The Country Girl Film Details
Overview: A director hires an alcoholic has-been and strikes up a stormy relationship with the actor’s wife, who he believes is the cause of all the man’s problems.
Tagline: How far should a woman go… to redeem the man she loves?
Review: It is so fresh to see a leading character (and a ladies’ man) playing a weakly, submissive and down-on-his-luck character that it can be good enough a reason to watch “The Country Girl”, George Seaton’s tale of the uncertain come-back of has-been singer-actor Frank Elgin emerging from an ocean of alcohol where he had drowned out of sorrow and bitterness, using his wife’s love and trust as life jacket. The wife is the titular country girl named Georgie, she’s played by Grace Kelly in the role that defied her glamorous façade and won her the Academy Award for Best Actress over the favorite; Judy Garland, who was praised for her performance in “A Star is Born”. Some said Garland was robbed, I would be more diplomatic, if it was about awarding the “playing against type” performance, I think Crosby deserved that Oscar a little more because it takes some acting bravura to play under the usual tempo of confidence and male assertiveness the era or reputation usually dictate. Take William Holden for instance, as theatre director Bernie Dodd, he’s perfect and convincing in it, there’s no phony chord in his dialogue and the way he snaps at either Mr. or Mrs. Elgin. This is a man who knows how to handle business and knows a talent when he sees it and isn’t blinder with flaws. If Holden’s performance is flawless, it suffers from the contrast with the other players: Crosby as a washed up moaner and Kelly as a cold-hearted control freak. Naturally, there are more than these two dimensional observations and “The Country Girl” is mostly to be enjoyed as a three-player act where we’re invited to appreciate the complex intricacies of dependences within a couple and get richer understandings of the hackneyed “behind every great man, there’s a woman”. The catch is the following: behind the great “man” in the professional or legacy’s sense, there must be the great man, the human being, or maybe the man-man, and this is where the woman behind plays her role, when it comes to enabling the performer to overcome the man’s demons. So the woman is the coach, but what when she’s herself caught in her own demons and the man is unable to return her the favour back? Then the couple turns into a one-sided relationship even the triangular attraction introduced by Dodd turns into a fair balancing. And so we have the backstage of some random homesteaders’ musical becoming the real backdrop of the story, the show is only pivotal in the way it establishes the evolution of the three relationships. “The Country Girl” gives a few insights about show business (nothing new after “All About Eve”, “Sunset Blvd.” or “A Star is Born”) but its real merit is to show us a real directing job from Grace Kelly’s Georgie when she believes she must stay by her husband until he gets straight while Dodd tries to write the right scenario and convince her to go away. Meanwhile, Frank does the acting, unaware that he’s never a better performer as when he’s performing his weakness. The film unveils a snaky truth about victims, the fact that they “enjoy” their victimhood for as long as it provides them excuses and loopholes. The theme can seem overused by now but I guess for the 1950s, the film is rather blunt and honest and even truer to life than the ‘superior’ “A Star is Born”. The trauma that caused Elgin to slip isn’t portrayed in the subtlest way, but it’s definitely handled better as we can see that he’s putting an act, and even using a truly tragic event to mask his own insecurity, Elgin is perhaps the most insincere of all, even when he tries to please Georgie, seeking or begging for her approval or telling his buddy that he’s worthless, sometimes; there’s nothing more manipulative than a poor unlucky man acknowledging his weakness and Bing Crosby, of all the actors, outdoes himself, performing a natural born performer. And the first sign of recovery is when he realizes that he’s performing indeed. But when we have three persons, each one acting for the sake of another, it’s the one who’s the centre of attentions who risks letting love slipping from his hands and lets Dodd get Georgie. Maybe some would see it as too conventional a probability but you can never doubt the sexual tension between the two, and the film even makes it believable that they wouldn’t like each other at first stance, obviously Dodd is the man to be attracted to submissive and old-fashioned women and Georgie loves her husband and can’t see him being used like a puppet, but it’s all in the way the film reveals the real softness of Georgie and the unconscious manipulation of Frank while making these revelations the triggers to the show’s finally getting back to its feet and our lovers to their terms. At the end there are not two arcs in the film but three, counting Holden’s, but out of the three, it’s only fair that it’s Grace Kelly who got the title role, if not the Oscar. And if the performance of Bing Crosby was good enough a reason to watch “The Country Girl”, I can’t believe I missed it the first time I saw the film but there’s a moment where Holden wants to talk to Grace, and what she tells “Mr. Dodd” will certainly ring a bell to music buffs…. Now, I have to discover where “Humphrey, we’re leaving” is from and I won’t google it!
Country: United States
Duration: 104 min
Genre: Drama, Music
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