Tuesday, November 30, 2004

FILM: Woman of The Year (1942)

Woman of The Year is my new favorite movie. It's been a while since I enjoyed watching a movie so much. This is an old Kate Hepburn - Spencer Tracy flick. Actually, it was their first together, and boy, do they define the word "chemistry." It's a comedy drama directed by the great George Stevens. This film is a social commentary on gender and power relations.

Hepburn plays Tess and Tracy plays Sam. Tess and Sam work for the same newspaper. She's a political columnist and he's a sportswriter. She is a very successful, sharp, independent career woman, and he's a regular shmo. They fall in love and get married. However, it becomes very apparent that Tess wears the pants in the relationship. He's the one who moves in to her apartment. She makes big decisions without consulting him first. She's too consumed by her career and success and neglects her marriage. It's funny to see how the roles are reversed. And of course, after much emasculating Sam has enough and leaves Tess. Tess is eventually "enlightened" and understands that in order to salvage her broken marriage she has to sacrifice her career and be a "good, little domestic housewife." The scene where she fumbles through her first attempt to cook breakfast for Sam is classic. It is truly a hilarious performance.

I'm very impressed by how ahead of its time this film was. It was released in 1942, way before the feminist movement began. Tess has a male secretary which is incredible considering the time period. She often wears pants (which Hepburn was commonly criticized for), and in one scene she sits in a very butch, unlady-like manner. It's interesting to see Tess embody the stereotypical role of "husband" who is too preoccupied with his own job to really take interest in her spouse's not-so exciting life. Sam, of course, like a "wife" feels that his spouse doesn't care about him and feels neglected by the successful, sophisticated Tess.

The reason why I liked this film so much is because it is so thought-provoking. I like movies that make you think. The movie ends open-ended. Even though Tess tries to be the domestic wife that she thinks would make Sam happy, Sam probably knows that realistically she is incapable of fulfilling that role and doesn't expect her to. And if she did, she would not be very happy being someone she is not.

Woman of the Year is not one of George Stevens' best works but it's definitely worth to watch. Even though the script is flawed and stilted, Hepburn and Tracy manage to redeem it by their suberp performances. Just to watch the sparks fly between them is reason enough to see this movie. You could tell that they were absolutely smitten with each other in real life.

::4 stars::