SPOILER ALERT - Up past my bedtime again. Before I go, I do want to mention that I did finally see Sweet Bird of Youth, not that it was on the to-do list or anything. I did see it over two days, so maybe that dulled its impact slightly, I don't know. It's always strange to me to see a movie like this, and how they had to delicately tiptoe around certain subjects. Lots of taboos in this one, mostly marijuana and abortion, I guess. It takes a while for Geraldine Page to get going, but it's safe to say she ends up owning the movie, as we like to say these days. Rip Torn's a hoot in this. As the careless bad seed, he laughs at everything, and I couldn't help but laugh to see how young and different he looked! People like that have a great second act in their careers because they look better when they get older. Defending Your Life and Larry Sanders sustained him through many a time, and I couldn't help but think it genius to pick Hank Azaria to play the young Rip Torn in Dodgeball, probably the only touch of genius in that movie.
So, in terms of plot, we've got a lot to work with here. We've got a trifecta of ruined characters. Paul Newman plays CHANCE WAYNE, (good name!) the hotshot kid who's trying to make it in Hollywood, California, but can't seem to get past Hollywood, Florida on his way there. If I remember correctly, Chance describes Hollywood as "a land of dreams with a wall a mile high around it, if only I could get in." Chance breezes into St. Cloud, his hometown, driving Miss Alexandra Del Lago, a movie star in the throes of self despair after a disastrous screening of her new movie. And she was only 38 when this movie came out! How does Jennifer Aniston at 43 cope? (Don't email me! She'll be 43 in SIX DAYS!!!) Everyone in town keeps warning Paul Newman that he has to leave, because of 'Boss' Finley, the proverbial Tom Wolfe Man in Full whose empire of political strength is crumbling around him, and certainly not helped by a recent prank on his political opponent gone horribly, horribly wrong, perpetrated by Finley Jr. Ah, the pains of competitive democracy. Geraldine Page was apparently committed to the craft of acting, and you can tell when she has to act opposite real life husband Rip, as he not-so-politely asks her to leave her hotel suite, as it was not hers to take in the first place. You can hear some of the Artie inflections to come much later in his speech.
Director Richard Brooks is and was a first rate director, but somehow the grandiosity of Tennessee Williams is too much for me to take too seriously. But it is nice to see that a girl can still love a guy even though he got beat in the face once really hard with a cane. It's the thought that counts, I guess. It takes more than one hit in the face to hurt Paul Newman's looks. Love triumphs in the end, but maybe not financially in the long run. And, and here's the part with the SPOILER ALERT: if you're a rich father that lords over some small town somewhere, and you have a daughter whose life you find yourself micromanaging, some marriage advice: NEVER set your daughter up with the doctor that performed an abortion for her! Never. No matter how nice of a boy he is.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan