Passed. This movie I should have watched in front of the kids. It's one of those innocent romances that we see all throughout this time period. There are some mildly questionable things, including one thing that I'm not sure that I'm getting or not. The overall questionable thing is the drinking on the part of one of the characters. It's done for laughs, but that guy drinks a lot of booze. But the thing that I'm not sure about is the almost Nazi salute that the characters do to one character. I mean, timeline supports this, but it also could just be silliness not meant to be a Nazi salute. To be honest, sometimes I just don't get the joke.
DIRECTOR: George Cukor
Man, I feel like everything in my life is super scheduled. I ate shrimp for lunch. I'm allergic to shrimp, so I have medication to balance that. But that being said, I'm not really allowed to exercise immediately after eating something that might kill me and I'm all alone right now. So if I died, this would be the last message I got to the outside world. Because of the lunch, I timed my run for 1:00, which should give me plenty of time to digest and be okay. But I have to be somewhere at 3:00 that is half-an-hour away. It is 12:11 pm and this is all completely superfluous to the world of Holiday.
I love this kind of stuff. I mean, basically, Holiday is just what you get if you want more of Bringing Up Baby. I mean, they made two romantic comedies with the same leads in the same year? How did people not just flip out over that? I know that it was the norm to see co-stars reappear in multiple films, like William Powell and Myrna Loy or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, but the same year? That's a bit much. Luckily, as slightly zany as Holiday is, it doesn't get to that whole slapstick stage that Bringing Up Baby gets to. I'm not saying that it doesn't work for Bringing Up Baby because it totally does. But it at least offers something slightly different. It is just that this story is crazy under-baked in so many ways which makes its protagonists kind of bad people.
There was something that happened on Gilmore Girls that I feel like I've talked about on this blog somewhere else. It's something that I really don't like in romantic comedies, but Gilmore Girls did it the best / worst. Seasons one and two, Rory was with Dean, portrayed by Jared Padelecki of Supernatural fame. He was the perfect boyfriend. He was secure, yet macho. He was respectful and did everything that Rory wanted. If he had a fatal flaw in those early seasons, it had to be that he lacked complexity, considering Rory was this deep well of a human being. But he was an overall great guy. The problem with that from a storytelling perspective was that it can't last. There is no conflict if the guy that Rory is with early on is absolutely perfect. So to make other boys look more attractive, Dean had to become an absolute dirtball. When people ask me to this day --and they do --who should have ended up with Rory, I always answer "Season One and Two Dean". People gasp because Dean sucks so hard in the later seasons. I tend to emphasize that I'm talking about the very different character that was Season One and Two Dean. The same thing happens with Holiday.
This is a movie starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. From moment one, you know that they are going to end up together. Do you know why you know that? Because they always do. Their names are the ones on the marquee for a reason. But the movie introduces Julia and Johnny together, madly in love from moment one, not Katharine Hepburn's Linda. If anything, Linda, Julia, and Johnny all get together swimmingly. Too swimmingly. Everyone is supportive of one another in that group. There isn't a lot of chemistry between Linda and Johnny with the exception that they share a similar life philosophy. No one is trying to steal anyone else away. And it's not that long of a movie. Honestly, at one point I questioned whether or not Katharine Hepburn was the leading lady in this movie or they gave her top billing to appease her agents. Because, honest to Pete, the movie was really selling the notion that this was a story about winning over stuff-shirted Dad on the marriage of Johnny and Julia. Linda was the wild card who tried to make that happen and that's what the story was about.
But then ol' Season Three Dean decided to show up. Closing up the primary conflict in Act One, Dad approves the marriage between Julia and Johnny and they both seem pleased as punch. The new conflict in the story is to ensure that Linda is included in the story. I'm realizing that every act of this story has a very different conflict. Because Linda was instrumental in helping Father come around to Johnny and Julia's way of thinking, she was the one who wanted to throw a party for the couple. This party was supposed to be reflective of Johnny's humble roots and was meant to take the pretention out of everything that doesn't represent their love. But it is in this moment that Julia becomes straight up evil. Okay, while it is pretty lightswitch-y, it's not as lightswitch-y as that. Johnny and Julia become completely aware that they don't really know each other at all. (One of the major problems I have with this story.) Johnny wants to retire early and travel the world while Julia, rightfully, has an expectation to be taken care of. But once this first fight happens (which Johnny handles admittedly quite poorly), Julia can't wait to call it quits. She becomes this wholly different character. Instead of being a free spirit, which is heavily implied in the first half of the movie, she becomes obsessed with money and success. I don't know where it came from, but it is there for the sake of storytelling. To make Linda more appealing, the film needed to make Julia less appealing.
But as much as I enjoyed the film, the biggest problem with the story is that it is really hard to root for the protagonists. Cukor does just enough to put the heroic characters on the side of being likable. But I also know that if I knew Johnny and Linda in real life, they would be the worst, the absolute worst! I would gossip about them so much and I know that says more about me than it does about them. I don't even care. Johnny is a child. Linda pouts too much. They're supposed to come across as these bohemian transcendentalist free-spirits, but they really just come across as the most privileged white people you've ever met. Johnny's plan is straight up selfish. There's something adorable and joi de vivre about being a bachelor and living on the land. That's great. Do that. But forcing someone to live your dream without ever discussing it is absolutely awful. Johnny wanting to live simply is completely appropriate. Johnny not wanting to work again by 30 is silly, especially if he has a wife and family to take care of. Now, I give a little more respect to Linda, who isn't as cut and dry as Johnny. (Note: Johnny does eventually try to compromise to save the marriage, but he quickly rescinds this offer once the family ignores his wishes.) Linda is fine, but she's such a brat about not getting her way.
Linda's big flaw is that she makes things about her. Yeah, it really sucks that Julia and Dad revoked their promise to let her organize the party. But by protesting the party, the only thing that she's accomplishing is drawing attention away from the married couple, who absolutely have a right to throw a party of their own fashion, and to hurt her sister. It's childish. It's appropriate that Linda's protest party happens in the playroom because she's acting like a baby. Don't get me wrong. The attitude of Linda's party is far more appealing and displays that Linda and Johnny are more copasetic than Johnny and Julia. But that characterization still doesn't detract from the methods of drawing this attention. You know, there isn't a hard-and-fast rule that there could be two parties. One could be a little shindig organized by Linda with close friends where everyone sang songs and did puppet shows. And the other party could be the big hullaballoo for the hoity-toities of society and the extended family. If anything, that screams more normal than what Linda is doing.
What this all ultimately leads me to is that the movie is fun, if not deeply flawed. It's very funny. Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are their best in this movie. It's worth watching for them alone. But it is also super clunky. Heck, Johnny is almost a bad person because he wants to cheat on his fiancée with her sister over one argument. It also kind of leaves this big question of "Happily Ever After" with a giant question mark after that. I mean, is everyone very cool with Johnny just swapping sisters and still being in the family? Has Linda abandoned her family for the sake of love? It's all very awkward, the more you think about it.
But it's a cute movie. This is one movie where I'm just going to get out of the way and let it be cute. Oh, God, if this ever happened to anyone I know, it would be awful. But as pure voyeuristic entertainment, it pretty much works.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.