Saturday, 17 November 2012

Dinner with the Adams…

Within the annals of successful George Stevens films Alice Adams tends to get forgotten quite often. Which is odd considering it was his first major success (nominated for Best Picture) but is less odd considering it’s winsome, and comedic and sweet in a way that we generally films fans tend not to remember Stevens. Of course, knowing my allegiances, you’d probably already have guessed that if I’m talking the loveliness of Alice Adams, sooner or later I plan on segueing to Katharine Hepburn.
And, I could indeed wax on ecstatically about how great she is here. Case in point, it’s her best performance of that decade (and she was great in that first decade in a loads of films from Holiday to Bringing Up Baby to Little Women to Sylvia Scarlett). She’s especially vulnerable in it, and for someone who is so thoroughly a STAR it’s one of the few films where she doesn’t have to share the spotlight. Still, I’m having dinner with (most of) the Adams family, not just Alice.

The dinner sequence in Alice Adams is not essentially the film’s finest scene but it’s the scene most easily extractable from the film to encapsulate why it’s a gem. Poor (financially and in the “poor Alice” way) has equivocated much in her relations with her would-be beau Arthur. He’s over to her house for a dinner party where the not-rich Adams have hired a black neighbour to play made for a day. The heat is sweltering, the meal is too heavy, the “maid” (Hattie McDaniel in fine form) is bad – everything is so awkward, but so funny but so sad, too. Dinner table scenes are always great in films because they allow the actors to play off each other and clashing of personalities almost always plays well over food. Even though Alice Adams is a specific type of winsome thirties comedy, Stevens direction is such an easy master class in manoeuvring the trope so effectively.

The other dinner-table scene I tend to remember easily is the more explosive one in Gosford Park. What do you remember when you think of movie dinners?

(PS. You may have noticed that I’ve been MIA for a month or so, I have returned. Cheers.)


Yojimbo_5 said...

Very noticed, actually.

Leading speculations:
1) Heavy burden of class-work.
2) Fall Malaise
3) Post Performance of the 90's depression
4) Can't work up the enthusiasm to write a review for a movie that was "meh!"
5) Amnesia
6) The typical "I've had it!" cascading drop-out from blogging.
7) Coma.
8) Computer problems (see 7)
9) "Nothing I want to see..."
10) "Par-TAY!"

Anonymous said...

Great to see you back!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

yojimbo lists! you know how i love those.

1. yes
2. very possible
3. i'd love to say no, but probable
4. YES
5. if only...
6. almost, but i fought the ennui and won.
7. negative
8. luckily, no
9. the exact opposite, too much
10. again, if only

anon glad to know you're glad.