Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Auntie Mame (1958)
Rosalind Russell gives the performance of her life in a film about a woman who was truly ahead of her time.
It's the 1920's and Patrick Dennis (Jan Handzlik and then later played by Roger Smith) is newly orphaned when his father drops dead. As per his will, he is send to live with his Auntie Mame (Rosalind Russell) who was regarded by her brother as a kook. Mame hosts illegal cocktail parties where the guests range from foreign priests to liberal poets to, according to the IMDB boards "obvious" lesbians, living under the motto "Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death", Mame embraces everything and everyone, changing the motif of her penthouse every few weeks, and dressing in some truly outrageous outfits.
It's hard to go into the plot of the film, because it's VERY episodic, with plot lines introducing themselves and then being resolved 30-40 minutes later. For example, the film begins with Mame trying to keep Patrick in her care after the executor of Patrick's father's will takes him away to boarding school after discovering that Patrick has been enrolled in a liberal co-ed school where the students do not wear clothes, suddenly the plot shifts to Mame struggling through the Great Depression, and so and on so forth culminating in the plotline of a now adult Patrick wanting to marry a very conservative girl from a very bigoted elitist family.
That's part of the main issue with the film, it's length. It's about 2 hours and 20 minutes long, but there are a few scenes that don't really do anything as besides provide for Rosalind Russell to be goofy and whacky. That said, Rosalind Russell owns this movie from start to finish. Mame is larger than life and Rosalind plays it that way, but avoids ever going too far over the top. She hits every emotional note perfectly and creates one of the screens most memorable characters.
The film is witty, entertaining, and actually inspiring, as we hope to emulate Mame and live life to the fullest. But if you're going to see this movie for any reason, it's going to be for Rosalind Russell's performance, which is probably one of the greatest of all time.