivial to mention? You'd think, but hoo-boy, when that groundwork is laid it’s about as subtle as a Hitchcock cameo (which, by the way, happens at a mailbox).

The ending that Hitchcock wanted would have been better and made a hell of a lot more sense. Based on his famous 1967 interviews with Fran├žois Truffaut, Hitchcock seems to have gone to his grave feeling like he caved in to the studio on the whole thing. However, as a melodrama, "Suspicion" works because the acting is directed well, not because of the plot. The regret was Hitchcock’s to carry, not ours. Fuck RKO, but still...recommended, even with the shitty ending.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

This Means War (2012)

Directed by McG. An alternate title for this movie is "This Means Bore." IMDB tells me that "People who liked this also liked...'The Bounty Hunter'."  This is evidently a service they provide to warn you about the kinds of people who might recommend this movie to you. Don't worry, we're cool.

I saw this because Reese Witherspoon is in it, although another alternate title for this move is "Decreased Witherspoon," because there isn't enough of her in it. She's not even really my type, but I can't help it. There's something about her weird chin that makes her look a bit like a marionette, but the best looking marionette ever. Still, most of the time here is used up by two people named Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, whom it would seem were being positioned as movie stars when this was made.

The plot here seems to involve a lot of people trying to support Chelsea Handler as she improvises all her dialogue. Or it might be about something else, I’m not sure. It's challenging enough when an action comedy attempts to combine those two initial elements -- adding romance to that mix isn’t just ambitious -- it's foolhardy.

For suckers only.