Passed. Listen, this is an old romantic movie. You might be tempted to write it off as a completely innocent film. But there's some ickiness in this movie. The obvious element is the fact that Charlotte's mom is straight up cruel to Charlotte. Like, we're at a level of Munchausen's by Proxy level of evil. But the other thing that's absolutely bizarre is the adultery that is glamorized all the way through the movie. Trust me, this is going to be the meat of my commentary.
DIRECTOR: Irving Rapper
"My name is Irving and I'm here to say, that I'm here to rap in a very special way!" Sorry, that dumb joke has been hovering in my brain for about a week, which is how long it has been since I started watching this movie. I'm going to add onto the fact that I've spent the bulk of the day writing letters of recommendation so I really don't want to write. But then again, I really want to get this done so I can maintain a sense of momentum when it comes to writing future blog entries. My life is very complicated and it is because of my own decisions that it gets so chaotic.
I don't know if I can trust my memory. Now, Voyager has always been in my film textbook as an example of a "Woman's Picture". Trust me, I didn't come up with the term and it seems really antiquated. What that mostly means is that it was released as a film that was meant to be watched as a matinee, kind of filling the role of a soap opera style melodrama. At the time, these films weren't necessarily considered real art until films like Now, Voyager put a feel of quality behind the film. Now, I say that I can't trust my memory. I swore that I had seen this movie before. Part of me is absolutely screaming that I saw this movie, but when I watched it, I barely remembered anything. I mean, the intellectual element of me knew that it involved Bette Davis on a boat. But I can't chalk that up to real experience. I mean, any image that I see of Now, Voyager has the shot of Bette Davis on a boat with a wide-brimmed hat. But when I saw that the cast was basically the cast of Casablanca? I would have remembered that, right?
But the thing that pushes my button is the fact that this is a glorified story of adultery. I hate when movies do this. From an artistic and storytelling perspective, this is a great movie. But come on. I'm going to throw something down and I know that someone can probably dispute it. If you knew Charlotte Vale and Jerry Durrance, you would think that they are the absolute worst. I'm not talking about frumpy Charlotte who is tortured. I'm talking about Camille Charlotte, who is almost making up for lost time with Jerry. Jerry, from moment one, is very clear about the fact that he is a married man. Yeah, he seems absolutely miserable in his marriage. There's probably a good reason that we never actually get to meet Jerry's wife because it would make it real. But he definitely comes across as a guy who goes on sexy cruises and hooks up with single sad women. The movie tells us that Jerry and Charlotte are in actual love, but it never really is sold to me like that. I just keep seeing as this guy who is latching onto Charlotte and is surprised when they start kissing. Perhaps it is because Jerry is played by Paul Henried, who is supposed to be this ultra-attractive male lead. But this is one of those stories of "let's put this affair in the past" and they just never do.
I have more sympathy for Charlotte. The smartest thing that this story does is show Charlotte's first love. (By the way, I really thought that this was going to be a story about Charlotte reconnecting with that sailor. I would have gotten behind that story.) But when you couple this story with this sad and frumpy Charlotte who is locked in a house with a psychotic mother, she actually becomes a compelling character. But there is something that reads a little false. When Charlotte goes away for her mental health and takes a trip to Rio with Jerry, she comes back as a different person. There's this moment where she hears the voice of her therapist, Dr. Jacquith, saying that she can't be too hard on her mother. This all seems for the sake of storytelling, not reality. In my head, Dr. Jacquith would probably be stressing the notion that Charlotte needs to practice self-care and that her mother is a criminally toxic element in her life. From Charlotte's perspective, one of two things would happen. If Charlotte respected her mother's wishes, she would regress into sad old Aunt Charlotte. But if she was around her mother and didn't comply with her choices, the story would have ended the way it did, with the death of her mother.
Can I preach about the notion of dying of sadness? Listen, I gave Revenge of the Sith so much garbage about dying of sadness, but I loved when old stories embraced the idea that someone could just willfully die because they were sad or spiteful? I don't know why this is so effective in melodrama. I mean, people can die from being lovesick. That's fine. But when Charlotte's mother decides to go further than simply throwing herself off of the stairs and just full on dies out of spite? [mimics that thing that stereotypical Italian chefs do with their fingers when something is delicious. It involves kissing fingers. There has to be a term for it. Regardless, "Mwah!" So good!] It honestly might be my favorite moment in the movie.
But now I want to look at a concept that I both absolutely love and absolutely hate. I'm talking about Tina. Having Charlotte cure Tina is a really weird call. Charlotte becomes this de facto mother for Tina and I don't think that is appropriate at all. If I was on Team Charlotte before, I definitely don't stay on it when she revisits the rehab center. Charlotte knows that Tina is at the rehab center. While it seems to be a secondary concept to her own mental health, there seems to be an "Oh yeah!" epiphany moment that comes across as kind of gross. Now, since Rapper is shipping Charlotte and Jerry, we're supposed to see her taking care of Tina as empathetic and self-sacrificing. But isn't Charlotte really just indulging in an inappropriate fantasy of being the ideal mother? I believe that Tina's mother / Jerry's wife sucks. It's a fictional world and two characters have established that Tina's mother is just the worst. So when Charlotte steps in, she has the ability to be the perfect mother. She has infinite resources, being the sole heiress to one of the wealthiest families in Boston. She's only had to deal with a fresh slate that her mother doesn't have access to. When Charlotte comes in and offers everything that Tina has ever wanted / what Charlotte desperately needed as a child, that dynamic is skewed. It also kind of makes Tina love Charlotte as opposed to her own mother, which is kind of unfair, especially considering that mother is dying somewhere.
But it's a lovely film, right? I don't know. The emotional train wreck that is my English teacher brain is all about the feels. Jerry and Charlotte are two impossible lovers and there's something completely romantic about that. But being this bastion of morality who loves judging others, Jerry and Charlotte are just the worst. Anyone in this world would probably notice the same, that there are a million better ways to handle their respective situations. And that comic scene to get them together in the car? What a weird tonal moment for the movie, considering how dry and almost gothic certain elements of the story are. But I can't deny that I enjoy the movie, despite being something that sports an absolutely abhorrent message. I guess that is just how it is sometimes.
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.