Friday, August 02, 2013

Classics: Adam's Rib

I have no idea why, but for some reason I had it in my head that Adam's Rib was actually a screwball comedy. Perhaps it's just because it was made around the same time and featured a married couple as the lead characters.

I mention this only because the fact that it actually was a rather earnest drama with quite a bit of comedy mixed in threw me because it wasn't what I was expecting. In fact nothing about the film was what I expected, and I don't know whether that changed my opinion of it or not. I've been hearing about it for decades, but I had only recently gotten around to watching it, and my delay wasn't for any particular reason so my reasons for watching it weren't that strong either.

Part of the issue is that it's a film that's often touted as being very feminist. Some of the scenes in the film are in fact very feminist in nature, and taken completely out of the context of the movie are quite impressive for their time since they are arguments we're still having. When Heburn's character talks to her secretary about the different opinions when a man cheats versus a woman cheating, it's a double standard woman are still struggling against now, over 50 years later.

The basic plot is that a working class woman has shot her husband and injured him. A pair of married lawyers have taken up the opposing sides of the case, Spencer Tracy plays the prosecuting attorney Adam Bonner, and Katharine Hepburn the defense, Amanda Bonner. Throughout the film the case causes them tension both inside the courtroom and at home, as they struggle to reconcile what their differences of opinion mean about their own ability to relate to each other.

On some levels it's a great story and the characters are interesting, their relationships compelling. It's almost redundant to say that Hepburn and Tracy have amazing chemistry. On other levels, it doesn't hold up to the passage of time because it becomes just a little bit more obvious how it's not actually as feminist as you might think. It's more what comfortable rich woman played at for feminism in the 1950's, where they were allowed to be loud and a bit bossy as long as at home they submitted to their husbands and had their quaint dinner parties and were still appropriately feminine.

Getting into why that bothered me is opening a huge can of feminist history worms, and talking about the differences between first wave and intersectional feminism and on and on. But suffice it to say, as the film went on it stopped working for me. Especially considering the character of Kip, a client of Amanda's that is smarmy and in love with her and she thinks the attention is wonderful. Everything about the way Kip interacts with Adam and Amanda is a bit gross and old fashioned, and it starts to really annoy me before the film is over. So much so that by the time we get the traditional romantic comedy reconciliation, I actually didn't care if they got back together because they'd both behaved so poorly in relation to the Kip situation that I didn't know if they deserved a happy ending.


I also thought that having Adam end the film by claiming that he was fake-crying at the accountant's office to win Amanda back was just a very gross way to end the story, and by having her accept it as a loving gesture means that it negates much of what the film was supposed to be about. The last few scenes actually rub it in that Amanda is actually wrong, that Doris Attinger didn't have the right to shoot her husband because even men shouldn't have the right to kill a cheating spouse. It basically takes the time at the end to put Amanda back in her place, as a proper feminist should always be just non-threatening enough not to upset the status quo and her actions should only be to make her feel better, or within the confines of what society deems acceptable.

I realize I'm probably reading a lot into the movie, and it isn't necessarily fair to a film released in 1949 to be analyzing it in this light. It was a product of it's time, and it was a rather progressive one at that I'm sure. I'm just really tired of the fact that this IS what life was like then and it's what life is STILL like now, and so maybe it was the wrong movie at the wrong time for me.

Leverage Season Two

My review of season one of Leverage

Season one of Leverage left off in a great place, just in case the show didn't get renewed. So at the beginning of season two the team of criminals has separated and has to come back together. They manage this when they all show up to support Sophie in a disastrous performance of The Sound of Music (Sophie's failed acting career is one of my favorite plot threads).

I really loved the way it all seamlessly fell back into place, and the way that the entire crew is much more comfortable running over Nate when he gets ridiculous. If he's doing something dumb, they just don't listen. This is also the season where you start to see the different experts start to coach their "co-workers" in their craft.

Specifically, Sophie starts to teach Parker how to better relate to people and Elliot starts to teach them all how to fight and defend themselves. These lessons slowly build up as the series goes on, but the foundations are here in season two and they really work. Season two is a tough time for a lot of shows, and even Leverage goes through a few growing pains. It's a time where you have to figure out how to continue what worked, fix what didn't, and how to have your characters change and grow without going so far they aren't what the fans love anymore.

With Leverage, part of how they do this is having Nate embrace being a bad guy, and finally quitting drinking. I was pretty happy to see the alcoholic storyline drop, and I'm still grumpy that it doesn't stay dead, but it was nice while it lasted. Sophie realizes she's been lying for so long that she needs to take time to figure out who she is, and leaves to discover her true self, appearing only in phone calls and quick shots in a few episodes. This was necessitated by actress Gina Bellman's pregnancy, which couldn't convincingly be written into the show and I'm glad they didn't try.

For a while they're joined by Tara, who never really worked for me and I don't think she ever fit the team dynamic. But she wasn't meant as a permanent replacement, so that's okay.

A lot of really great, classic episodes of the show are in season two. The Zanzibar Marketplace Job stands out, as it brings back Sterling and Nate's ex-wife Maggie. It's also a great episode for showing off how the team has grown, since they have to manage to finish the con without Sophie or Nate. More often as the show goes on, characters other than Nate will take over as the "mastermind" for an episode, and usually it doesn't work out completely for them but you never get the sense that Nate is trying to prove he's the only man for the job. Instead, he's helping them learn.

The Two Live Crew Job has the team run into a nearly identical team, so they face the worst version of themselves. This is the first episode to feature Chaos, Wil Wheaton's typical smarmy jerk character and adversary of Hardison. The Bottle Job, where the crew has only two hours to save McRory's Pub from a loan shark is particularly brilliant. In fact, looking back on the episode list the only one that I don't have at least some fond thoughts about is The Future Job, which was very interesting in it's take down of television psychics and their techniques, but I would have rather seen Gina Bellman's take as the team's fake psychic.

It's always great to see a show that just steadily increases in quality as it goes on, and Leverage was already pretty good in season one. Season two definitely just makes it all even better.

New at Winged Reviews: The Titan's Curse!

My latest review is up at Winged Reviews, check out what I thought of The Titan's Curse, by Rick Riordan!