Thursday, April 17, 2014

Politely Greener

How do the English deal with infidelity? Well, according to The Grass is Greener, they handle things with mild wit and polite decorum. Maybe that's why after first seeing this film a few years ago, I put it back on the shelf and haven't picked it up since. Maybe back then it just didn't meet my expectations. I mean, it has all the characteristics of a movie I typically would drool over: Cary Grant, Robert Mitchum, Music by Noel Coward, directed by the always brilliant Stanley Donen... there was no reason why this film shouldn't rank among my top ten just given the credentials. However I found it at the time to be completely forgettable.

I've recently been revisiting my Robert Mitchum movies (of which I have very few) and decided to give this one another shot. Ultimately, I'm glad I did. It still doesn't rank among my top 10, or probably top 20 for that matter, but I was able to find parts of this film that I really enjoyed.

The first surprise was finding how much I adored Jean Simmons' performance. She has never been one of my favorite actresses. I have never found her to be very engaging. She always did what she did well, it just was never quite my style. But in Greener, she was a breath of much needed fresh air. She balanced out what could have been a very dry love triangle and her presence honestly stole the show. She was quirky, honest and lovable. While the other three were busy tiptoeing around one another, Simmons was bursting at the seems with fun. Without her, the movie would have fallen cardboard flat.

I also liked seeing Mitchum and Grant together. That was the pairing I really wanted to see. The two of them represented two sides of the same coin using their suave and charming personas to keep you falling in love with both throughout the film. Grant pulls on his like-able, genteel, easy-going self playing the quintessential English husband while Mitchum personifies the perfect American playboy. I particularly like how Mitchum didn't cheapen what could have been a very unlikable character. Instead, he was almost sweet and came across sincere in his love for Deborah Kerr. Mitchum and Grant's scenes together I found to be very engaging and fun to watch.

As much as I adore Cary Grant, I would have liked to have seen Rex Harrison (who was originally cast but bowed out for personal reasons) in the role. I think his character needed to have a little more edge or some kind of dynamic to make him more interesting. He was almost too sympathetic. I found myself pitying him more that rooting for him. I think Harrison would have been able to capture that balance of likability and arrogance that the character needed.

Coming away from Greener, I found it still lacked whatever it needs to make it rise above the rest for me personally however I was able to find some redeeming qualities. Would I recommend it to a new classic movie watcher? No, probably not. I wouldn't want that to be their first introduction to classic film humor. It's better suited for those of us with prior actor investment. Here's to another shelving... but maybe I won't wait so long to re-watch it again in the future.

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