Monday, April 06, 2009

4/4/09: Tom Jones (1963)

BRITISH SIXTIES WEEK
"The whole world loves Tom Jones!" boasts the movie poster. Well, almost the whole world. How long have I been hearing about how great this movie is? Winner of four Oscars (including Best Picture) and nominated for several others, Tom Jones is based on the famous Henry Fielding novel and stars Albert Finney as the title character, born a bastard but destined for greatness—after a lot of swordfighting and sex, at any rate. Indeed, it's a lavish spectacle, with costumes and sets looking as if they'd come straight from the 1700s. But to me, this was a colossal bore. As my friend Joan is fond of saying, this was obviously a movie of its time—what must have seemed daring and ribald in 1963 seems cutesy and tame 45 years later. All the reviews talk about how "hilarious" the movie is, but I don't think I even smiled once.

Familiar faces kept turning up in the cast and credits—names I've seen all through British Sixties Week. The screenplay was by John Osborne, who would go on to write Inadmissible Evidence five years later. Lead actor Finney was also the star of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning; David Warner (of Morgan) shows up as a scoundrel; and Lynn Redgrave (Georgy Girl) is briefly seen in what turns out to be her very first movie. This may be the first time I've seen the ravishing Susannah York—and I sure hope it's not the last.

Earlier this evening, I had a discussion with a friend about the true meaning of "overrated." Tom Jones might just be the dictionary definition of same. I am going to spend the rest of the evening trying to forget its authentic-sounding but nevertheless annoying harpsichord soundtrack. Oh, well, cross another supposed masterpiece off the list. Rating: 2/5.

1 comment:

Joan said...

When I was a kid, sometimes the family would all gather around to watch the "moving pictures" that Dad took of us. When the camera was shaking or moving too fast, people would yell, "Tom Jones, it's Tom Jones!" (This was way before the singer became popular. They were referring to the film.) I remember that we were going to NY for a family vacation in 1964 (the year of the World's Fair there), and they were showing "Tom Jones" on the plane. I wanted to get headphones (which you had to rent in those days) to watch the movie so that I would know what the heck my family was talking about. My big sister told me, "It's a grown-up movie. You won't like it. You might like the pretty scenery but you can watch that without headphones." I really don't remember anything about the visuals. Did it seem to you that the camera was jerky or moving too fast?