Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Awful Truth (1937)

Delightful farce about a divorcing couple doing their best to sabotage each other's new relationships. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play off each other wonderfully; Grant in particular gets a lot of mileage out of his jolly sarcasm. The verbal repartee between the two flies like daggers on point, and much of it kills. At their core, though, the characters retain an essential likeability which keeps the film from tipping into an obnoxious slagfest (a la the monstrously overrated Twentieth Century). Aside from the verbal wit, there's also a healthy dollop of situational humor (i.e. the dog and the hat or Dunne's masquerade as Grant's sister) and even a touch of effective physical humor (Grant's unfortunate entrance into Dunne's musical recital). There's also an interesting dichotomy being milked here -- that of city life versus country life. While Grant and Dunne's urbanity is, for them, an asset, it's also significant that Ralph Bellamy's less-cultured oil baron isn't mocked -- rather, he's shown as a sweet and cheerful guy who ultimately showed up at the wrong time. Also of note is that the film's wrapup takes place in a cabin in the woods (something about stripping away the cynicism of the city, maybe?). Hilarity plus something to think about... what more do you need?

Grade: A-


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