The Misfits (1-Feb-1961)|
Director: John Huston
Writer: Arthur Miller
Producer: Frank E. Taylor
Keywords: Romantic Comedy
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Review by Mark J. Shallow (posted on 12-Dec-2008)
Much has been written and said about this film, and the majority opinion is that it is a masterpiece. While it does have some captivating moments, in the main, it is seriously flawed and not really deserving of the high praise that's been heaped upon it.
Arthur Miller, who wrote the screenplay, was perhaps the greatest playwright of the last century, but his genius for telling a compelling story was sadly lacking here. The central theme of the sanctity of rigged individualism in the film has a great deal of width, but almost no depth. The male characters talk disparagingly of working for "wages", yet their words seem hollow. The attempts to bolster their dignity are undermined by their proclivity for doing some rather undignified things. They drink ceaselessly and are prone to objectify women. They engage in sermonizing about the value of being free, but they come off sounding as if they only half-believe what they're saying. Like Willy Loman in Miller's brilliant play DEATH OF A SALESMAN, the central character of Gay Langland (Clark Gable) is an anachronism, but whereas Willy's wife touchingly got us to truly feel for her downtrodden husband, no such sympathy is forthcoming for Gay. Rather, we might feel more likely to be embarrassed for him.
Clark Gable was a wrong choice for the character of Gay. He squints, leers and looks as if he wished he was somewhere else. The brash self-assuredness that made him great in the thirties and forties is here nothing more than self-centered boasting. Eli Wallach missed an opportunity to inject the character of Guido with some palpable humanity. Instead, we see just one more in a dull grey line of life's losers. Montgomery Clift as the the battered rodeo rider Perce Howland is a one-dimensional presence who was supposed to act as a more civilized counterpoint to the crudities of Guido and Gay, but he's merely as self-absorbed as his two friends and therefore lacking in any moral authority. And, of course, there's Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Tabor, newly divorced and unsure of where life will take her. Her marriage, we're told, ended because her husband was cold and aloof, and she felt that, emotionally, he had abandoned her. The fact that she would choose to jump from that frying pan right into the fire with Gay et.al. is the height of improbability.
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