In Which It's Not the Movie of the Year

5 January 2005

I watched "Woman of the Year" last night. It was one of the movies I got for Christmas. And I love Katharine Hepburn, truly I do, but just once, just once I would like to see a movie in which she gets to be right, a movie in which she gets what's really important and Spencer Tracy (Cary Grant, whoever) has to have it drilled through his thick, stubborn head with a combination of patience and exasperation, where she teaches the rough-hewn lout a lesson instead of the other way around.

In "Desk Set" and "Adam's Rib" (two of my favorite movies, incidentally), enough other things come out right that I'm okay with it, and there's a little more character balance, a little more mutual respect and mutual change. "Woman of the Year" is not like that. "Woman of the Year" is all about how the career woman found balance in her life, except it's not, except there is no how. Except the problem is that she didn't want a balanced life at the beginning and she does at the end, and I don't know particularly many people for whom that's really the problem. I don't know particularly many women juggling family and career and personal health and sanity whose real problem with the whole business is that they just don't want it badly enough.

So the ending -- and really, I'm not spoiling anything for you, because you'll see this coming from the very opening -- doesn't work for me, because Sam (Spencer Tracy) is a know-it-all sadist, and because he says he wants her to be able to find a happy medium, but how exactly that's supposed to happen is not at all clear. "Do it better next time." Oh. Well, okay, then.

It's not without its redeeming features. I love the baseball bit at the beginning. But all the lessons are lopsided; everyone in the movie already knows what they need to know except Tess (Hepburn) and possibly her secretary, who is horribly guilty of doing the job he is paid to do and so gets his comeuppance for that heinous sin by getting roughed up by Spencer Tracy at the end. Blech.

I wonder if it felt unfair to the writers/producers/other people in charge to stack the deck by letting her be right and be Katharine Hepburn. I mean, that does seem like a lot of firepower on one side there. On the other hand, even stopped clocks etc.

Today I finished reading The First Strange Place: Race and Sex in World War II Hawaii, which raised more questions for me than it answered, and relevant, direct, historical questions within the scope of the book, too, not just the standard writer-of-stories questions. Interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying. Now I'm reading Chris Moriarty's Spin State in hopes of having finished it by the time I see Stella again.

Here are some more pictures of Mark's family's visit. These are at the Conservatory, so if you're a War for the Oaks fan, you don't have to be a Gritter fan to get something out of these pictures. The Conservatory is one of my best things in my city, even though it's technically in the other city that isn't as much mine. But this is like quibbling about whether someone is your relative because they're a first cousin once removed instead of a first cousin.

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