Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Movie Review: Notorious

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Decent spy/mystery story
Cons: Weakened by a poorly executed romance
The Bottom Line:
Romance distracts plot
A Hitchcock still worth watching
But it's average

Some Moments are More Notorious Than Others

My latest trip into Hitchcock's film career was Notorious, a 1946 film that finds his characters fighting against what is left of the Nazis.  Since I have found some of his older films better, I was hoping for a good movie.  Instead I got this uneven film that doesn't quite know what it wants to be.

In the aftermath of World War II, the Americans are hunting down and prosecuting the remaining Nazis anywhere they can.  One such conviction brings Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) across their radar.  Her father has just been sent to prison for his involvement.  But he knew more Nazis, and they think that Alicia can help them get the entire cell.

T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) is the one who makes this pitch.  At first reluctant, Alicia soon leaves for the assignment in Brazil with Devlin as her handler.

The assignment involves reuniting with Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) and getting as close to him as possible.  Since Alexander had a crush on Alicia, that part is no problem.  But how far will Alicia go?  Is this novice in over her head?

This is one of those films that can't quite decide what it wants to be.  As a result, it tries to be both a romance and a suspense film and fails at both.

The emphasis in the first half is on the romance as Devlin and Alicia get to know each other while waiting for the assignment to start.  Frankly, the movie took too long getting to the assignment.  Even with so little else going on, The romance was forced at best and thrown on us too quickly.

Once Alexander is introduced, things do improve dramatically.  I began to get really interested in the film.  In fact, several scenes here had me on the edge of my seat.

But here again, the romance ruined things.  Devlin acted in a very unprofessional manner on more than one occasion.  And he and Alicia were absolutely stupid.  I kept yelling at my TV.  Heck, I know better than to pull some of what they did, and I'm not a trained agent like Devlin.  I could forgive some of Alicia's mistakes since she isn't a trained agent.  But Devlin has no such excuse.

Now all this ranting might make it sound like I hated the film.  That's not true.  It was mildly entertaining.  But it had the potential to be so much better.

I'm faulting the script for this and not the actors.  Cary Grant was perfect as our hero.  Claude Rains made a respectable villain, although Leopoldine Konstantin as his mother really stole the show on that front.  I did find Ingrid Bergman over the top in a few places, but it wasn't that bad.

If Notorious had been made as a romantic comedy or a straight suspense piece, I think it would have worked better.  Instead, it weakened itself by trying to fit two molds.

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