Had I lived in
1958, I think
I would have loved it
Guys, I’ve started Week 2! Incredible. It feels like a literal month ago that David’s RomCom Challenge 2015 got underway. I firmly believe that time flies when you’re having fun and since time has seemingly come to a grinding halt, does that mean I’m not having fun?
I wouldn’t say that. It does mean that this challenge is just that, though – a challenge, and the only way it will be seen to the end is if yours truly remains steadfast and obdurate through thick and thin. I can do this! Please send blessings and prayers, and continue reading. If you’re reading, it gives me more reasons to write.
Com-rom, the comedic romedy
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of cliche, I will fear no evil…for Some Like It Hot is the light at the end of the meet-cute romance tunnel that is slowly but surely driving me mad as I delve deeper into this enterprise.
I didn’t outright love Some Like It Hot, and I’ll get to the reasons why shortly, but I appreciated the hell out of it. Thus far, my afternoons have been consumed by cheesy romance, introspective monologues, and Dermot Mulroney’s impersonation of a cardboard box. Everything is starting to feel a bit stale. But in the first five minutes of Some Like It Hot, there is a car chase and a shootout in the wild streets of Chicago, followed by a police bust at a flapper dance club, followed by the methodical execution of a group of gang members via Tommy gun. Fuck yeah, the 1950s! Why can’t all romantic comedies be like this?
The two main protagonists, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) need to escape the mob after witnessing the murder, and decide to masquerade as females in an all-girls band headed for Florida. It’s basically the plot of White Chicks, except for the fact that 1950s America apparently had zero black people anywhere on the eastern seaboard. I digress. The plot is familiar (though it may have been groundbreaking in 1958, I’m not sure) so I wasn’t exactly rolling on the floor with laughter, but Curtis and Lemmon give charismatic performances that made the proceedings entertaining enough.
At this point, I realized I was finally emerging from the trope-ical forest (ahhhhh that’s funny, you like that) and into a different brand of rom-com. I’m deeming it the com-rom, the comedic romedy, a movie that explores romance and makes it funny, but doesn’t make it central to the overall flow of the story. Nearly 30 minutes in, Marilyn Monroe hadn’t even shown up. I was fully enjoying this.
An evening with Marilyn
When Marilyn did show up, I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t know anything about her, other than the fact that she was a sex symbol and dated Joe DiMaggio. My limited knowledge led me to believe her performance would be subpar. I was wrong. She was quite good and seemed more than adept in front of the camera.
For the most part, the movie did a good job of flaunting her sexuality without seeming particularly sexist or intrusive. It was as good-taste as it could have been, and they even threw in some humor for good measure, particularly in a scene where Marilyn’s character Sugar Kane is forced to jump in Jerry’s bunk (at this point, everyone assumes Jerry is female) to avoid being noticed by the band leader. I can only imagine how jealous 1950s male movie goers were when they saw Jack Lemmon lying in bed with Marilyn Monroe. The luckiest man alive, at the time.
An online activist’s wet dream
As is the case with pretty much any form of cinema prior to literally yesterday, there were notable themes and lines that would spark controversy in 2015 and likely tarnish the film’s reputation before it even hit theaters. Let me just rattle off a few things that I’m quite sure would not fly in this day in age, for better or for worse:
- The overarching idea that a woman should seek to be the prize of a rich husband (this would get people REALLY fired up, I guarantee it)
- All the 1950s gender stereotypes that come with a movie where the two main characters dress as women
- The following line: “Why would a guy want to marry a guy…you’re not well.”
- The non-existence of non-white characters
Now, these issues would never be acceptable in 2015, but I was frankly very impressed with how well the movie handled them overall. Sure there was sexism and stereotypes and all that jazz, but I actually think this movie might have been ahead of its time. Often, it sings the praises of women and, despite Sugar Kane’s insistence on marrying rich, makes her character seem more empowered than one might think. In fact, there’s an eye-opening line where Joe expresses how hard it is to be a woman and Jerry responds by saying, “Now you know how the other half lives.” I kind of liked that.
Point is, this movie was good and handled things well, but if it opened today the world would probably explode.
1950s humor is amateur hour: There were some funny parts, but the comedy in Some Like It Hot was dull and uninspired. I don’t know much about 1950s cinema – perhaps this was the highest form of humor at the time and people loved it. I didn’t. It was forced and a little too cutesy. There was maybe one clever joke in the entire script. Most of the humor was Three Stooges-like.
Brooklyn Dodgers go bye-bye: Good lines were hard to come by in this film, so I’m going to settle for a funny “mistake” made by the producers.
“Jerry, boy, why do you have to paint everything so black? Suppose you got hit by a truck. Suppose the stock market crashes. Suppose Mary Pickford divorces Douglas Fairbanks. Suppose the Dodgers leave Brooklyn!”
For those of you who aren’t schooled in baseball history, the current Los Angeles Dodgers team was originally the Brooklyn Dodgers, one of the most popular and accomplished teams in baseball. For a multitude of reasons, the Dodgers ended up leaving New York in a spectacularly bad public relations move. Anyway, this line is hilarious purely because at the time it was scripted, the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. By the time the movie came out, the team was on the other side of the country. Irony.
Sappiness rating: 0/10. While the amateur humor took away from the overall rating I gave this movie, this spectacular 0/10 sappiness rating is part of the reason the overall rating went up. There was NO sappiness in this movie, and it was great.
When there is heartbreak and love and emotion, it’s all drama and never gives off the impression of being overly sentimental. This was such a breath of fresh air, I cannot understate it. No sappy music, no romance cliches, just a bunch of fun with some romance thrown in. A+, 1950s.
Not a perfect movie, and definitely one that is a bit dated. I typically love old movies. 12 Angry Men holds up beautifully and North By Northwest is without a doubt one of my ten favorite movies of all time. But this one just seemed a little old, especially when it came to the humor.
But, all that aside, it was a welcome subversion of the genre that, for one day at least, broke up the monotony of meet-cute romances that have overtaken my life.
UP NEXT: I take a stab at How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. Back to the grind, I guess. Alright, alright, alright.