Approved, but you're going to run into some of the same problems that Pillow Talk had, with a few extra things to stick in your craw. This is the beginning of the Lost Cause theory, where the celebration of the Confederate South happens. While played for laughs, Jerry pretends to be "an ol' Southern boy", celebrating with a stripper with a Stars-and-Bars bra. But the movie prides itself on rapey-masculine behavior and forgiving people for how they behave under the influence of alcohol. Regardless, your parents are probably cool with this movie.
DIRECTOR: Delbert Mann
I thought that I had loved Rock Hudson and Doris Day movies. Honestly, I had Doris Day synonymous with virginal innocence. I think a lot of that comes from the fact that it is the archetype that she plays. But the reason that the virginal innocence comes through is because she is drastically contrasted to all of the other characters of the movie. She's in pretty dirty films as the nice girl. That's what culture has stolen from me: important context. For a long period of this movie, I thought that Lover Come Back was simply a tonal remake of Pillow Talk, but it is actually a different beast because of the lack of culpability.
First of all, Lover Come Back might be the most generic rom-com title I've experienced in a long time. That's saying something because rom-coms tend to embrace the really generic title. But there's nothing in Lover Come Back that ties into the plot, unless you squint and imagine the epilogue as something that could have been a central theme. I don't know why this gets under my skin so much. It just adds to the concept that these movies are kind of disposable. It's that title that may have colored me to the fact that this movie could have been something else. It has its charm. It totally has its charm. But it also feels like a retread of so many tropes that it is hard to really take it seriously as a film in its own right.
Okay, let's talk about why I get annoyed with movies like this. A lot of it comes from Pillow Talk. A LOT of it comes from Pillow Talk. Pillow Talk has a few redeeming qualities. As much as Pillow Talk is a celebration of toxic masculinity, Rock Hudson's character does have an arc. It's a weak arc, but he runs into this internal conflict over the course of the dramatic irony. He starts off the charade as a joke, but his conscience jumps in pretty early. His conflict involves knowing that he will hurt the one he loves if he reveals the truth, so he has to keep that secret to save the relationship. Yeah, it's scummy, but it is at least mildly sympathetic. He took a joke too far. With Lover Come Back, the most he moves is from a place of pure awfulness to uncomfortable respect. But Pillow Talk is not about escalation. He realizes the joke is in poor taste and has no way to get out. With Lover Come Back, when that slight change of character happens, Jerry decides to keep upping the stakes. He never really has that thought that he took it too far. Instead, he derives joy from his lies. He keeps stealing from Carol and rubbing it in her face.
All of which culminates in the most sexual assaulty thing that happens in the movie. He crosses a lot of lines in the pursuit of deceiving Carol. Okay, that's what it is. But it is in the realm of rom-com morality. Stealing a kiss is gross in reality, but we can kind of say that Hollywood has told us that this is within the context of the events of the story. But Jerry actively tries to bed Carol. And we're not talking about early in the story, while he's supposedly "Evil Jerry." No, this is pretty late in the film. The only reason that he doesn't is that this is the moment that Carol discovers the truth about Jerry. She gets a comical revenge, which fits within the tone of the movie. But really, Jerry was about to rape Carol. It's the same thing as the sexual assault that is in Revenge of the Nerds. Jerry is pretending to be another person to take advantage of a girl that he wants revenge on her. He doesn't even hate her. He wants revenge as a gag. He thinks that she's too high strung, so he wants to take her down a peg. That...might be the grossest plot point that I've written about.
There's something about this era that feels bygone, but it also is weird to watch movies from this era. Apparently the late '50s and early '60s were about making rom-coms that were marketed towards women, but a celebration of male toxicity. My overthinking it is the only reason I'm not getting it right now, by the way. There probably would have been a time in my life when I would have bent over laughing at how this gender dynamic was part of the good ol' days. But watching it now, also having seen Pillow Talk really recently, makes this movie come across as gross. And the thing is, it is well made. This was a movie that was written around its actors. Apparently, Rock Hudson comes across as the least sensitive human being in the world. Perhaps it is his traditional good looks, but he keeps being this guy who looks like he beds women constantly and doesn't respect boundaries. Tony Randall, always going to be a mousey guy who can only play second fiddle to the toxically male lead. And then there's Doris Day, a strong willed woman who shouldn't try to keep up with the men. In terms of the reception of these characters, I suppose they all fit those roles super well.
But he biggest issue I have is Carol's complete change of character. Carol almost seems aware of how egregious Jerry's behavior can be. While attracted to the physicality of Jerry, she abhors his personality. He never really makes an active change, outside of giving her the account in apology for his behavior. But agreeing to marry him seems criminal. There's no way that anything good can come out of that marriage. They don't know each other in any real way. If anything, Jerry represents the opposite of what she actually found attractive in him. She prided herself on Linus's meekness and innocence and Jerry is the epitome of the opposite of that. The marriage is just there for the forced happy ending. It's really a problem.
In terms of funniness, sure, there's some charm to it. But Lover Come Back is one of the grosser comedies I've ever seen. It's lazy in terms of structure and it really needs some character development to make it functional.
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.