Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) - ★½

Director: Vincente Minelli
Writers: Sally Benson (Novel), Irving Brecher, Fred F. Finlehoffe (Screenplay)
Stars: Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor, Harry Davenport, Lucille Bremer, Leon Ames

Now this was a tough movie to sit through. There's nothing particularly interesting about this movie, save for the song it's famous for "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The acting's OK, but nothing special. As for the story, there's not much substance there. There's bucket loads of cheese throughout  this movie, which for some made it entertaining, but for me it was almost unwatchable. (This is coming from a person who loves cheesy movies).

The story surrounds a family living in St. Louis, headed by a pigheaded father whose word is the only one that matters. It's set in 1904, so the gender inequalities are justified, as frustrating as they are. Anyway, it's mostly about Esther Smith (Judy Garland), who wants to have a husband more than anything. We see her problems, love interests and events within the family. There isn't really a story, just the happenings of a family living in a time where girls mainly cared about getting married.

I kept thinking to myself "What the hell am I watching?" The whole way through the movie we mostly hear talk of boys, love and marriage. Occasionally we get some interesting events and dialogue, mainly from Esther's youngest sister, Tootie (Margaret O'Brien). For a while she was actually quite cute and funny. The scene where she's dancing with Esther at the party actually had us saying "Aww." Then she just got really annoying. When she lied about a man beating her up, the mother said the most ridiculous thing. It was something along the lines of: "She's such a good girl, being so strong with a sore lip." She accused an innocent man of a horrendous crime, but got praise instead of scorn. Need I say more?

They tried to make the father suddenly likable at the end. It was as if director Vincente Minelli was saying "He's a bastard, but a misunderstood bastard." No, he's just a very flawed man that did something nice for once. Not to mention, his revelation of niceness seemed so phoney. In fact, everything in this movie came across phoney. The love, the relationships, the jokes, the lessons, even the songs. None of it had a particular impact on me. All it did was make me sigh in annoyance and laugh at how ridiculous it is.

Meet Me in St. Louis had a deplorable ending. I won't spoil who this scene involved, but I must mention it. While the whole family is having a meeting, a boy barges in and demands in a loud tone of voice that one of the girls marry him. We've hardly seen this boy before, it was completely out of the blue. The girl agrees to marry him and he leaves in a huff. Then of course the little girl says "She'd better open her Christmas presents early." We're all supposed to laugh because the girl said something so cute and clever... ha, ha, ha. Meanwhile, I was watching in disbelief at how thoroughly rushed and unconvincing that scene was.

Were we expected to be happy for this girl because she's getting married to someone she hardly knows at such a young age? No, I just pity her.  I could take this on surface value and just say "they all lived happily ever after." I just don't see how marriage necessarily secures a happy ending for a movie. Even though getting married was the social norm in those days, I get a feeling that this movie truly believed what it preached; that being with a man means ultimate happiness for a woman.

I can tell that this is a movie that depressed people would enjoy. It's cute as a button, cheery and is hardly reaslistic. Lovers of musicals would probably like it also, mainly because of some pretty recognizable songs. I on the other hand hated this movie. It just didn't have any substance to it. The charm of the characters and the songs wore off, leaving a frustrating story to unfurl. I kept having to tell myself to finish watching it. The weird thing is, I usually love cheesy movies. In the end, Meet Me in St. Louis is a movie I hope to never watch again.

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