Monday, November 8, 2010

#189 Splendor in the Grass (1961)


Director: Elia Kazan

Cast: Warren Beattty, Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle, Sandy Dennis, Sean Garrison, Audrey Christie, Barbara Loden, Zohra Lampert, Fred Stewart

This is what happens when you repress young sexuality-- the woman goes to a mental institution, and the dude knocks up another woman! Just kidding. But seriously.

Deanie Loomis (Wood) and Bud Stamper (Beatty) are in a Kansas high school in 1929, and they are in love. They are also caught in the midst of sexual teenage angst-- both afraid to take the next step in their physical relationship. Scared to let down their parents, their image, and each other.

Instead of following their own instincts to be intimate with one another, the two travel down a much more complicated road of suppressed sexuality-- Bud seeks solace in other girls, and Deanie finds rebellion and self-injury. The road drives them apart, but you can't get TOO far when you're from Kansas, right? When they finally find each other again, what has become of themselves?

The film was hyper-dramatic, though the warnings are real. They say "teen pregnancy is 100% preventable." Well guess what-- so are the sexually-repressed crazies! In that aspect the film was frustrating. Warren Beatty makes his big-screen debut in this film, and having seen his later work (Bonnie and Clyde), my warmth toward his Marlon Brando-esque glow only gets hotter. Natalie Wood does some brilliant crazy-work in this film as well. I think the amount of frustration I felt while watching this film speaks volumes about its effectiveness. Though first inclined to complain, on second thought, I think it really gets to the point steadfast.

I also felt the "splendor in the grass" thread that holds this film together is actually a very beautiful and profound metaphor as well.

Overall, it is a steamy, emotional, and not entirely pleasant romance. Popcorn not needed, though encouraged. Not a first date movie-- could get awkward.

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