Sunday, 28 February 2016

All that Heaven Allows (1956)



Med kærlighedens ret
You know those movies that make you roll your eyes? I mean, cry out “Come on!!”, shake your head and roll your eyes. “All That Heaven Allows” is such a movie, at least for me.

I have previously remarked that Douglas Sirk’s movies reminded me of cheap novels from women’s weekly magazines and that is nowhere more true than here with “All That Heaven Allows”. The format, the story, the issues all have that kitschy feel that is just too much. I suspect there is something else somewhere, maybe a critique of mid-fifties values and ideals, but it is very bland.

So let us just say from the outset that I am not impressed, that this is not really a movie for me and that this review may be offensive to fans of the movie.

“All That Heaven Allows” is the story of a woman, Cary (Jane Wyman), who lives alone in her suburban house since her husband died and her grown children moved out. Her husband had money and status and so she is still moving in those circles at the country club. Then Cary meets Ron (Rock Hudson) who shows her an entirely different kind of existence. Ron is a gardener, but more than that he is a free spirit who does what he likes to do and cares little what other people think of him. Cary and Ron falls in love and prepares to get married.

So far all is well and fine. However everybody and their mother seem to have a problem with that marriage. At the country club the all seem to take offense of Cary marrying Ron. They had much preferred that she marry one of their own and cannot relate to a gardener. Maybe it is envy, maybe just juicy gossip or maybe they feel some rules have been broken. They certainly take some glee in spiting Ron and Cary. Worse however is the reaction of Cary’s children. Ned (William Reynolds) is a businessman and is mortified by letting the gardener in as well as the prospect of selling the house and Kay (Gloria Talbott), who is supposed to know everything about people from her psychology classes is so upset about what people will think of her if her mother marries a gardener.

This story in fact resembles that of “Marty”, except that Marty’s friends and family’s objections, though silly, made immensely more sense than those of Cary’s friends and family. Instead of discarding idiot friends like these and telling her children to mind their own business Cary caves in and calls off the wedding. Maybe you can imagine me rolling my eyes at this point. Had there been a single good argument: a dependent child, somebody living at home, a worried professional partner, a real physical risk to this marriage then we may have had a story, but these are all a bunch of busy-bodies who hate to see somebody else doing something unconventional. So fucking what.

True enough, hardly has Cary called off the wedding before it becomes clear that there are no real arguments against the marriage, but now, uh oh, they are estranged from each other because Ron called bullshit and of course telling each other that they do want to marry involves mistakes, accidents and a deer looking into the window of the old mill in the new snow…

Oh my…

Well, there are things I do like here. This is a contemporary movie and that means that everything we see is 1956 and in color too. Cars, phone, houses, cloths and so on, making this a veritable time capsule. I am always a sucker for that stuff. It is also a time capsule in the way it presents the suburban ideal of the mid-fifties, the glorified housewife and all the do’s and don’t’s. I often get the idea that especially in America this period and lifestyle is the ideal for many people. We certainly see it depicted often enough in movies and tv-series. If there is anything subversive in this movie then it is how it refuses this ideal and suggests that life can be lived in other ways. The problem is that that story has been told a million times already, also before 56, so what is the subversive in that?

I did not care much for this film. Somehow I had expected some real crisis to occur, but it is actually quite harmless. At least in “Written on the Wind” there was some real drama, but here it is just blah. Well, on to the next movie, looking forward to that.

 

8 comments:

  1. Yes, I largely agree with you. I felt at one point that it was going to be subversive, by having Cary choose to do her own thing, but then that ending happened, and she is denied the opportunity to have an equal, adult relationship. She instead gets to be his nurse.

    It does look beautiful, and the use of the television screen was masterful, but the story makes me reluctant to ever watch this again.

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    1. Very good point about Cary getting to be a nurse rather than an equal partner. If you add the deer and the old mill you are back in 1956 fairy tale land. So much for subversiveness.

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  2. Sorry it didn't work for you. Onward and upward!

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    1. I am already excited about the next movie.

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  3. I tend to agree on Sirk movies, but this one did work well enough for me to like it. This WAS an actually issue for her kind of people in that time and place. Although the U.S. didn't have the kind of caste system of India, or even the rigid class structure of the U.K. there was still a lot of "us" and "them" thinking back then when it came to the privileged and the working class.

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    1. Maybe it was not so much the issue as the format that troubled me. It is so... glossy. It is telenovella style. That is such a turn off for me.

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  4. I appreciate the autumnal atmosphere the film delivers, which looks beautiful. I like the film because it challenges the suburban ideal of the era, but I get you didn't think it was subversive enough.

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    1. Well, to me the idea of a grown woman seeking an escape from middle class suburbia is both very old and very trivial. Maybe if I watched this in 56 I would think thsi was earth shaking, but I am not and therefore this is nothing else than the trillion other movies on the same vein that I quickly skip past on the television on an average Tuesday evening.

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