Thursday, March 28, 2002


This is an odd little movie. It feels like a long Twilight Zone episode without any hint of the supernatural or sci-fi. Like some of Rod Serling's stories, it is rather preachy with lots of stilted dialogue and obvious speechmaking that stops the action dead in its tracks. Nevertheless, it was worth watching. Based on a story by Nathaniel West ("Day of the Locust"), it's about a fledgling reporter (Montgomery Clift) who takes a job as a "Miss Lonelyhearts" columnist under a cynical and mean-spirited editor (Robert Ryan). Ryan tries his best to "educate" Clift in the ways of the world--the fact that people *lie* seems to be the main lesson he wants to impart. Maureen Stapleton got an Oscar nomination for her part as a bored and lonely housewife who writes to Clift and eventually meets him. Myrna Loy plays Ryan's wife, a completely beaten-down and empty person--in some ways, she reminded me of the Alison Janney character in AMERICAN BEAUTY (the wife who walks around like she's in a coma) although not quite as scarily passive.

The film is wildly misogynistic; all the women in the movie are presented as whores (metaphorically speaking) except for Dolores Hart, Clift's girlfriend, who is a saint. I read that this was Clift's first movie after his terrible car accident; he looks fine, but he doesn't always seem to be altogether there. Robert Ryan is very good, especially given that his character is one-note and his dialogue is wildly artifical. Loy is fine, and I felt the sorriest for her character, largely because of her performance. Although the movie has a leisurely pace, the ending feels a bit rushed and strains for an upbeat tone. Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester on "The Addams Family" and a big juvenile star in the 20's, especially in Chaplin's THE KID) has a small part.

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