Not rated, because who needs ratings in 1942? Besides the people of 1942, I guess. I'm actually teaching this era in film right now. It's that time period where Americans are making movies during the war, but not necessarily about the war. I guess when a good portion of America is gearing for war, people don't care about how a movie is rated. But this is an adorable movie. I could play it in front of my kids, if I wasn't concerned for its anti-woman overtones at times. Oh, the 1940s!
DIRECTOR: George Stevens
I DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS MOVIE IS TRYING TO SAY! All I know is that it seems sexist. There. I said it. I'm calling you out, movie-I-now-own. Like, it might be more than 1942 sexist. It might be less. I'm not sure. But I just get an icky vibe from it at times. I'm also going to play that hugely misogynist card and say that I kind of like the movie for being mostly adorable, but even that has a bit of a caveat. The movie is a rom-com...in the most "kinda" kinda way.
On the surface, this movie screams comedy. The very setup is adorable and rom-commy. Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn just can't get along until they do. I'm sorry. Sam Craig and Tess Hardy can't get along until they do. They have this feud that turns into the best kind of relationship. The whole Benedict / Beatrice thing is firing on full cylinders and that's in the first ten minutes of the movie. From here, I would say that it is a great and hilarious rom-com. Sam Craig is old fashioned. Tess Harding is a working feminist. I love it. She doesn't get baseball. He's a sports writer. She's a foreign correspondent. He doesn't know most languages. Look at that premise! That is comedy gold. And I love it. It's cute. I find myself smiling a lot. My wife, who has seen this movie before, is not as charmed, but I forgive it because she's seen it before. I'm all in. Then they get married! Mind you, this is still the first half-hour of the film. They get married in a ten minute ceremony because DAD is also a workaholic. I'm still on board. I love it. Then the movie goes into this weird diatribe about how marriage is the worst and the movie gets really uncomfortably serious for the most part. I kind of love this idea, but I don't know if George Stevens really pulls it off. I like the idea of having a movie about the consequences of romantic comedy. I'm tend to watch these movies saying that "these people know nothing about each other" and that they are probably pretty toxic together. That's a brilliant idea for a film...
...if it wasn't so one-sided.
Woman of the Year makes Sam Craig the hero of the story. I don't like that one bit. Yeah, I will say that the movie establishes that Tess Harding is a workaholic and makes some really selfish decisions before the movie gets rolling. But it never really comments that Sam Craig should have been thinking about these issues before the whole marriage bit. He has this moment where he realizes that he's in love with Tess, warts and all, but then becomes shocked when those warts don't go away in marriage. Sam, somehow, is without warts. That's at least the way that the movie presents him. He is the everyman character who views Tess's behavior through the eyes of the viewer. He sees that Tess's workaholism is getting out of control and he is the one to make demands of her. As part of it, I kind of get the vibe this is where the anti-feminist themes kind of pop their heads up and I get a little icky from the whole thing. The main message is that Tess needs to learn how to give up being a working woman and just be a woman first. I don't deny the idea of placing focus on the family is a good idea. But the movie presents this almost as an extreme narrative. It isn't supposed to be a binary. Sam needs to learn that he's not the center of attention in Tess's life and Tess needs to learn to strike a healthy balance between family and work. If the message was, "I don't NEED to be Woman of the Year, but it'd be nice", that's great. I don't know why she had to go complete psycho the second they got married. There was this insane personality shift that took her caricature to this weird level. She adopts this refugee without telling her husband and then decides to leave him home alone, giving Sam this moral high horse that completely screws up the power dynamic of the story. She becomes this unsympathetic character that is only villified more when the Greek refugee doesn't want to live with her and would rather live at the orphanage. Dear little Greek boy, remember how Sam also lives at the house and wants to take you to the zoo and baseball games? Why so vehemently anti-that house? It's this choice from a screenplay's perspective that is so nail-in-the-coffin for one of the characters.
I really like Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, despite the real world drama that my wife told me about. They still have a pretty good chemistry in this movie, despite the fact that the movie really downplaying Spencer Tracy's age. It's always funny when Hollywood pretends that someone is a studio heart throb, when...in fact, no, he isn't. Hepburn is actually not being ol' lady Hepburn that I'm used to seeing. I have a hard time divorcing my associations with them that I have from other films with what the movie presents here. I know that she's the romantic lead in a lot of movies, but I can't get the old, overused impersonation out of my head. But these two really work together. I think the problem in the movie is the inconsistent tone of the film. The movie really is two separate films and it really wants to be both. The movie ends on such a slapstick ending considering what is actually happening in the movie that it is borderline almost inappropriate. It has a happy ending when there is an 800 lb gorilla in the room that we're all meant to ignore. I love slapstick romantic comedy, but the movie gets to a really dark place. This isn't traditional conflict that we see in the romantic comedy. There are some fundamental problems with their marriage that don't really get patched up easily. It leaves the movie saying, "Accept this as what marriage is", but doesn't ask us to think where the characters go from there. A positive note about the ending is that does talk about the value of forgiveness and that's pretty great.
I like the movie, but it is weird accidentally. I can't shut my brain off from the major problems that the characters face, but I like it overall.
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.