Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Movies: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

It's 1967 and the Civil Rights Movement has just recently happened, so imagine a movie that is about a couple of different races deciding they were going to step forward to their families about their relationship. That alone makes for some interesting happenings in the movie. Stanely Kramer though was a director who seemed to have this very odd portrayal of the story. While the story and plot are very modern and beyond the time, his way of directing was very dated and 60's, and takes away a lot from the atmosphere of the story.

Summary: Joey is bring home her fiance, John, to meet her family. They've only been dating for a little over a week, but Joey is convinced he is the one. John is a little more hesitant though as he is much more aware of just how rare their romance is. Matt and Christina are Joey's parents, and they've always considered themselves a huge supporter of African Americans having civil rights, and their ideology is liberal. John though is going to put their ideas into practice though, and for the parents it may be harder to accept than their ideas led them to think.

Acting: This movie some huge names of classic Hollywood, Spence Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Tracy is the father who proves the most hesitant parent to convince their love is real. Tracy though gives one of his best performances I've seen though as Matt. I felt he really did show a range of emotions in trying to proceed in giving them his blessing or not. His concern wasn't just about them being two different races, but that the lives they would be living if married would be dangerous. Hepburn is Catherine, and the one who is more swept away by their love story. Hepburn also provides a lot of the comic relief for the movie. Sidney Poitier is John, and I feel he gives a great performance too. Just as Tracy is having to really digest what is happening it seems the fiance still is as well. He seems just as shocked he has fallen for a white women as anyone else in the family has. Then there is the weakest of the cast, Katharine Houghton as Joey. I felt she played up this whole 60's, doe eyed, romance part way too much. Her character was the one who was trying to be progressive, but felt the least progressive.

Filming: The huge weak spot of the movie is the directing. Kramer uses music that feels it doesn't match the vibe of the movie, and the shots are very outdated. It was made a little after The Graduate, but I felt it should have more of the attributes that movie did. The movie almost has this Leave it to Beaver mentality without the actual very white, suburban, family vibe. This is supposed to be a movie about a group of adults accepting their grown children's decision. The vibe of the movie was just very hard to look past when watching. Otherwise, the technicolor was beautiful, and you can someone was paying attention to style to make it pop.

Plot: The plot is really intriguing though, and you can't help but wonder how their families will react. It isn't just Joey's family that shows prejudice, but also John's. The movie though goes a bit beyond Joey's father, Matt, disliking the relationship because it is black and white though. For 67' I imagine it was still dangerous, and as Matt even says still illegal in many states to marry someone of another race. If they were to travel in those states they could be arrested, or put in danger. It seems natural that a father and even John would be unsettled at the idea of putting Joey in danger of that. John though is very good guy though, so it's obvious he would never put Joey in harm's way, but he has to convince the parents of that. The plot does leave room for interesting considerations like that to come in play, and most of all to remind you it's still the 60's.

If you're trying to base whether you watch this movie nowadays, I would say it's intriguing enough to watch. The ideas might seem outdated, but the trouble that Joey and John's relationship meets still exist today. Kramer still seems to play this movie safe though behind humor, and family concerns instead of the deeper root of some people just don't like their children to bring home a person of a different race for no good rooted reason.

Rating 7.5 of 10.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) on IMDb

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