Sunday, August 23, 2009

Declawed

I am a fan of old movies, so much so that I pay for far too many cable channels just so I can have Turner Classic Movies. High on my list of favourites are the comedies of the 30's and 40's, movies like Philadelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby and the Thin Man series.

My all time favourite from that period is The Women, based on Clare Booth Luce's play and directed by George Cukor. I do love this little gem of cattiness. I love how nary a man is pictured, even though it is very much a picture about men. I love how it depicts the underlying tension between all of these different types of women; good, bad, old, and young. And I love the snappy dialogue between the women, carried so well by the likes of Rosalind Russell and Joan Crawford. It's all so genteel, yet unapologetically bitchy.




A pivotal moment in the movie happens when Mary Haines FINALLY decides to grow a backbone and fight. In her words, "I've had two years to grow claws mother. Jungle red!"

And seventy years later, The Women would be declawed.

I was on the fence about seeing the remake of The Women. Hollywood does not have that great a reputation when it comes to remaking a classic. But I looked at the cast, and thought hey, with the likes of Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Bette Midler and Candice Bergen in it, how bad can it be?

I really need to stop asking myself that question as a part of my decision making process.

While the remake isn't bad, not like Gigli or Ishtar bad, it is certainly disappointing. Gone is the wit and the tension. There are some nods to the original (Meg Ryan's character asks at one point, "What is this, a movie from the thirties?"), but all of the juice has been written out of it. Or directed out of it. Or edited out of it. The good woman is too good. The bad girl isn't bad enough. The back-stabbing friend repents and apologises. And a ditzy baby machine and a black lesbian are tossed in to round out all the stereotypes.

Sad, really, how nice it's become. It's like ordering a Cosmopolitan and the waiter hands you a Shirley Temple. And the new ending is just so nauseating pleasant, I just about threw my remote at the tv.

1939 version: ****
2008 version: *

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