Friday, September 13, 2013

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (1967)

In my review of The Outsiders, I complained about the lack of character development in the movie. If you'd like to see the exact opposite, go watch this movie.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is heralded as a lot of things. It's a Tracy-Hepburn movie. It's Spencer Tracy's last movie. He was posthumously nominated for an Oscar, since he died only a couple weeks after the film wrapped. It's a movie that concerns interracial marriage in the midst of the civil rights movement. It's also a great comedy, with some great laughs along the way.

My favorite thing about the the movie, and really the whole point, is the character development over the course of only a day. Like another Stanley Kramer-William Rose collaboration that I love--It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World--the movie is actually forced into a timeline by a plot device. In this case, Dr. Prentice (Sidney Poitier) is going to Switzerland for his job with the WHO, that night, and wants the approval of Joey's parents (aka Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn) to marry Joey.

Tracy's "son of a bitch" realization and subsequent monologue to the whole group are great, but the lasting memory for me will be Dr. Prentice's conversation with his dad. Poitier delivers it beautifully. Most of the interesting parts of this movie take place through one-on-one conversations, and this one is the most important of the bunch. This is the actual climax of the movie. Prentice's requirement of having Joey's father's approval, but denying his own father the chance and earlier saying he would "write to him" come to a head here. It's brilliant.

There are some downsides to the movie. It is far from being a timeless film. It needs the historical context, for sure. One of the more distracting things in the movie is Katherine Hepburn's sadness throughout the film. In Tracy's monologue, he says that Christina Drayton has been the "romantic" one of the pair regarding Joey's pending marriage to Prentice. I thought "she's been crying the whole time, I didn't really get the idea she was being the hopeless romantic between the two." The real-life illness of Tracy might have a had just too much impact on Hepburn for the film, and makes it sad where it might not have been otherwise.

JSS Rating - Good/Good.

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