Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Lady Eve

The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941) [7]
Not quite a screwball comedy and not quite a romantic comedy, The Lady Eve is certainly an enjoyable film. But to me, it feels slight compared to Sturges's Sullivan's Travels, a film I feel is much superior. That film is also part screwball comedy, but it has a insight into humanity that gives it depth. There really isn't much here other than the story and characters given. While that shouldn't automatically depreciate its value, it doesn't have enough depth, or laughs for that matter, to really make me think it's the masterpiece it's touted to be. Henry Fonda plays a wealthy brewery heir that is far from a man of the world. Barbara Stanwyck is a con artist who along with her father see Fonda's character as ripe pickings. Things aren't so easy however as the two fall into a tricky romantic situation which sees them together, apart, together again under false circumstances, apart, and back together again. Things all become complicated when the Stanwyck character actually falls for Charles instead of just taking advantage of him. Of course Charles is too dim to realize what he gets himself into and then back into. Fonda plays him with the correct amount of obliviousness and charm that make him passable. The pratfalls get to be much over time though. The film really centers around the Stanwyck character, who has to jump in from calculating grifter to a dumbstruck lover. Her presence has a cloaked sexiness to it, in that she's not overtly using her sexuality on Charles as well as the audience, but that certain qualities of her performance bring this out. The scene when she first takes him back to her cabin and realizes she's going to fall for him is a perfect example. It's not a role meant to be a sex kitten type of role but there's definitely something there that is enticing and yet refined. It helps because the story just seems so marginal to me. There's not enough laughs outside of some supporting performances that really make it a great comedy for me. Still, it's better than a great majority of what comedies are released today.

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