Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sometimes The Actors Can Carry It For Me

I'm still reviewing movies, because I haven't finished any books yet, so Designing Women. Lauren Bacall, Gregory Peck. Screwball comedy about a fashion designer and a sportswriter meeting and getting hitched, then experiencing problems because of the writer's past relationship with a dancer Played by Dolores Gray), who happens to be in a musical Bacall is designing the outfits for. And Peck's pissed off some big wheel in the fixing boxing matches, played by Ed Platt (who was the Chief on the TV version of Get Smart).

It's one of those movies where things would be simpler if people would just talk and listen reasonably, but they don't. By the time anyone is ready to talk, they're too worked up or suspicious to listen. That can be frustrating, but I enjoy both Bacall and Peck enough that it carried me through. And they're both a bit against type here, or what I associate as their type anyway. I tend to think of Bacall as playing characters who are very clever, very observant, they pretty much know the score, and won't let you see them sweat. Here she's more emotional, not ditzy exactly, but kind of unaware of things outside a narrow range. Peck's a little more rough around the edges than I'm used to. It's hard for me to picture him getting blackout drunk as he was at the start of the film (and the film amplifies all the sound effects for the first several minutes to play up the hangover).

Still, my favorite scene was the one when he breaks the news to his now ex-girlfriend Gray. They're at an Italian restaurant, she's taking things well, then she asks about Bacall, and Peck goes into great detail describing her, and Gray pushes his plate of ravioli in his lap. What I like is how much they downplay. There's no histrionics or shouting. It plays off that dignity Peck's characters usually have, with him being unwilling to react. So he sits quietly, tries to unobtrusively ask the waiter to find him some pants, and generally pretend nothing happened. Gray doesn't apologize profusely, but she also doesn't laugh. She seems slightly embarrassed she did it, which is why she doesn't want to bring attention to it. Something about how calm everyone is being made it funnier than if they'd started freaking out over it.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

You just can't go wrong with Bacall and Peck.