Movie Monday: Bringing Up Baby

Each Monday I’m going to be blogging about a romantic comedy chosen by The Popcorn Dialogues. Read more – and my opinion on the first film – here. (And I’d love you to watch along, if you’d like to.)

I’ve tried to watch Bringing Up Baby twice before and failed both times. I wanted to like it because – duh – Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, but I found it just so very irritating. But I vowed to watch it again, along with The Popcorn Dialogues. So I did. And I found it very irritating.

Why? Well I think the first problem is perhaps that Hepburn and Grant both have quite annoyingly mannered voices. David came in at one point and said, “Why is she talking like THAT?!” (he’s not a fan of old movies). I told him it was her real voice and a few minutes later he said, “I don’t care if it is her real voice, it’s really annoying.” The movie is a farce, so the two main characters are frequently talking at the same time, over the top of one another, and, god, my ears. I actually shouted, “Shut up!” at the screen at one point.

CONTAINS SPOILERS SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW THIS MOVIE ENDS (ALTHOUGH SURELY YOU CAN GUESS SINCE IT’S A ROMANTIC COMEDY) THEN DON’T READ ON.

That aside, Hepburn and Grant are both so charming and funny and have great chemistry, but the romance doesn’t work AT ALL. From the very first, Hepburn’s character, Susan Vance, is a nightmare. She tries to move David’s (Grant’s character, not my husband) car and crashes it into a tree and another car and is not in the slightest bit concerned or apologetic. That’s got nothing on what she does at the end though, which really set my nerves on edge. So, yes, Susan’s a nightmare and David’s a terrible wimp. I don’t mind a wimp in life or in movies, but David takes it too far. He actually faints at one point. Mmm. Sexy.

The other problem with the romance is that it’s entirely told rather than shown, which if you’ve read any writing advice at all you’ll know is a big no-no. Early in the movie when Susan seems to just be messing with David because he’s uptight and she’s bored (and annoying), she suddenly shrieks “He’s the only man I’ve ever loved!” “Oh you don’t even know him!” I tutted at the screen. In the final scene, Susan turns up at David’s work and he is no warmer towards her, seems no more pleased to see her, than he did at the very beginning. In fact, he tells her that he’s scared of her (unsurprisingly – cos, you know, she’s a nightmare and he’s a wimp). Then, apropos of nothing, he suddenly says something like, “I’ve just realised that day with you was the best day of my life!” Like he’s literally just realised it. When he read it in the script. Phooey.

It’s definitely funny. It made me laugh out loud once or twice, which is more than It Happened One Night Did (although, don’t get me wrong, I MUCH prefer that movie), but it’s a farce and so it’s more stupid than funny. I just couldn’t suspend disbelief for the full running time. From about the halfway point, I was irritated and, for the last half an hour, bored.

I’d like to give it two and a half pops because two pops (this movie has a couple of great moments but in general is seriously flawed and therefore not worth losing minutes of your life to watch) seems harsh, but three pops (this movie is okay, you could do worse) is a bit too unspecific.

Next week: Ninotchka

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8 thoughts on “Movie Monday: Bringing Up Baby

  1. Unfortunately, I think you had to be there at the time. The 21st century audience (unless they’re real film nuts)(look no further) is far too sophisticated for movies like this. I love it because it’s daft and it’s improbable and the love story is as weird as the characters. And, as you say, it’s Cary and Kate. I don’t think it can be loved IN SPITE of all the above. It’s not for everyone and it’s not really for a general audience any more. Trends change. It pains me to say it but it has, in fact, had its day. And it’s not today.

    1. I’m not sure I agree (shocker!). Farces are still made today – in fact I think probably more romantic comedies are actually romantic farces than anything else these days.

      It’s certainly more successful as a comedy, than as a romantic comedy. But the love story isn’t “weird”, it’s non-existent. The only reason we know they’re in love is because they tell us they are (and not very convincingly). Neither of them actually DOES anything that suggests they have feelings for each other. Even at the end, when he says he loves her, she’s still talking over him: “You love me? You DO love me! I knew you loved me!” and he’s still umming and aahing and then she grabs him and it ends! Phooey.

  2. Well, if you were there at the time you probably still wouldn’t like it, because it was basically a box office bomb that got Howard Hawks fired. It’s now considered a classic, but it took awhile to be appreciated.

    That being said, this is my all time favorite movie and I’ve seen it so many times I can quote dialog along with the characters. When a funny bit is coming up, I start laughing before it happens because I’m anticipating it. To me, this movie is sheer genius. And this movie started my life long love of Cary Grant.

    1. I love Cary Grant too, Robin, but not in this. (Although there were plenty of times when he had his glasses off, that I sat there thinking “God, he is so HANDSOME!”) And the dialogue is great – I didn’t say that above, did I? I particularly love “Now it isn’t that I don’t like you, Susan, because after all, in moments of quiet I’m strangely drawn toward you, but well, there haven’t been any quiet moments.” (Even though it doesn’t actually make sense.)

      1. I agree about the dialog, and that’s one of my favorite lines! And every time one of my kids says something is theirs, I say “Your car? Your golf ball? Is there anything in the world that doesn’t belong to you?” They used to just look at me, now they walk away before I’m finished talking.

  3. Yeah. I had heard a lot of hype about this being a great old movie for many years, so when I finally watched it (a few years ago now) I was disappointed. I love Hepburn and Grant, but this is neither of them at their best. (Grant should always be smooth and suave. Always.) I don’t remember the film in huge amounts of detail, but I do remember wondering why she was being so awful, and why he was tolerating her, and why he was so incredibly bland. I just don’t get why it’s been so lauded for so many years. (Ditto The Philadelphia Story, which – ugh.)

    I still want to watch It Happened One Night at some point (my cash isn’t flowing enough right now for me to buy or rent all the Popcorn Dialogues films) so I didn’t read your review or listen to the podcast, but I do look forward to Jenny and Lucy’s perspective on this one (although if they don’t find it at least a little annoying, I’ll be at least little annoyed… ;))

  4. Maybe this movie should be filed under: ‘you’ll either love it or hate it.’ I first saw this movie about 25 years ago and I thought it was hilarious- typical screwball comedy of the ’30’s. When I think of it, I still LOL.

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