Thursday, June 9, 2011

"All About Eve" a story just as resonant today as it was over 60 years ago

TITLE: "All About Eve"
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1950
DIRECTOR: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
STARS: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm
EDITOR: Barbara McLean
AWARDS: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Oscar), Best Costume Design, Black & White (Oscar), Best Director (Oscar), Best Picture (Oscar), Best Sound Recording (Oscar),  Best Writing, Screenplay (Oscar)
BOX OFFICE: N/A
RUN TIME: 138 min.
RATING: PG
VIEWING FORMAT: DVD

SUMMARY:
"All About Eve" is a mesmerizing story about friendship, trust, gender roles, betrayal, and lust for fame. Set against the backdrop of the New York theatre world, Eve (Anne Baxter) is a young nobody, who gets the chance of a lifetime to meet and work for Margo Channing (Bette Davis), a renowned theatre actress. Does Eve have more motives than just being a fan? Is she setting Margo up for a fall? Is it Margo's fault that Eve should make the decisions she does? Has a plan been hatching since scene one of the film? Watch it, and find out.

WHY THIS IS THE FILM OF THE WEEK:
"All About Eve" holds the record (tied by "Titanic" (1997)) for most Oscar nominations, at 14. It also holds the record for most female acting nominations for a single film. But an Oscar itself is not enough to classify a film as "classic" (with "Salt" (2010), "Unstoppable" (2010), "Wanted" (2008) and "Click" (2006) all boasting nominations!). What separates this film from others that have received praise, and sets it on a tier by itself, is an engrossing character driven drama, fueled by incredible performances and beautiful cinematography.


The story is told in flashback, so the audience knows that Eve is a successful actress from the first scene. When they are re-introduced a few minutes later, and Eve is a nobody hanging out on the streets of New York, the viewer can't help but root for her to reach the potential they know her capable of.


Jeanne Crain, known for such films as "Pinky" (1949) and "A Letter to Three Wives" (1949), was originally supposed to play the titular role, but became pregnant and had to drop out of the production. Producer, Darryl F. Zanuck, felt that they had made a good choice in replacing her with Anne Baxter, due to the "bitch virtuosity" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042192/trivia) needed for the part, that he felt Crain lacked.


The secret to success for this film is in the final act. Eve, such a likable, but strange, woman of circumstance finally lets her true character be seen. She is ruthless, and willing to do anything, and destroy anyone, in order to get what she wants. The audience stays engaged because, after all, who doesn't want to be famous?


Each of the four female leads (i believe them all to be leads in this film, as opposed to supporting characters), earned an Oscar nomination for this film. Each deserved it. The cast in this film was ahead of its time. Often times, older films feel stale, yet this continued to feel fresh. Each actor put their soul into these roles, and made the audience believe in them, and their motivations.


Finally, this film's cinematography was priceless. Black and white has always offered such a rich dynamic to the eye. This film does not disappoint. The camera moves stay motivated, the lighting works within the sets (especially the theater scenes), and the framing is consistently interesting.


This film is a classic for a simple reason: it did a lot of things, and it did them all right. Oftentimes great parts don't equal a great sum (Pierce Brosnan's James Bond films come to mind), but this film proves that there can be exceptions.

CRITIQUE:
"All About Eve" sticks out in my mind as a great cinematic experience. I doubt I will ever forget it. I was engrossed from beginning to end. The movie is not perfect, as it does have a rather slow second act. But slow does not equal bad. It runs very long, and I would recommend watching it during the day time, as opposed to a late night viewing.


As far as the slow second act goes, by the time the viewer starts to realize, it does pick up again. And there are far too many pretty faces and strong performances for the audience to feel like leaving.


One thing that sticks out in this film is the role of women in it. The 1950's were a time when the nuclear family was actually real, and women supported their men. This film does not give that impression. Most of the females in this film are portrayed as strong women (one exception being Miss Casswell, played by a young Marilyn Monroe), who simply happen to have men around. They are the celebrities that are followed and adored. They are the reason their men are successful. As a character, Eve shows strength even in her most humbled state. By the end of the film, some of the women have decided to accept certain gender roles that are expected of them, but it doesn't seem forced. The characters genuinely believe that new avenues in life are what fit them best, and the audience shouldn't feel cheated. A strong woman can make up her mind to do anything, including supporting a man she loves.


This is a one of a kind type of film. It is worth every second the viewer puts into it. Please, watch this movie, and watch it soon. Enjoy it. This is what classic cinema is all about.

MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10

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