Movie Monday: Pillow Talk*

Now this Popcorn Dialogues, er, thing is really useful to me, as a writer of romantic comedy (at least I hope I’m a writer of romantic comedy…), but sometimes it’s almost too painful.

Last week’s film was Pillow Talk, which I would have thought was one of my favourites – I was brought up on Doris Day films and was so in love with Rock Hudson as a teen – but it turns out it’s… not good. In fact, it’s very bad.

Okay. Not all of it. It started well. Doris Day is wonderful (and reminded me a LOT of Jennifer Anison. A lot!), Rock Hudson was gorgeous and sexy. The sets and the clothes were just fabulous. And Tony Randall’s in it! I love Tony Randall! But…

In case you’ve never seen it, I’ll just summarise the plot – with spoilers, so if you don’t want to know how it ends, look away now! Jan and Brad share a party line. Brad uses it for chatting up many, many women, which means Jan can’t use it for her business (she’s an interior designer) and arrogant Brad gets right on her wick. Tony Randall is Brad’s best friend and in love with Jan. He tells Brad about Jan and then Brad happens to bump into her and decides he’s going to mess with her. He pretends to be a Texan tourist named – yes – Rex Stetson – and proceeds to woo her.

So this is a fairly standard romance plotline, yes? It’s got a touch of You’ve Got Mail and a dash of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. But the romance itself is just dreadful. For a start, Brad is an asshole. He has switches in his apartment for when he’s “romancing” a woman: one dims the lights, one puts on music, one turns the sofa into a bed and one locks the door. He locks the women in! Ew! His alter-egoย Rex Stetson, however, is a doofus. He calls Jan “ma’am” and is sweet and funny, but not in the least bit sexy, so I wasn’t egging Jan on to fall for him, particularly since I knew he was, you know, not real. Of course, Jan does fall for him and then, when she finds out that Rex is really Brad, is understandably humiliated. If at that point, you’d got the impression that Brad had been in love with her and that he’d changed his caddish ways then maybe I could have got on board with the romance, but no.

For the majority of the film, Jan is great. She’s such a cool character. She’s independent, she doesn’t take any crap and she’s happy to live alone. To be alone. But then at the end, Brad decides he wants her. I’m not sure we see why. Presumably because he knows he can’t have her and he’s a big brat. Anyway, he goes to her apartment, drags her (literally) out of bed and then carries her – kicking and screaming (again, literally) to his apartment. She’s outraged. And then he mentions marriage and she goes all misty (again, literally – the director had a soft-focus filter on the camera for quite a few of the Doris Day close-ups) and forgives him. Gag.

I know it was the 50s. I know things were different, but still. I was so angry! And I haven’t even mentioned that, on the way to a weekend away together, Jan sings a song (in her head – there are some really feeble ‘hearing characters thoughts’ moments too) the main refrain of which is “Possess me.” It genuinely made me feel ill. Possess me, indeed. You can watch it here, but don’t blame me if you puke.

So the romance aspect is a total bust. What about the comedy? Yes, there are definitely funny moments. I loved Thelma Ritter as Jan’s maid, although much of her comedy came from the fact that she was basically an alcoholic, so that’s not without its problems. Tony Randall is very funny too, but then he slaps Jan and becomes a little too giddy over the fact that her romance has gone sour and I went right off him.

But there was one defining moment for me in this film. I’ve been arguing so far that the movies, however old-fashioned, have been more respectful of women than modern films. In Pillow Talk, Rex is on a date with Jan when he sees Tony Randall come in (I could look up the character’s name, but I can only ever think of him as Tony Randall, so I’m not going to bother). Rex needs to put Randall off and so he tells him he’s there with a woman, but he needs to leave and can Randall take the woman off his hands. He then points out a fat woman sitting in the corner, she smiles and waves and, shuddering with horror, Randall scarpers. How utterly delightful. How exactly the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from modern films. Cheers, Pillow Talk.

Oh, and there’s a grim bit when Brad tries to convince Jan that Rex is gay. He’s, you know, good with colours and drinks with his little finger crooked, that kind of thing. Poor Rock Hudson.

Next week: The Apartment. Please let this one be good. *cries*

* Yes, I know it’s Tuesday. I wasn’t going to bother writing this since Pillow Talk annoyed me so much, but my bossy lovely friend Diane Shipley convinced me.

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17 thoughts on “Movie Monday: Pillow Talk*

  1. Pardon me, I think my age is showing. ๐Ÿ™‚ This movie is one of my all-time favorites. I know it’s sappy, and Jan’s not a very modern woman, and Brad’s a jerk, but for some reason it just works for me. I think it’s when Brad finally realizes that he’s in love with Jan and the playboy personna kinda slips. Maybe it’s just because I like to dream of being as cool as Doris Day and having her wardrobe (and her body). Whatever the reason – sorry you didn’t enjoy it, but I’ll continue to watch and get starry-eyed.

    1. Haha! No, Tami, that’s fine! I think Jan is a modern woman, though, which is why I was so disappointed when she caved at the end after he’d carried her through the streets like a baggage! There is lots of good stuff in it though. And Rock was so beautiful…

  2. God, wasn’t he, though? I just watched the ‘possess me’ clip and I melted – I’m with Tami – it is entirely forgiveable because of the era – Oh God, I’m going to have to watch this now… Tony Randall was one of my secret crushes – him and Jack Lemmon. Lucky you, getting to watch The Apartment next!

    1. I don’t agree that it’s entirely forgivable even if you take the era into account, Debs. Brad was still an asshole and Jan still has a total personality change right at the last minute! If they’d convinced me that Jan had wanted to get married all along or that Brad was in love with her and didn’t just want her because he couldn’t have her, then it would have worked as a romance, even with the hideous sexism.

      Like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – they kidnap those poor women, for god’s sake, but then I believe they want to stay once “THE PASS IS OPEN! THE PASS IS OPEN!” and I’m happy for them to stay because the men have learned the error of their ways AND fallen in love with the women! God, I love that film.

  3. . . . but I just really don’t care because I love Doris to death!!! And she can do no wrong for me. I think The Apartment’s a bit dark for a rom-com, really. OK, OK – just sayin’ again! (Just one opinion and all that…)

    1. Erm. How does “she can do no wrong for me” fit with the warning, which was “Doris is my idol but much as I love her (I really love her!) โ€“ I have to say that That Touch of Mink (yes, Diane, is with the automat) is much worse than Pillow Talk in terms of being silly and sexist. (And PT is bad enough!) Makes me cringe to even think about itโ€ฆ” Sounds like doing wrong to me! Is it any wonder I don’t listen to your warnings when you contradict yourself week on week? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. I feel drunk with power now. What else can I get you to do…? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I am still curious to watch this, but it sounds terrible. I’d like to watch something with Doris as a modern woman type but maybe this isn’t the film… It does sound dated even for the time. The 50s and 60s were this weird time of old and newer emerging mores, and I think filmmakers were confused! This sounds like one of the films that’s trying to reinforce the status quo. (Like, a lot.)

    I remember really liking The Apartment, it’s quite dark though. May not even be rom-com really… I also wasn’t as feminist last time I saw it, so not sure what it’s like from that perspective. We will see next weekend! If it’s on iTunes!

    1. Well rom-coms can still be dark, I think. As long as they’re both rom and com, which they have tended not to be so far. In fact the only one that’s worked for me has been His Girl Friday and that’s been the darkest so far, so we’ll see.

      1. I guess they can (Harold and Maude popped into my head, though I really don’t fancy watching it), though am not sure they can for me to enjoy them… What I really mean though is I can’t remember if it’s romantic OR comedic. I just know I like Jack Lemmon and Shirley McClaine, and I remember one silly funny moment. Looking forward to seeing it again.

  5. Huh. I don’t remember Harold and Maude being all that funny, but maybe I should watch it again. No, you’re probably right about The Apartment since the majority of films chosen so far have fallen down on either the romance or the comedy (or both!). I don’t know what those commenters were thinking of, tbh!

  6. I don’t remember. Those were some drawn-out negotiations! But no Woody Allen, no Julia Roberts… too much John Cusack (and I’ve got nothing against Cusack). I’m still not over it. Yes, Mernit has some good stuff to say, although his 2 top tens are all wrong. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Well, I have to contradict you and say that I do NOT contradict myself week on week!! Pillow Talk is bad, is what I was trying to say. And I DID say that The Apartment was ‘a bit dark’ and not a romcom as well, and it’s not a romcom and you said so on Twitter today! (I’ve totally lost track now of who’s contradicting who, when, where and how…)

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