Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Classic Movie Gem: Alice Adams (1935) Part 1-Romantic Comedy

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“Yes, you must go.  There’s nothing else for you to do.  When anything’s spoiled, people can’t do anything else but run away from it. Goodbye.”

Alice says to Mr.Russell (Fred MacMurray), after an inexplicable instinct tells her that their romance was over and that she’ll never see him again. This emotion was something I can relate to, and that I can see in Alice’s still eyes. Of course, theirs was a doomed romance.  From the moment I realized that he was ashamed of her, taking her on a date out of sight from the rest of the restaurant (to me, it looked like the type of establishment where married men rendezvous with their mistress). Yet in this messed-up romantic tale, Alice chose to be honest with herself. She is the one who chose to end that heartbreaking affair. (The line above can be seen in the clip below.)

Think of this movie as She’s All That , except deeper and not as superfluous.  While that teen movie is derived and melodramatic, Alice Adams is a drama set in Depression-Era New England, revolving around Alice Adams, a young girl with an eagerness to please others in such a tragic manner.  I am familiar with this kind of girl from elementary school, as I am sure we all are.  She pushes herself upon people, despite the continuing ridicule of her strange “imagination” and welfare status.

There is one rich girl, Mildred, who sympathizes, or perhaps even pities Alice. Mildred chooses to invite Alice to her parties—despite the fact that all her friends continually exclude Alice from their parties.

As I watched this movie, I couldn’t help but feel like I knew the people I saw on the screen. Alice’s relationship with her brother, played by Frank Albertson, reminded me of my best friend from high school and his sister: He doesn’t want to drive her around, tells her no, but he eventually feels guilty and agrees to begrudgingly accompany Alice to Mildred’s party as her date.

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At the party, Alice wears a wilting bouquet of flowers that she picked herself from the park. She is snubbed by all the other high society kids and ends up forced to hang out with the geriatric, old people (I’ve so been there, except I hung out with the stoned, un-cool college kids crashing a high school party).

At this party is where she meets Mr.Frank Russell (played by Fred MacMurray, dreamboat personified). Mr.Russell, an out of towner, is nice to Alice. I guess at this point, he seemed innocent enough.  The movie seems to resemble any other Pygmalion chick flick, were the rich guy falls in love for the ugly duckling. Well, the story unravels in front of you and it does not end up as I expected or how I wanted. After each encounter, Mr. Russell comes off looking like that greasy rich player (though I still would not kick him out of bed). It is hard for me to form an opinion about him because he is very nice and genuine enough, but you just know that he has probably done this kind of shit before—whisk off a lone, impressionable girl only to tap some ass. I mean, I know that Alice is bright enough to understand that she is being manipulated, but I cant help but want her to be manipulated. damn those charming rich boys.  Some really are genuine enough, like Mr. Russell, but let’s be realistic. Yes, their attraction to each other is evident; I can sense that they are trying so hard to ignore the reality and try instead to focus on that inexplicable phenomenon that they’ve found their soul mates…but alas, circumstance forces them to bring honesty upon themselves and each other.

Don’t expect to see a trace of Katharine Hepburn in this movie, because there is none, just an overly eager girl. If you want to see a performance by the great Kate, this is the movie to watch.  Wheras in other films like Bringing Up Baby or Woman of the Year, Kate is essentially playing up to her Bryn Mawr- accented persona, in Alice Adams, Kate actually steps off her comfort zone and ACTS, playing a vulnerable little girl, not some spoiled, strong willed woman.

This is a two-part post.  This film just speaks volumes to me. The next part deals with the movie’s acute observation of a poor family in Depression Era society.

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