Monday, March 7, 2016

1010. Mrs. Miniver (1942)


Running Time: 134 minutes
Directed By: William Wyler
Written By: Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, James Hilton, Claudine West, from the novel by Jan Struther
Main Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, Richard Ney, Dame May Whitty
Click here to view the trailer

Note: So since this is both a former/future BOOK movie AND my very first Blind Spot review, I'm going to be tinkering with the review format just a little, as I'm looking to try a shorter style review for the Blind Spot movies.

2016 BLIND SPOT SERIES: JANUARY


WHAT I KNEW GOING IN AND WHY I CHOSE IT

Literally knew nothing going into Mrs. Miniver. I had an inkling that it was a Best Picture winner, but I wasn't even 100% sure on that fact. Giving a perusal to the other contenders that year, I've personally only seen three of the ten noms; this one, The Magnificent Ambersons and Yankee Doodle Dandy - the latter of which I'd have to give the coup. However, despite knowing literally nothing about Mrs. Miniver prior to my viewing, I had always heard of the film and it was one of the ones that I was always shocked didn't make it into my edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. And after watching it yesterday, this seemed to me like just the thing that would've been up THE BOOK'S alley. And yes, a few years ago when they completely revamped THE BOOK, this one was finally included.

It was pretty much chosen because 1) I'd heard about it so much, in passing, but had never seen even a sliver of it and 2) at this point, any Best Picture winner that has escaped my eyes has to be considered a blind spot, right?




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The film revolves around the Miniver family (imagine that), headed up by Mrs. Miniver (Garson), along with her husband, Clem (Pidgeon). They're a fun couple, at times playful - who have raised one son, Vincent (Ney) into a fine young man and are in the process of raising two more kids - 1 boy, 1 girl. The family has surpassed the middle class and live comfortably, thanks to Clem's efforts as a successful architect. However, when World War II breaks out, even the upper class aren't exempt from the wrath of warfare. The film follows the Miniver clan as they face the struggles that living in a war torn country present - watching their beloved "Vin" go off to battle and spending sleepless nights in a shelter, while bombings and air raids sound like the end of the world outside. There's also this whole subplot about a rose - which is also named the "Mrs. Miniver"...

SPOILER ALERT!




I realize it was a different time and this was probably just the sort of film that got the Academy drooling back in the early forties, but DAMN, this was kind of a chore to get through. To be fair, I started out liking it. Greer Garson was quite the looker and the chemistry that she and Walter Pidgeon had was just so fun - reminding me of the great, playful chemistry that Myrna Loy had with William Powell. The whole movie starts out with Mrs. Miniver buying an expensive hat behind her husband's back, afraid to finally tell him that she's made the purchase. Meanwhile, Mr. Miniver, wants to bring up the subject of buying a new car, afraid to do so as well and not yet knowing that his wife has already made a large purchase. It's all so fun and a fine way to get me at least interested in the couple. Albeit, that interest didn't really last long, as we're soon thrown into the throes of WWII and we've plenty discussed my dislike for war films or even anything resembling a war film. Add to that the fact that the film was very OF it's time (which it kinda' had to be I guess, to really give us a taste of the time), and I just couldn't get into this, whatsoever.

I will say though that the film made me realize what an impact World War II had on literally EVERYBODY who was living at the time, especially those living in Europe where the battle was being waged. It also made me realize why there's probably so many films on the subject, as artists have a tendency to create based on what has worn on them emotionally and CLEARLY, WWII wore down a lot of artists (filmmaker's and novelists, I'm talking about here) emotionally. Be it the Holocaust and the massacre of millions of Jews or simply a family who had to spend a few unforgettable nights in a bomb shelter, while their babies bawled their eyes out and they wondered if they'd ever see the light of day again. Speaking of that, I'd have to call that particular scene the best of the film - a scene where Garson and Pidgeon's characters' hear bombs going off outside and try to mask their fear by discussing Alice in Wonderland - played masterfully by both actor and actress. Despite my dislike for the movie, I'll still admit that there are a handful of perfectly acted, perfectly executed scenes - including one where a German soldier holds Mrs. Miniver at gunpoint and another where Dame May Whitty's Lady Beldon forfeits the rose competition. Unfortunately, all of these wonderful scenes are interlaced with quite the boring affair and again, it's a war movie, which for the life of me, I just can't get lost in. My imagination just clams up on me when I'm presented with war material and no matter how hard I try, 95% of the time, I'm unenthused.

RATING: 4/10  I'll consider the discovery of Greer Garson as the one big takeaway of this film and everything else is just very rough to get through. Unless you're a list hound (like me) and don't care about seeing all of the Best Picture winners, then give this a pass.

February 29, 2016  4:33pm

6 comments:

  1. I will start with the answer to the teaser .. This is what I had in mind when I said 'Should be my sort of thing, but overly sentimentalised and cliche ridden'.
    I know you are not at all over keen on 'war films'.. so big kudos for realising why there are so many of them out there, and why the crop up so frequently in 'top 100' film lists, As discussed at times passed with Amanda, 'The War' was - still is- such a traumatic event, it HAS to be featured in all sorts of cultural, artist expression.
    But we are to discuss Mrs M..
    Oh I can totally see anyone not going for this bit of middle class privilege twittering on about over priced hats, and I think it is horribly overplayed.. and that end shot - oh cringe cringe. There are much, much better films out there on the same topic ('This Happy Breed' springs to mind) .. and yet this came out earlier and captured the sympathy of the Academy. It's pretty well accepted it only got 'best picture' as a sympathy sop to us poor battered Brits. Nice gesture guys, appreciate the thought, but perhaps not the best way to choose major awards.
    Some compare it to 'The Best Years of Our Lives' .. also Wyler. MMmm.. not so sure. OK, both about the effect of the war on civilians / the home front .. but there it ends. Mrs m. is from the early days.. and is pretty much just the women folk .. 'Best Years..' is about the men coming home to all that. And is from the end of the war .. No, sorry, cannot agree to compare., but if you HAD to .. 'Best years..' would win hands down.

    In the end, I'd go a bit higher than yourself.. but I think anything over 6 would be pushing it. It's not that bad a film, and should be seen, - but it was very much 'of it's time' and it can be painful at times.
    You didn't mention one of it's more famous trivia points .. Garson's endless gushing Oscar acceptance speech at the award.
    OK, thanks for a simple, good old style post that I can read on here.

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    1. You're welcome and more to come Ray. All of the films on the sidebar under the "Blind Spot Series" heading, will be formally reviewed...and more 1001+ reviews as well. Thanks for a well thought out reply, as well...

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  2. While the net result is about the same I had almost the reverse experience of yours. The first half I found not only boring, but also incredibly fake. The family is presented as an American middle class family transplanted to England to such an extent that it is almost unintentionally funny. The second half is a lot better as especially Garson steps into character with the bomb shelter scene as the climax of the movie.

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    1. I do agree about the wholesome American family, transplanted into England. I never thought of that, but you're absolutely right.

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  3. Oh dear, this is in the NY Times list so I'm going to have to watch this too at some point. Avoided the spoilery bits til I've seen it but doesn't sound great, another dated and overrated Hollywood pic by the looks of things. Hope you next Blind Spot is a little better!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Donald...I actually already watched the next one and it WAS better...but not by a lot. Review coming Monday

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