Saturday, May 19, 2007

Woman of the Year

Woman of the Year; Comedy, USA, 1942; D: George Stevens, S: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Fay Bainter, Reginald Owen

Sam Craig is a sports reporter writing for a local newspaper and is annoyed by feminist comments of the popular Tess Harding. To his surprise, she gets a new job as a columnist in his newspaper. At first, he is a little bit resentful having to work with her in the same building, but they eventually fall in love and get married. But their marriage soon starts getting shaky: Tess is always preoccupied with her work, holding speeches at different ceremonies and even being pronounced "Woman of the Year", much to Sam's discomfort. When Tess adopts a small boy, a Greek refugee, but doesn't have the time to take care for him, Sam looses his patience. He returns the boy to the orphanage and decides to separate from his wife. Eventually, they make up and she decides to become a better wife.

"Woman of the Year", the first Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn film, is a nice, gentle, at times burlesque essay about the problems of marriage that won the Oscar for best screenplay. The movie starts as a very dynamic comedy showing the old paradox about a couple that at first can't stand each other only to fall in love later on - in one of the most amusing sequences, Sam takes Tess to a basketball game but since she never went there he eventually has to explain every single rule of the game to her, much to the dismay of the people sitting in front of him - but in the second part it looses it's orientation and transforms into a rather mild, tame, overstretched story that will probably have a few problematic moments with the feminist part of the audience sine it places all the blame for the failed marriage on the wife, Tess (who was by the way too busy being a feminist activist to do her "wife's duties"). Still, in one of the best situations in the whole film, played somewhere near the end, Tess decides to become a real wife in order to save her marriage and sneaks in at her husband's home early in the morning to surprise him with a good breakfast - but since she never cooked in her life, she does everything wrong: when she was about to make him pancakes she accidentally slammed the door of the refrigerator that flipped the page of the cooking book, but she didn't noticed that and went on to put yeast in the bowl, eventually getting a giant mass of pastry. The small subplot about an adopted boy, a Greek refugee, seems slightly out of place but at the same time it also gives amusing parallels to modern celebrities, especially when Tess doesn't have time to take care for him like a real mother, while George Stevens' direction has a nice visual style. "Woman of the Year" is a charming comedy, only missing a real punchline.