Friday, April 16, 2010

All About Eve

The trouble with legitimate classics is that it's always such a struggle to say anything interesting. Everyone knows that All About Eve is a good film already, and the story and title have been referenced in such an odd assortment of ways that the story is pretty much part of the culture by now. What more is there to say about it?

The story of Eve has shown up so many places that it's almost a cliche, though I imagine it was much more original in 1950. Anne Baxter plays Eve, who is, at first appearance, a naive young woman star struck by Margo Channing, played by woman with eyes that make boys think she's a spy, Bette Davis. Channing is already insecure about getting older and aging her way out of the parts that provide her bread and butter. Then, Eve comes along, and is the most perfect assistant in the world, and really seems like an adoring fan who just wants to be around her famous friend. Eventually Eve is cast as an understudy, and is revealed to be a brilliant actor, mostly because all that crap about being a naive fan who wants to be around her favorite star is effectively bullshit. Eventually the audience sees it all, and it culminates in an ending which has a bit of subtle karmic retribution woven in.

It's an engaging story, and the characters themselves have a level of depth and interest that is not always present in the ripoffs. Eve, Margo and the rest all are human characters, with their own insecurities, desires, and needs. They behave like people, and even the sympathetic ones can be jerks, and believably so. It's also clever how it introduces Eve herself, even knowing how the film ends Baxter plays her in a very likable manner, leading on to think she's not so bad. You begin to understand the choices made and the character of the individuals involved, it all makes sense.

That said, it's certainly a wordy thing. Not that lots of dialogue is a bad thing necessarily - and one scene where I questioned not just doing a straight up flashback had to be filmed in that manner once the entire context was known - but there are moments where scenes go on for one or two lines too long, or there's a bit of an unnecessary info dump to establish characters in the beginning which I didn't think really added much. There's a sense that Joseph L. Mankiewicz was so in love with his script that he didn't want to cut a word, so sometimes there are moments of simple redundancy.

Yet, saying that, it is REALLY GOOD dialog, so I can't complain too loudly. Even with scenes that go a few lines too long, I notice that the lines are still really clever, witty ones, and I can't say I'd be too thrilled about a cut were I in Mankiewicz' shoes. Like the characters, I fully understand the faults, though faults they remain.

The funny thing about the entire enterprise is that it has a pretty simple message at the end, one about people themselves. It presents a narrative about people, and flawed as we all are, we do need each other. Those who use others as a means to an end are successful yet unfulfilled, those who give others a place in their lives are still successful, but more importantly, much happier than those who don't. Flaws and all, we need each other, so don't be a dick.

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