Tuesday, July 13, 2010

You Can't Take It With You (1938)

I’ll admit it, it took me a few weeks to get through You Can’t Take It With You (1938). I began the movie when I lived in Lansing and finished it once we were settled into our new home in Grand Rapids. Now, it wasn’t just the move that delayed my finishing this Oscar winner, but the pace at which the first hour of this movie flows. Once the film hit its stride I was able to attach to the story and the strange characters that were living it, though I’m pretty sure the young Jimmy Stewart was what helped me stick this one out.

The tagline for this 1938 classic (“You’ll love them all for giving you the swellest time you’ve ever had!”) isn’t exactly what I found to be truth, though the word ‘swellest’ endears me to the picture.

So here’s the gist:

The entire film centers around one freaky family who all lives together in a large house. There’s Grandpa Martin Vanderhof (played by Lionel Barrymore, great uncle to E.T. great Drew Barrymore) who is the glue that holds the family and the neighborhood together. He doesn’t care much for money and hasn’t paid taxes in over a decade. His daughter writes plays because a typewriter was accidently delivered to the house, her husband who makes fireworks, a daughter who spastically dances around the house like a drunken Anna Pavlova, her son-in-law who is obsessed with the University of Alabama and plays the xylophone, another daughter who is a secretary (yes, after all this craziness all I have to say is she’s a “secretary”) and a few other people who live with them (I’m not sure of their names, relations, or what they do other than make weird things). Okay, so now that you have a clear mental picture of the insanity that this movie centers around, here’s the general plot.

Alice, the secretary daughter works for the Tony Kirby (cutie Jimmy Stewart) and they’re in love. Mr. Kirby, Tony’s dad, is a billionaire who wants to buy Grandpa’s property (if they said why, I must have been deep into a Sudoku and missed it). Tony and Alice want to get married, but Mrs. Kirby isn’t thrilled with the idea. In fact, she’s a pretty cold lady and I’d be scared crapless to be her future daughter-in-law. Anyway, Alice invites the entire Kirby clan over to Grandpa’s house for dinner. The Kirbys accidently arrive on the wrong night, so instead of pretending to be normal the family is acting like their normal wacko selves. Just as the Kirbys are about to flee the insanity, the police bust in and arrest everyone for disturbing the peace and attempting to insight a revolution (I can’t really explain, something to do with the stockpile of fireworks in the basement). While in a holding cell Grandpa realizes that Mr. Kirby is the banker trying to purchase his house. After a bunch of family drama, Alice and Tony break up. Alice flees town and Grandpa resigns to sell his house and follow her. When Alice gets news of this she comes home. She reconciles with Tony, Mr. Kirby has a change of heart and sell the house back to the family, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Love conquered all in 1938, even real estate and cold mother-in-laws.

Head spinning a bit? Yeah, imagine watching 126 minutes of this craziness.

Capra- Stewart had many successful collaborations over the years (It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) that had much more staying power. This just doesn’t really compare to their other films.

I’ll give it three statuettes out of five. I’d probably have to have a box of wine to sit through this again.

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