Monday, March 11, 2013

An Affair to Remember

An Affair to Remember
Director: Leo McCarey
Starring: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr

I have to say this from the outset: I enjoy this film ironically.  Overall, I find An Affair to Remember to be far too melodramatic and, frankly, too silly for its own good.  But if I’m in the right sort of mood, I take a massive cue from Sleepless in Seattle and rather enjoy this particular film in spite of itself.

Nickie Ferrante (Grant) is an internationally known playboy sailing across the ocean to meet up with his wealthy fiancée.  Terry McKay (Kerr) is a former nightclub singer sailing across the ocean to meet up with her loyal and wealthy boyfriend.  She is the only person on board not falling over herself to ingratiate herself with him, so naturally, he is intrigued and pursues her.  Naturally, love blossoms despite their respective significant others.  When the liner drops them off in New York, they agree to part ways temporarily to deal with said other romantic interests but also to meet up again in six months at the Empire State Building.  What on earth could possibly happen in six months?!?

The silliness to which I alluded in the opening paragraph doesn’t really set in for the first half hour, and as such, I enjoy the first half hour completely un-ironically.  The first half hour is full of snappy, sexy dialogue between Grant and Kerr, and their chemistry is spicy.  She has the ability to skewer him with the precisely right turn of phrase, he comes back with some sort of self-deprecating witticism, and it’s just plain fun.  In order to divert paparazzi attention, the two sit back to back at adjoining dinner tables and speak to one another behind the huge menu, fooling no one.  The whole set up of the meet-cute between these two characters is very engaging.

This bit's fun.

But that’s only the first half hour, because as soon as we get to Nickie and Terry visiting his grandmother, the whole movie gets remarkably somber and serious and melodramatic and wholly silly.  There is such a charming lightness that gets completely deflated once our couple starts seriously falling in love.  The movie loses its pace and nearly all its energy, a fact which is not at all helped by some incredibly schmaltzy songs.  Let’s watch Nickie’s grandma play some bland piece at the piano for five minutes.  Seriously, five minutes of the film is just watching her play the piano.  Yes, I get that this is when the two of them are supposed to be falling in love, but holy crap this is stupidly serious.  Every now and then, some of that original snappy repartee comes back, but we don’t get nearly enough of it.  It’s far more spread out, and there’s so much water-logged dialogue in between.  Ugh.  (I will give the film credit for clever and fun scenes that involve a TV reporter interviewing Ferrante.)

This bit's not as fun.

So from this point on, I have to change my outlook in order to have the patience to get through the film.  So I think of Sleepless in Seattle.  I saw Sleepless in Seattle in the theaters with my dad when I was but a wee Siobhan, and I’ve always highly enjoyed the bits in it where the women get all ridiculously weepy over An Affair to Remember (followed by the fabulous scene at the end where Tom Hanks and Victor Garber get all weepy over The Dirty Dozen).  When things get ridiculously melodramatic, I picture Rosie O’Donnell and Meg Ryan weeping their eyes out and I smile.

Seriously.  The dialogue moves from snappy and fun to dirge-like in its seriousness, and it becomes so eye-roll inducing that I have to picture Crow and Tom Servo sitting in front of the screen throwing things at Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. 

I know that this film is a retelling of Love Affair from 1939, but I kept on thinking of Brief Encounter instead.  Both films deal with people who are in otherwise loving and committed relationships, yet they find themselves falling in love with other people, and this causes them emotional anguish.  The thing is, I find myself getting completely swept up in the angst in Brief Encounter, and ridiculing the angst in An Affair to Remember.  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure why that is.  I’d like to think that Brief Encounter isn’t nearly as schmaltzy, but I don’t know if that’s true.  Maybe it has to do with the situation; although similar, Brief Encounter is a bit more realistic and less fantasy.  A bit.  Maybe it’s Laura’s voice over narrative that helps me into her soul; I have no similar window into Terry’s soul.  Maybe it’s the soundtrack.  Brief Encounter uses Rachmaninov; An Affair to Remember uses an original soundtrack that I consider a step down from lounge music.  I honestly don’t know why I’m so turned on by one film, and find a similar film so much lesser.  Maybe it’s just me.  Ah well.

I do like that the significant others that get pushed aside in An Affair to Remember are presented as very nice, kind, civil people.  We like them.  We should.  If they were horrible people, then why would our hero and heroine suffer emotional anguish at the thought of breaking up with them?  I like that about the film; I like that the hurdles standing in the way of our main couple are not monsters. 

Again, at some point, I just say “to hell with it,” pour myself a huge glass of wine, and laugh at the ridiculous schmaltz that is most of An Affair to Remember.  Cary Grant is always fun and pleasant, and Deborah Kerr can match him well in the witty banter department.  The two have very good chemistry, and the first half hour of the film is highly enjoyable.  But really, wine and a sense of humor is all that’s going to get me through the remaining hour and a half.  I have to stop taking the movie seriously because it’s just too damn silly.

It also has what is possibly the most ridiculous school music concert I’ve ever seen in a film. 

Arbitrary Rating: 6/10, enjoyed mostly from an ironic point of view.  Get me a drink and I’ll just laugh over and over at the silliness that is the unending sea of schmaltz called An Affair to Remember.