Take 3: Marnie Review (A Month Without the Code — #1)

For the 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, I wanted to review a movie that was released after 1954 or before 1934. This is because I’m also participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code Blogathon. While searching through Alfred’s filmography, I came across the 1964 film Marnie. The idea of the female protagonist being the center of the film’s mystery was something I hadn’t seen in the other Alfred Hitchcock projects I saw. As of August 2020, I have seen five of his movies, including Marnie. Two years ago, I said The Birds was the worst film I saw in 2018. However, Strangers on a Train appeared in my Honorable Mentions for my 2018 best movies list. Will Marnie appear on my best or worst of 2020 list? That mystery will get solved by reading this review!

Marnie poster created by Universal Pictures and Geoffrey Stanley Productions. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marnie1.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Tippi Hendren worked with Alfred Hitchcock when she starred in The Birds. In Marnie, she knew what to expect with the direction of her performance because of this pre-existing partnership. Tippi was given more acting material to work with in this film compared to the previous one from 1963. Her portrayal of the titular character was well-rounded, allowing her to express a variety of emotions. Marnie and Mark’s honeymoon serves as a good example of this. During a nice evening dinner, Tippi displays feelings of content. But when her character is having a heated argument, she provides a fierceness and strength to Marnie that projects off the screen. Before watching this movie, I had seen some of Sean Connery’s films. Even when the film surrounding him doesn’t hold up, he still gives his performance everything he has, talent wise. When I watched Marnie, Sean’s portrayal of Mark reminded me of Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind. What I mean by this is Sean had a commanding presence that captured the attention of the audience. He also carried himself with confidence throughout the film. Despite appearing in the movie for about two scenes, I thought Louise Latham’s performance was strong! Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll say her portrayal of Marnie’s mother, Bernice, was powerful in the movie’s climax. It was captivating to watch and had a good amount of emotionality.

The cinematography: One of the staples of an Alfred Hitchcock film is the interesting uses of cinematography that can be seen. Marnie features camera work that was creative and appealing to the eye. My favorite example is when Marnie is stealing the money from the office. While she’s doing this, a custodian is mopping the floor in the same vicinity. The shot shows the custodian on the left side of the screen and Marnie on the right side. As this part of the story played out, it built suspense and left me on the edge on my seat. Another good use of cinematography happened at the beginning of the film. When Marnie is first introduced, her face is not shown on screen. This creates a sense of mystery that surrounds her presence. It’s not until she changes her hair color from black to blonde that we finally see Marnie’s face.

The use of the color red: Throughout the movie, the color red appears in various forms. When a red object crosses paths with Marnie, she reacts with panic and fear. One example is when Marnie and Mark go to a horse race. As soon as she notices the red dots on a jockey’s shirt, she immediately wants to leave. This aspect served as a consistent component of this character. It also allows the audience to engage in the mystery surrounding this visual choice.

The 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon banner created by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Image found at https://maddylovesherclassicfilms.wordpress.com/2020/06/18/announcing-the-4th-alfred-hitchcock-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The scene transitions: When a cinematic story moves from one scene to another, that transition can make or break the movie’s overall flow. In Marnie, some scenes ended abruptly, causing the transitions to feel clunky. A good example is when Marnie is leaving the office after she steals some money. As soon as she walks down the stairs, an employee shows up and greets a custodian. All of a sudden, the next scene begins. Had these transitions been smoother, the film wouldn’t feel like it was in stop-and-go traffic.

Light on thrills: Before watching this movie, I knew it was classified as a thriller. Because Marnie was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, I was expecting a mysterious and suspenseful tale that fits the brand he created. While it did have moments of suspense, the film as a whole was not thrilling. The majority of the story focused on the drama within the narrative. In fact, Marnie felt like it belonged in the drama genre. If Alfred wanted to try something new and go out of his comfort zone, that’s understandable. Unfortunately, this movie seemed out of character for him.

The run-time: Alfred Hitchcock once said “the length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder”. However, it seems like Alfred forgot his quote when he directed this movie. Marnie is two hours and ten minutes. Because of this creative decision, some scenes were drawn out longer than necessary in order to satisfy the run-time. One example is a conversation between Mark and Lil after Marnie goes horse-riding. Personally, I thought this scene went on for too long. Had scenes like that one been trimmed down, it might have put the film’s run-time under two hours.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

Alfred Hitchcock is a director who has created a distinct brand for himself. Known as the “Master of Suspense”, Alfred’s work consists of mystery and thrills. This decision is the reason why Marnie sticks out like a sore thumb. I want to make it clear that this is not Alfred’s worst film. The mystery itself was intriguing and the creative choices involving visuals were interesting. But the drama in this story overshadows the thrills, making the overall project feel like it should have been classified as a drama. As I said in my review, this felt out of character for Alfred. It would be like if an author like Debbie Macomber, an author known for writing heart-warming stories, published a gruesome murder mystery novel out of the blue. This would feel out of the character for the brand she created. Because this is my first review for A Month Without the Code, it’s time for me to point out how Marnie could be “breened”! I believe this story could be made into a Breen Code era film. However, these are the things that need to be changed in order for this to happen:

  • Throughout the film, there is language used that does not belong in a Breen Code era film. This ranges from swearing to using God’s name in vain. These words would either be removed or switched to more appropriate choices.
  • There is one scene that heavily implies Mark and Marnie had sex. Even though this happens after they get married, the scene itself would need to be rewritten or omitted.
  • One scene shows Marnie attempting suicide. Because this is a sensitive subject, this scene would to be removed or rewritten.
  • The robe Lil wears has a low-cut neckline. Changes to the style of the robe would need to take place before filming begins.
  • A large amount of blood is featured in one scene. The use of blood would need to be reduced.
  • A horse gets injured and killed in two inter-connected scenes. This would have to get omitted or the scene would have to be rewritten.

Overall score: 6.4 out of 10

What are your thoughts on Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography? Do you have a favorite movie from the “Master of Suspense”? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Finding Forrester Review

One of the available categories for the Leap Year Blogathon was to talk about “any movie or TV show you’ve always wanted to review but never had the chance to”. This is the approach I’ve chosen to take with Rebecca’s event. As I was scrolling through my DVR, I came across a movie called Finding Forrester. Ever since I read the film’s synopsis on BYUtv’s website several years ago, I have wanted to see this movie because the story sounded interesting. I even recorded it on my DVR in the hopes of watching it someday. Well, it looks like 2020 is the time when I’m finally getting around to talking about this film! I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of Sean Connery’s movies. The Russia House and The Great Train Robbery are the only films I’ve seen with Sean as one of the leads. While I thought the former was ok, I enjoyed the latter more than I thought I would. Now that this is the third picture of Sean’s I’ve watched, it’ll be interesting to see where Finding Forrester ranks among the other two films.

Finding Forrester poster
Finding Forrester poster created by Sony Pictures Releasing and Columbia Pictures. Image found at https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/findingforrester.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Finding Forrester is a story that grounds itself in reality. Because of this, the acting performances in this film come across as realistic portrayals. What this means is all the characters feel like real people. The genuine expressions and behaviors of each character shine through because of the quality of the actors’ talents. How the characters interact with each other is evident of this, especially within the friendship of Jamal and William. Depth was added to the characters because of the interactions they share. The dialogue was well-executed by the actors, causing the conversations to sound authentic. What works in this cast’s favor are the various personalities presented and the character development that takes place. A sense of intrigue is brought forth as a result of all of these elements.

 

The cinematography: Whenever this film’s creative team wanted the audience to focus on a particular person or object, they would adopt medium shots or close-ups to place a greater emphasis on that subject. During basketball tryouts, Jamal was playing against a senior team member from the private school. The rivalry between these two characters is the highlight of this scene, so medium shots are used to present them to the audience. When Jamal is removing his notebooks from his backpack, after the bag was retrieved from William’s apartment, close-ups implemented the importance of writing that serves as a consistent idea throughout the film. In two scenes, the reflection of Jamal can be seen from William’s binoculars. This is meant to foreshadow the connection these characters will share through their friendship. These cinematic techniques helped make the cinematography stand out in this project!

 

The incorporation of knowledge: Like writing, the idea of knowledge is consistent in Finding Forrester. The way it was incorporated into this story was seamless and showed how important it can be to any individual. One example is when Jamal is explaining a brief history of the BMW to William’s acquaintance. This information not only helped Jamal stand up for himself, but it also educated the audience about one of the world’s most iconic car companies. The knowledge that William and Jamal share about writing is another great example. During a debate about the rules of writing, they are able to express their ideas and view the perspective of the other person. This scene shows that, with knowledge, one can be a part of something greater than themselves. It also shows that knowledge can create a connection between people.

Leap Year Blogathon banner
The Leap Year Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room. Image found at https://takinguproom.wordpress.com/2019/12/06/announcing-the-leap-year-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The lighting: Most of the lighting in Finding Forrester is dim. This allows the overall color palette to appear darker on screen. However, it also makes it difficult to see what is happening in the film. The scenes taking place in William’s apartment experienced this issue. Because of the dimmed lighting, it was sometimes difficult to see Jamal’s and William’s face in these scenes. Half of this movie is centered around Jamal and William’s friendship, which means that half of the overall picture features the dim surroundings of William’s apartment.

 

Scenes that become padding: There are several scenes in Finding Forrester that become padding. One example is when Jamal’s friends are shown spending time together at a restaurant. This moment had no bearing on the story and didn’t progress the plot forward. It also doesn’t have a strong need to exist in the narrative. Scenes like these felt like they were placed in the movie for the sake of satisfying the run-time. If some of these scenes were cut, the film would have been shorter and the script could have been a bit tighter.

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Typewriter image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/typewriter-and-paper-sheet_713020.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Someone I know once told me that knowledge is one of the most valuable possessions a person can own. When it’s earned, it can never be taken away from you. This is expressed very well in Finding Forrester, a solid and satisfying picture! While this movie is more of a character study, this concept works in the film’s favor. The delivery of the script and acting performances gave me an opportunity to stay invested in the characters and their interactions. The messages of integrity, self-worth, and knowledge have the potential to be relatable among audience members. They can also inspire people to pursue their talents and believe in their strengths. Finding Forrester is a movie that I’m glad I made the time to see. I’d like to thank Rebecca for giving me this opportunity through her Leap Year Blogathon!

 

Overall score: 8.2 out of 10

 

Is there a movie you’ve always to see, but never made time for? What are your plans for Leap Year? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen