Director: Leo McCarey
Writer: Vina Delmar and Sidney Buchman (uncredited)
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
by Susan Bartley
In this great screwball, Rom-Com from Leo McCarey, married couple Lucy and Jerry Warriner (Irene Dunne and Cary Grant) agree to split up. Jealousies inevitably arise as they begin to explore other opportunities. Although I’ve seen this formula time and again, it still felt incredibly fresh. You could feel the sexual tension between Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. During the final scene, in particular, as Irene lays in bed, McCarey keeps cutting back to a cuckoo clock, waiting for it to go off. It’s one of the hottest scenes I’ve watched of all early films. You can feel Grant's adrenaline pumping as he’s tempted into bed. Of course we know where the two are going afterwards. They’ll get back together, forget about what they disagreed upon, and we learn that there are no perfect relationships. At the core of any is the ability to observe the world in ways few would understand; where you can laugh at certain situations with the comfort that your partner, and often only your partner, will understand. Irene’s new fiance is so clueless to anything that’s going on that Grant simply needs exploit this idea, to wink at Dunne, light the wick, and watch it inch toward the bomb.
It’s films like this that make me wonder when the rom-com will come floating back. It’s always a pendulum, floating between awful and uninspired, few and far between, and then back toward the deep, impacting, and profound. Indie films have been exploring the genre as of late, yet they seem to always make the mistake of treating the material so seriously, subsequently weighing down the necessary lightness in order to show it’s a Serious Movie. So many want to shoot it with that high-artistic style; a lone soul drifting through the urban landscape, desperate for a partner, that one person who'll connect to their Deep View of the world (watch this submission to 2014 Project Greenlight about soul mates and you’ll know what I mean). I don’t know what’s more pathetic - that these filmmakers either believe this is how people actually feel and willingly promote it, or that this uninspired garbage keeps returning with better photography. Rule of thumb - the greater the cinematography the more I’ll probably cringe during most indie film’s take on the Rom Com. The Awful Truth provides all the same feelings and far more.
BELOW: Although the audio has been substituted with a cheap temp score, here's the final scene between Lucy and Jerry. Watch it on mute. As with all great cinema, it's the ability for the scene to work without any audio at all that demonstrates McCarey's prowess.
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