Saturday, January 23, 2010

#132 All That Heaven Allows (1956)


Director: Douglas Sirk
Cast: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Grey, Gloria Talbott

It's the story of a 1950's uppercrust widow, who is left estranged from both her children and the local country club-- lonely and slowly become more and more shut off from reality. Suddenly, she finds herself in love with a much younger, hunky gardener, living outside of town and rather unconventionally at that. Vowing to marry him, she sets off down a bumpy road of dealing with the extreme gossip of the clubhouse and harsh disapproval of her children (whose idea of occupying mom's time is with a shiny new television set). Broken by the cruelty of others, she breaks off the engagement and falls back into her old life, somewhat miserably. It is only after a terrible accident that she realizes what she has really given up.

My feelings on this film are relatively complex. My initial reaction was pretty unfavorable, as I found myself bored stiff at the characterless characters-- Rock Hudson beaming on the screen just like a giant, chiseled 1950s bo-hunk in flannel and Jane Wyman with her half-emoted feelings, decorated in velvet and diamonds. It was the darker side of the film that I actually found much more interesting-- the way Carrie's son corners her in the dark living room and heartlessly threatens her. The arrival of the television set, gleaming in the living room as a final "take that" to her broken love. The somewhat comical clambering of the clubhouse women in their jewels, anxious to get the first sight of the new couple approaching the cocktail party, ready with arrows pointed. In the end, I saw how pointed and critical the film truly was of 1950s culture-- the irony 6 inches deep as it was shot in the most flabbergasting technicolor... in the 1950s.

Three stars equals three nods for what the film really stood for and for having that true-to-Hollywood classic romance plot (complete with life-threatening accident that allows love to conquer all). Two missing stars for the fact that the film still lacked some sort of quality that makes it timeless. I don't think I'll ever get over Ned mixing martinis. Absolutely hilarious.

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