PG, and possibly the hardest to actually MPAA ever. It's about a dead body. The movie is fundamentally about a corpse and how no one really cares that he's dead. That's a pretty dark concept for a film, but it is also tonally one of the lightest films I have ever seen. It's a Norman Rockwell painting about a corpse. It's the lightest dark movie that I've ever seen. Morbid as get-out, light as a feather. Regardless, I watched a lot of this with my kids and it is probably somehow PG.
DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock
I thought my wife would be all over this. I thought that she was sick of these overtly saccharine children's movies and would appreciate an older movie that she hadn't seen. I think that The Trouble with Harry might be the most unique film that I have ever seen. I describe it as an old timey rom-com about a corpse. It's not that she didn't like it. I think she was fine with it afterwards. I just thought that the movie would slay. Considering that this is the second time that I've watched this movie, I was pleased that it held up as well as it did. It completely got me again, but it didn't have the same effect on my wife.
For all of the tone of the movie, the movie has a really weird statement on death and the value of life. I've seen the majority of Hitchcock's films. I've watched a lot of Alfred Hitchcock presents. I've read Truffaut's interview with Hitchcock multiple times. I get this sense of humor. He jokes about the macabre. I don't know if there's ever been a movie that nailed the exact sense of humor that Hitchcock has better than The Trouble with Harry. But let's separate that for a second. It's going to sound like I'm condemning this movie, but please understand that I'm not. I'm madly in love with this film and I'll spout it from the rooftops. But from an objective perspective, this movie has a really weird relationship when talking about the value of human life.
On one end of the spectrum, you have something like HBO's Six Feet Under. Six Feet Under dealt with death in a unique way. It clouded the show's plot by becoming, essentially, part of the setting. Everything, regardless of how unrelated it was to death was colored with the knowledge that death was something essential and present. There were some really heavy moments in that show, but it was always brought back to the concept of death. Six Feet Under left the viewer with the knowledge that death was part of life and it was both simultaneously important and unimportant at the same time. The Trouble with Harry almost inverts that whole conceit. Harry's corpse, well-dressed and out of place in Anywhere, USA, begs you to forget about it. The characters in the story have already tried to forget about it. The movie is really trying to play out in direct defiance to the appearance of the body.
Capt. Wiles discovers that he may have killed a man (he didn't) and his first reaction is the equivalent of having forgotten to pack his lunch for the day. His complete lack of empathy towards Harry is actually part of his charm and character development. Wiles isn't alone. Ms. Gravely has the exact same reaction. If anything, the death of Harry has given her something to approach Wiles about. He's a talking point; a foot in the door. It's not like the world of The Trouble with Harry doesn't value life as a whole or are incapable of it. They understand that they have to avoid the authorities. There are discussions about the role of conscience, especially with the accidental killing of another human being. It's just that they never make that emotional leap. They stay in this moment of discovery and never really go beyond that initial frustration of "Oh man, must be a Monday."
But the story is actually really charming and really romantic. Part of that comes from the otherworldly personalities of a lot of the characters. Somehow, and it doesn't really make the most logical sense, John Forsythe's Sam becomes the protagonist of the piece. I say it's weird because he has the least investment in the story. Wiles and Gravely find the body. Both think that they murdered Harry. Jennifer Rogers also could have killed Harry and is the only person in the story to be personally affected by Harry when he was living. Sam almost feels like the hero of a series of adventure stories. Because he is an outsider, he is allowed to give commentary on the events from an objective and cold perspective. He also is the only one with a completely different set of goals that he abandons when he finds a bigger adventure.
Sam might actually be the weirdest protagonist in film. There's no reason that Sam should be there. He starts his arc as a penniless painter without a care in the world. He goes where the wind takes him. Because of Hitchcock's use of dramatic irony, he's always seconds away from making the biggest sale of his career. But that's all stuffing because he has no internal conflict. There's never a moment of frustration for him. If I had to force some internal conflict on him, it is that he has no drive to really better himself or change his course. But again, this really does feel like a forced element on my part. But look where he ends that arc: he is engaged to marry a woman that basically just met that day. It's actually really weird that he's involved in the narrative whatsoever. He gets swept into the story because he also reacted to the body in a bizarre way: he drew a picture of the corpse.
I do appreciate that the morality of the film really seems to reflect Hitchcock's other outings. We know that Calvin Wiggs, in any other context, would be the hero of this piece. (Except for the fact that he's part of a corrupt institution, but I'm really riled up now.) Wiggs is trying to bring justice to Harry, so good for him. But Hitchcock spends the majority of the movie making a mockery of him. Admittedly, Calvin Wiggs is barely a character in this story, but there's never really a moment where you want to see Wiggs get his man. The ending is actually really bizarre in this context. Pun intended, but the movie digs a really big hole for the protagonists to get out of and kind of just settles on an absurd way to deal with the issue. Recreating the events of the day without Wiles finding the body doesn't really answer any questions for Wiggs. But for the sake of a comedy, it does in a pinch. Yeah, I don't love the last second of the movie, but it does provide a nice sense of bookending to the film as a whole.
I enjoy this movie so much. For being such a morbid film, it is one of the cutest movies I have ever seen. It's this nice balance of absurd and cute that makes it a good time. The couples are adorable and the comedy of errors is really on point.
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.