Notorious (1946)

Not1

Slow, old-timey film that definitely feels its age, with a questionable plot that doesn’t kick in until well over an hour and a rushed, unrealistic central romance that only serves to make the first hour all the more dull and unconvincing. The acting is decent at least, especially given the performance limitations placed on actors at the time, and man was Ingrid Bergman pretty, and what a good job she does hiding her accent. Cary Grant is rather stiff and indifferent throughout though, which was common of most dramatic male leads of the time, I know, but it still makes for some rather uninspired moments when he’s on-screen, which is often. He sure does look a heck of a lot like Don Draper from Mad Men at times, though, or rather, more accurately, Don Draper looks like him, right down to the way he turns his face or tilts his head. It’s uncanny actually, almost eerie. The two men look nothing alike face on, but from the side, at certain angles, it’s like Jon Hamm’s sitting there with Bergman. Or Clive Owen. Downright freaky. The costume, lighting, and design people on that show sure know how to capture the period, at least as far as male movie leads from that time go.

Not4

The plot, though, is typical Alfred Hitchcock nonsense. Something about Nazis and spies and tricking some old guy into falling in love with Bergman for some reason, and I think Grant is a cop or secret agent or something, who the hell knows? It doesn’t make much sense, and what little does make sense isn’t all that interesting. It feels like there’s almost too much plot at times, too much going on, too many players doing too many things initially, none of it very interesting, mind you, at least not until things finally start to settle down in the second half and the plot becomes much more straightforward and easier to follow. It feels like story by committee though, which I suspect is very much how this film was written, especially given producer David O. Selznick’s involvement.

Not3

And what was with the whole **SPOILERS** “key” incident that takes place in the second act? Bergman steals a key from a key chain that clearly has only three other keys on it, and we’re supposed to believe that she’s stupid enough to not realize that putting the key back on the key chain, which has been in her husband’s possession the whole time, won’t tip him off in some way? Come on. There’s only three other keys on there! Of course he’s going to notice the sudden disappearance, then reappearance, of just one key! Maybe if there were a whole bunch of them on there, okay, maybe, but there were only three other keys! And why did Bergman fall for Grant so quickly, and why? He’s a complete prick to her, even after they become this great romantic couple. It doesn’t make any sense! **END SPOILERS** Just stupid, lazy writing. Even visually the film isn’t all that great, for a Hitchcock picture. There are a few clever moments here and there, like the big kissing scene which was quite intimate, even by today’s standards. But other than that, and maybe the **SPOILERS** poison sequence **END SPOILERS, and the ending, it wasn’t all that interesting visually.

Not2

Overall, I didn’t much care for this film. It has its moments, sure, and the second half is way, way better than the first, and the payoff was satisfying and all that I guess, even if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense and ultimately amounted to nothing, but the first half is clumsy, plodding, and poorly written, the characters aren’t very consistent or logical, some moments are downright stupid, and visually the film is surprisingly flat and unexciting, for Hitchcock, that is. So, nothing great. Decent at best, and even then, only the second half. But it’s not something I’d recommend everyone go out and see immediately. If you happen upon it and have nothing better to do with your time, then great, have at it. Otherwise, it’s not a must see by any means.

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