#306. High Society (1956)

High Society feels kinda gross to me.

            First of all, I think it’s just a bad movie, and while I might have previously that that it warranted a place on the List simply because it has all these great talents on screen, Grace Kelly and Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, I have a better understanding now of how shit like this was a gimmick. You’d have a crooner like Sinatra or Elvis (or Prince or Michael Jackson, down the line) and you’d build a silly ephemeral movie around them to attract their teenie bopper crowd. It still goes on. Remember the movie they made with the two finalists from the first generation of American Idol?

            But the crooners at this point are middle aged. Sinatra’s got an Academy Award for his World War Two drama, From Here to Eternity, and he was just recently nominated for Best Actor after playing a heroin addict in Man with the Golden Arm. Isn’t he above this? Gracy Kelly’s gorgeous and still in her twenties, so maybe she can draw that audience in…

            No, this must be for an older crowd. Contemporaries of Sinatra and Crosby and Armstrong who remember seeing Philadelphia story in theaters twenty years ago—nostalgia must be the lifeblood of something like this, a mediocre remake that seems to know that it’s mediocre and doesn’t care, doesn’t expect you to care. It feels like these crooners are winking and doing finger guns at the camera, raising their maritinis in a toast. “We’re here to have fun,” they seem to say, “let’s not take it so seriously.”

            This movie feels like a hangover.

            It highlights, I think, everything Quentin Tarnatino was referring to when he deemed the 1950s the worst decade for American movies. There’s nothing interesting going on with the camera, nothing particularly clever in the dialogue or story, there’s the weirdness of our heroine being half the age of every love interest.

            I feel an actual frustration about it. You could compare it maybe to Guys and Dolls with respect to its tone, and its celebration of crooners, but Guys and Dolls, even if I thought it was a little too drama-club and way too long, was pleasantly and memorably weird. The rhythm of the dialogue stays with you, maybe gets a little contagious. It’s genuinely funny in places. The story is twisty and complicated and clever.

            What bothers me about High Society is how much it loves itself—although, to be fair, it’s clearly meant to attract people who already love these stars, who love what these stars represent, and so the fact that it bathes in itself is probably forgivable, and only riling me up because I have to watch it. The movie takes for granted that it’spalying to an audience with whom it’s already got some credit, and so it doesn’t have to try so hard.

            But I can’t respect a work of art or entertainment where it’s celar that the folksa t the helm are taking the audience’s interest and loyalty for granted.

            I’ve got this hot-tempered contempt about it that’s reminding me of how Richard Brody depicts Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut as argumentative young idealogues, writing for Cahiers du Cinema, watching three or four movies a day and pontificating about a director’s responsibilities, etcetera.

            High Society is one of very few movies on the List that I actually hate. There’s no point in even elaborating on the love triangle because it’s an insulting shit-job imitation of what was done with such laborious intimate perfection in Philadelphia Story.

            This is so fucking lame.

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