Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Love Affair (Leo McCarey, 1939) B (x2)

Leo McCarey's Love Affair has the makings of one of the Great American Romances, but ultimately ends up just short of its lofty intentions. The main culprit here is the general uneveness of the screenplay and McCarey's direction. The film starts off fantastically with a charming introduction between Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne that's every bit as witty as anything in McCarey's earlier The Awful Truth. It completely sucked me in and left me wondering if I had underrated this film the last time I saw it. Then the film lost me when Boyer takes Dunne to meet his grand-mere Janou (Maria Ouspenskaya). The whole sequence doesn't really fit in with anything and those final lines between the two women which go something like "I can't walk very far. I have to stop at the edge of my sanctuary." "Well, thanks for letting me trespass into your little world." was super cringe-worthy. Just when I was ready to write the film off completely, Boyer and Dunne suck me back in with their chemistry back on the boat. It's a glorious couple of minutes, but then they are forced to split up again and McCarey can't seem to maintain the same momentum when they are apart. The next 20 minutes were decent, if not exactly noteworthy, which lead to a fantastic finale. The dialogue is a little over-written, but Boyer and Dunne are careful not to overdo anything. They keep the emotions grounded in reality, making their reunion all the more affecting.

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