Wednesday, February 17, 2016

His Girl Friday

Why do I always think this movie is "His Gal Friday"? Wikipedia can't seem to agree on whether this movie is a screwball comedy or a dramedy, and honestly, neither can I. It has the pacing of a screwball comedy - not to mention Cary Grant in top one-liner form - but the subject matter is a little dark for the traditional screwball antics. When the source of what everyone is arguing about is whether a guy with a tenuous grip on reality gets executed because he shot a black police officer so a mayor and a sheriff can get re-elected by black voters, it's a little more sobering than "Will the heiress get back to her Johnny-Come-Lately hubby, or will she fall for the charming reporter?". This is also a really loud movie. Everyone talks over everyone else, until even the subtitles give up and just read [crosstalk] for large segments. This is obviously more natural than everyone standing around spewing one-liners and zingers at each other, but is more natural always a good thing? The Film Registry people obviously think so, but as a person with major neurological problems and a bad ear, I can't say I thought it was an improvement. I also feel somewhat ambivalent about the zany antics around the actual subject matter. I guess the original play, The Front Page, was pulling kind of a reverse "Execution of Troppman" kind of thing, where by heightening the absurdity and comedy in the spectators, the inhumanity of the execution is thus highlighted. I'm not sure - maybe it was just as concerned with being screwy and crazy and zany and the looming execution and deeply disturbing government corruption were just window dressing. His Girl Friday did do something new by making the star reporter a woman and having the marriage subplot be a re-marriage, with the constant refrain of "I'm going to live like a person". But that really doesn't cover up how very grim the story really is. It's on 100 Films...100 Laughs, but aside from the witty repartee in the opening, I didn't find many laughs. I found it disturbing how little the film seemed to care about the situation, beyond milking the absurdity for more laughs. I don't know if that was intentional or not, but it missed my funny bone. I can't wholeheartedly recommend this one. I know it's supposed to be a classic, but I don't intend on ever watching it again.

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