When Crystal, from In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, invited me to join her Third Annual Lauren Bacall Blogathon, I was aware of who Lauren is as an actress. In fact, I reviewed The Big Sleep for a blog follower dedication review back in August. For this blogathon, I wanted to pick one of Lauren’s films from outside the Classic/Golden Era of Hollywood. After looking through her filmography, I decided to review From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler! Before watching this movie, I knew that it was based on a book. However, I have never read the book or seen the film adaptation from 1973. I also heard that there was a mystery within this story. Because I like movies such as those from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, I felt that this would be a film I might enjoy.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Films that feature young actors as the leads can be hit or miss. Because of their limited talents, it’s difficult for the audience to know what to expect from that actor or actress. In From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the lead actors did a good job with the acting material they were given! Jean Marie Barnwell, who portrayed Claudia, and Jesse Lee Soffer, who portrayed Jamie, were both expressive and believable in their roles. They brought their characters to life with versatility, helping them present reactions that appeared realistic for children in that kind of situation. The supporting cast was also memorable in this film! Miriam Flynn, who portrayed Claudia and Jamie’s mom, mastered her role! She did this by bringing animation and emotion to her character. Miriam helped make her role distinct from the others in this film. She also had good on-screen chemistry with her fellow co-stars!
The cinematography: This film had better cinematography than I expected! The creative team behind the movie made some interesting choices when it came to how certain scenes were presented. One example is when Claudia and Jamie are hiding on the school bus. There was one scene where the camera was looking upward from the floor, focusing on the view from the window. This helped the audience picture the moment from the kids’ perspective. In the museum, there were close-ups of various artifacts. At opening or closing time, these close-ups emphasized the lights shining on these objects. Shots like these made the film visually appealing!
The locations of the museum and Mrs. Frankweiler’s house: Whenever I’ve talked about Murder, She Wrote, I almost always talk about how great the locations are. That series shares a similarity with this film. The museum and Mrs. Frankweiler’s house were the two best locations in the movie! Filmed in Los Angeles, both locations were captured very well on screen. They represent the impression that the creative team was going for: larger than life and exquisite. Not only were the exteriors impressive, but so were the interiors. From the domed ceiling of the museum to the grand staircase of Mrs. Frankweiler’s house, these facilities were some of the best parts of this project!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Lauren Bacall’s brief appearance: In my review of One Christmas, I shared that Katharine Hepburn’s limited presence was something that I didn’t like about the film. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler had the same problem. Like One Christmas, Lauren was the top-billed actor for this movie. This had given me the impression that she would appear in the majority of the project. But, similar to Katharine, Lauren only showed up in five scenes. Like I said in my One Christmas review, giving an actress like Lauren Bacall few opportunities to showcase her acting abilities does her a disservice. It also makes the movie’s creative team look like they’re making a promise they know they can’t keep. This decision came across as frustrating and misleading.
Over-shadowing the mystery: This story features a mystery about the authenticity of an angelic statue. While this was an interesting part of the overall narrative, it wasn’t given as much attention as I expected. Most of the story focused on Claudia and Jamie running away from home. The mystery itself wasn’t presented until forty minutes into the movie. Even then, the mystery was only discussed in a few scenes. It took a lot of intrigue out of the film, causing the story not to be as engaging or interactive.
Too much suspension of disbelief: I’ve said before on my blog that movies with fictional stories require their audience to suspend a certain amount of disbelief. But for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler asked me to suspend my belief more than I had planned to. One example is how the police don’t play a big role in trying to find Claudia and Jamie. I found that to be very unbelievable, considering the fact that these children have been missing for three days. The idea of people living in a museum is also not realistic, especially since most facilities have things like motion sensors and security cameras. Things like this partially took me out of the film.
My overall impression:
While I’m glad that I gave this film a chance, I can honestly say that it was just ok. Sure, there were things about the movie that I liked. But there were also aspects that could have made it stronger. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler made the same mistake that One Christmas did: incorporating a legendary actress but not utilizing her talents to the fullest extent. After I watched Lauren’s film, I realized that her movie and Katharine’s movie were both released in the mid – ‘90s. I’m now starting to wonder if this was a trend from that decade? Until that question is answered, I just wanted to thank Crystal for inviting me to join her blogathon! I’ve participated in several of her movie related events and she is an excellent host! I can’t wait for the next blogathon!
Overall score: 6 out of 10
Have you seen any of Lauren Bacall’s films? If so, which one is your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!