The Orchestra Wives

Again, back to the full screen black and whites, with the DLP still out of commission. The selection of the night, Orchestra Wives. This is a 1942 black and white, that is what the title says, about orchestra wives. The entire plot of this movie can be summed up pretty easy, cheating, gossip, and marriages. I think the highlight of the film itself, which I am sure was intended, is the big band music itself which features the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Aside from that, I did not really care for the story line or how the characters were set up and built upon.

The male lead in the movie Bill Abbot, played by George Montgomery (China Girl, Roxie Hart) behaves in such a way so early on I found myself disliking his character throughout the film. Ann Rutherford (Gone With The Wind) plays the female lead, and you find yourself pulling for her as a character until she begins falling into the trap of all the other women. There is a lot of deceit and overall meanness to the movie tat I didn’t care for. I don’t mind films that deal with this subject matter at all, they can be very powerful stories, but I don’t think it was intended to come across as dark as it does. I would have prefered them take a darker serious tone to the movie, and maybe even make a tragedy out of it rather than remain light about all that goes on behind the scenes of band members wives. Either that or have some characters that can bring something light or funny to the film just to give you a break. I thought they might do that with the Cesar Romero (Joker in the Batman TV series and film) character as he had some funny lines and seemed to be a likable character, but he just wasn’t in it enough to save this one for me.

For me this was a very average movie, and had it not been for the Big Band angle, it would have failed for me. ┬áThere are a few musical numbers that are worth seeing just for historic purposes. And there is a glimpse of a very young, pre Ralph Kramden days, Jackie Gleason (Smokey and The Bandit) and a young Harry Morgan (MASH, Dragnet TV series). To me it really isn’t worth watching for the drama, just not done that well for me. If you want good drama with all the elements of cheating, lying, and rocky marriages, I recommend you see Little Children and Revolutionary Road, two very good films.

Away We Go

Away We Go is the 5th film from Director Sam Mendes. Known for American Beauty, Road to Perdition and last years Revolutionary Road which are very dark in tone and content, this is a step away from the norm from him and frankly is a breath of fresh air. Away We Go is the story of Burt, played by John Krasinski (The Office, Leatherheads) and Verona, who are a mid-thirties couple who find out they are going to have their first child. Burt’s parents played by Jeff Daniels (Gettysburg, Speed) and Catherine O’hara (Best in Show, Beetlejuice) decide to move to Belgium a month before the baby is born. Burt and Verona, having no ties to their home town any more, go exploring for the perfect place to raise a family. visiting lots of friends and family across ┬áthe country, it is a fun adventure of possibilities.

The performances in the film are all pretty good, but the one surprise performance that stands out is that of Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary). She plays Burt’s cousin and takes the idea of being close as a family to a whole new level, to the point of being creepy. Her performance is spot on as she delivers her lines with complete confidence without batting and eye as she talks about sharing a bed with her husband….and her kids! She is so good in this role, I could see her getting a Supporting Actress nomination.

Overall I don’t think this is Sam Mendes best film as the movies mentioned previously are very powerful films, but this is a very light, intelligent and delightful film. I would recommend seeing this movie, it is something fresh and not the usual rehashing of a story line you have seen twenty times already. Worth watching for sure!