Philadelphia Story, the - Not so much Philadelphia story
| I will admit right off the bat that I donít love The Philadelphia Story as much as most people do. While I admit that itís a real treat to see Katherine Hepburn share the screen with Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, I find it hard to get excited since I donít feel they are doing anything exciting together.
First off I will admit that The Philadelphia Story is very funny. I love a good dry wit and there are some great one-liners. ďI understand that we have an understanding.Ē Screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart loves coming up with clever throwaways that repeat words, sounds and ideas. This is humour for smart people and thatís always appreciated.
However, despite how clever the lines are, they often are hollow and empty. This may be smart-person humour but it doesnít really ask that much of you. The lines are clever on the surface and never really get that deep into the psyche of the characters.
In fact, character is of short supply here. Everyone is stock. Sure the leads all play quite a bit off type, but they are just going through the motions. No one is especially challenged and I find it hard to imagine why Stewart got an Academy Award for this film. Itís one of his least interesting performances.
Even less interesting is Cary Grant who actually seems bored. Usually I enjoy him on screen due to his overflowing charisma but here he seems like a bit of a lug.
Therefore Hepburn carries the film. Sheís a bit zany but not quite as zany as in Bringing Up Baby and therefore not quite as fun. The filmís other women are fairly plain, except for Virginia Weidler as the younger sister who says everything thatís on her mind who is rather plucky despite being a stock character as well. We never do get a good idea why Stewart should fall for his love interest, played plainly and sarcastically by Ruth Hussey. We are just expected to accept it because it works out conveniently for all.
The Philadelphia Storyís biggest problem is how pat everything is. It all works out so slickly that none of it feels real. I realise this is the style and goes with the theatre piece like dialogue where people talk like they are reading a script. Again, this is a style choice that often works well but here just feels flat. Maybe if the lines they were reading meant more, explored things more deeply, or felt more brilliantly put together it would have worked. Instead, they just feel designed to be clever or to advance the plot. I always felt like I was watching a constructed situation and I never get lost in the story or characters.
Finally, unlike many other films of the era with a timeless, classic feel, The Philadelphia Story seems dated. The script is filled with early modernist ideas that just seem quaint in this day and age. I donít feel The Philadelphia Story has aged as well as other films from that year.
The Philadelphia Story is a classic and is beloved by many. Who am I to critique the great George Cukor? All I can say is that I was left unmoved by The Philadelphia Story and I guess I will leave it at that.