A friend of mine told me recently that my blog is becoming a bit too movie-heavy and that I should probably post about something other than movies once in a not-too-long while. Allowing even for the fact that she is not herself very much interested in movies, I think I agree with her basic point and will try to write something not very filmi in my next post. This post, however, will again be about movies. About one particular movie, in fact.
I remember once talking to a friend of mine about The Manchurian Candidate (the original version, not the new one), and saying that I was verrry impressed by the movie because I didn't expect a movie that old to have such a complex script and theme. I was under the impression that mainstream movie-makers of that era used to dabble mainly with scripts inspired by plays, resulting in movies that looked and felt like plays. Even though that itself doesn't mean that the script/theme needed to be simple, I had the impression that many of the movies at that time used to be like that. Movies that the common man would easily understand and be able to enjoy. I now have a better way of expressing precisely what I meant by all those things. I meant movies like the ones Frank Capra used to make.
I have seen three of Capra's movies: It Happened One Night, Its a Wonderful Life, and the movie I am going to talk about in this post, Mr Smith Goes to Washington. These and some of his other movies have made Capra so famous for making family-friendly light-hearted movies about simple people and high values (called American values by most people but I don't see what is so American about being nice and honest... people everywhere teach their kids these things.)
Mr Smith starts with some very kiddish scenes. So much so that they might seem a bit too childish to anyone watching them. Characters so cartoony and completely one dimensional that they are almost straight out of comic books. But one soon realizes that it is almost impossible to not fall in love with a hero who is just a simple guy believing in morals and values and not knowing anything about the practical (read amoral... corrupt) world out there. A hero so childlike in his naivete and innocence that you can't help but smile at every blunder he makes and simultaneously feel for him. On numerous occasions I remember smiling or laughing and yet thinking, "poor guy! he does not deserve this!".
The movie is about the head of the boy rangers of a state who is sent to washington as the new senator of his state after some hilarious and completely unbelievable chain of events land the Governor of the state at his home with the offer of senatorship (is that a real word?). The poor guy recited Lincoln and Jefferson from heart and is so taken by the glorious American history that his fascination with all the historic monuments in Washington ends up making everyone think that he is completely crazy and absolutely not suited to be a senator. Predictably, he tries to do his best and runs into a scam that has the backing of big political and media magnates including his own political idol. Clearly, one man can not stand up to such huge powers and the corrupt machinery has no difficulty at all in tearing the man apart. But, he DOES give a tremendous fight which forms the absolutely amazing climax of the movie.
On the whole the movie is sweet, thanx mainly to some great writing. A lot of dialogue is simply hilarious. Its the climax, however, that takes the movie from being an enjoyable, very-good movie to the level of a great movie. James Stewart established himself with the role of Mr. Smith and plays the role with such great charm that Jefferson Smith is easily one of the most loveable heroes ever in American cinema. The scenes in the Senate are so well done that its difficult to believe that we are watching just a set and some actors (some of the lines spoken in the senate, however, are so hilarious that you DO remember that you are watching a movie and not real Senate proceedings.. but thats obviously for the best as Senate proceedings probably don't make very entertaining movies..).
Watch the movie, if only for some hilarious moments, for the sweet little romance woven into the story and if not for anything else, for the rousing climax that is absolutely inspiring and yet highly entertaining. Great Stuff.