Saturday, January 10, 2009

We don't need each other anymore. When that happens to two people, there's nothing left...

As I mentioned once before, my interest in classic movies began when I caught a late-night airing of Penny Serenade on one of the local PBS channels. I was in high school at the time and had no idea who Irene Dunne was; I recognized Cary Grant's name in the credits but couldn't begin to guess which character he played, and afterwards couldn't remember whether it had been him or Clark Gable. Without a title or even clear memory of the film's stars, it took me ages to even figure out what I'd seen.

I haven't seen the movie since, so naturally when I came across the title in the TV listings -- another 2 a.m. showing on PBS, of course -- I couldn't resist staying up to watch it. And, because it was so important in my own personal film history, I decided to pull myself out of this blogging slump I've fallen into over winter break. I can't promise to stay up and watch the whole thing this go-around (I'm actively trying to break the habit of staying up until 4), but as long as I'm watching I thought I'd try making a live post. We'll see how that goes.

I'm about twenty minutes in, and... hi there, foreshadowing. I missed the beginning of the movie last time, so I remember that they were in financial trouble but I thought they'd just always been broke.

Aaand, the earthquake was a huge surprise. I clearly still have a lot to learn about social standards of the era, because I had no idea that they could portray a miscarriage in film back then. The hospital scene was superbly acted, not that I could expect anything less. Irene Dunne's quiet grief and Cary Grant's fumbling attempts at consoling her with the idea of material things were heartbreaking.

It's a little disconcerting to hear children spoken about like goods to be shopped for, but I like that the caseworker pointed out how many parents want blue-eyed blonde-haired toddlers, because that's a trend that continues even today. I'm glad that they don't get exactly the type of child they want, but the way the caseworker describes their baby as "unique" and "like no other child" kind of grates. Can infants be Mary Sues?

The idea of a baby coming with instructions seems endlessly amusing to me. I'll admit I know less than nothing about small children, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't ever happen. A schedule, okay, but... instructions? Really?

Now Roger's just leaving for court to finalize Trina's adoption, and I'm fairly certain this is where I started watching the first time I saw this movie. The hopeful not-quite-goodbye among the little family was probably what drew me in. Roger's speech to the judge is passionate and powerful, and one of the few movie scenes that was immediately imprinted onto my memory after just one viewing. Now, watching it for the second time around, I can also appreciate the way that Roger's character has developed over the course of the film from a frivolous bachelor into a devoted and responsible father.

I don't have much to say about the scenes with six-year-old Trina, because honestly I find the child actress completely distracting. Moving along, that mother and little boy just happening to break down on their way to a Christmas pageant is cruel even for fictional characters. It works as a catalyst for Roger's final decision to leave, but Julie's reaction seems strange considering she hadn't even wanted him to go out for a walk. I'm a little confused as to how Julie ended up being the one to walk out.

The conversation between Roger and Julie recounting their regrets about the last days of Trina's life is poignant and something most people who've lost loved ones can relate to. Even though I know the movie "has" to have a happy ending, it's still jarring when their dream child suddenly falls into their lap right after that. The whole ending makes me a little uncomfortable, from the designer baby factor to the grieving parents' immediate and enthusiastic repurposing of their deceased daughter's room. Still, that's just a brief scene tacked on to the end of an otherwise good movie. It was definitely worth seeing, and even worth staying up this late for. I'm sure I'll watch it again.

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