Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Sept 9, 2013 16:55:24 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Sept 9, 2013 16:55:24 GMT -5
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
Directed by: Stanley Kramer
Directed by: Stanley Kramer
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is not a particularly great film, and ranks as only a good piece of realistic fiction in my book. But its subject matter and the way it deals with a pretty - if needlessly - controversial topic is noteworthy and a plausible entertainment diversion. In current times, few other controversial films about risque subjects are this amusing to watch unfold.
The plot: Joanna (Katharine Houghton) is your typical, all-American white girl, pure, innocent, and smiley. She is vacationing in Hawaii when she meets Dr. John Wayde Prentice Jr. (Sidney Poitier), an intelligent black doctor with a laundry-list of accolades. The film opens with them returning to San Francisco on a whim to meet Joanna's parents. She doesn't believe they'll be surprised; her parents (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) are known to be very liberal people (so liberal there's an image of FDR on her father's desk). He, on the other hand, knows for a fact they'll be shocked. Sure enough, they are - her mother can barely keep her jaw closed when John is in her house. Her father is a tad more optimistic at first, but when his daughter drops the bomb that they plan on marrying asap, both her parents must come to a decision over dinner. Anyone for cocktails?
This is the perfect example of a film that doesn't age particularly well. The United States of America in 2013 has evolved greatly from very close-minded notions/attitudes about race into a very accepting, liberal state of mind for the most part. Few stop and stare on the streets when they see a white woman join hands with a black man or vice-versa. The mindset and the notions in the 1960's of interracial relationships and are understandable now, and calling the attitudes of the characters in this film unrealistic is a critique of culture - not the film. Their attitudes are simply akin to that of people in the respected time-period; in this case, the late 1960's during the ongoing Civil Rights movement in America.
It's also obvious this is totally a plot set up specifically for a film. It's realistic in a sense, but even some instances are carried a bit past believability. However, the way Guess Who's Coming to Dinner questions your ethics and plays with your emotions is an admirable rarity. It allows one to ask themselves if they had a daughter who dated outside her race if they'd consent to the relationship. How long would it take you to come to a decision of whether or not to allow them to do it? Do personal achievements and accomplishments of your daughter's partner come second if he's not of your race?
Moreover, when it comes to these race-parables, acting can really make or break the film and its subject matter. Thankfully, A-listers such as Poitier, Houghton, Hepburn, and Tracy make this a bearable affair. It clearly too a reasonable level of comfortableness to get adjusted to the material provided here, allowing the actors their ability to express and convince, and thankfully the immediate awkwardness wears off rather quickly.
The biggest problem with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is its very sanctimonious and often plays like a statement from the "Why Can't We All Just Get Along?" committee. However, strong performances, some truly great memorable longs, and constant questioning of ethics make this film stronger than it may have initially been. Race is a subject that constantly shifts focus in terms of how we view it, how we portray it, and how we accept it. If current films age as poorly as this one, I'm curious how I'll view films like Do the Right Thing, ones I currently hail as audacious masterpieces.
Starring: Katharine Houghton, Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn. Directed by: Stanley Kramer.