Thursday, March 4, 2010

review: Sweet Bird of Youth

Whew. Tennesse Williams does it again.
This is not 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,' but it certainly has something. I haven't read the play, but reading the synopsis, there are some very big changes - as all Williams movies do. Because of censorship, two very big plot points are missing - and that changes this dramatically. Now, my favorite 'Cat' is also very different between book and play, but I think they did a better job adapting that script than this. The super-imposed "happy ending" in Sweet Bird is just a little too unbelievable. Whereas, in Cat, it is certainly possible with an immediate "happy" that actually only solves a single problem for the moment and it is rather grave future outlook if you think about it.
Enough comparison between the two.
Sweet Bird is about a young hopeful (Newman) trying to make it in Hollywood. He has failed at this, and so, in a last attempt, he begins a bit of an unlikely affair with an aging starlet (Page). With hope on the rise, he goes back to his hometown to get the girl he left behind (Knight). The problem is her father (Begley) who is as corrupt a politician as they come, spouting about purity and holding up his daughter as a sort of virginal goddess. It's really a sickening story. But it is intriguing too.
Newman is, as always, wonderful. He is sex appeal. But he is also more than that. He is funny, manipulative, calculating, hurting, and understanding. Page is also pretty good (She was nominated for an Oscar for her role as well as Knight - although the only winner was Ed Begley), she plays the rollar-coaster aging starlet very well. Knight is as pure a character as an adaption of a Williams character can be. Those who know William's work know what I mean. Actually, no, the most sincerely pure is Laura from Menagerie, but even she is jaded in a way - but what I really mean, I guess is that Knight was cheated by the censorship, the rewriting, and the conventions she had to comply to. I would love to have seen a more jaded performance, but - that's Hollywood for you.
As much as I love Newman and Williams, the best I can give the film is
3 out of 5 stars

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