Saturday, 9 August 2014

Alimony (1949)

A writer friend of mine has been known to opine that writing a good ending is one of the hardest parts of fiction, and if movies like this one are any indication, he's definitely onto something.

Which is not to say the film doesn't have problems before that, though I was finding it relatively watchable.  To my mind, the first mistake is in the first minute: it sets up all the actual narrative of the film as having already happened, with one of the characters involved narrating it.  In doing so, it gives you a lot of hints as to what sort of narrative we're going to see (the fall of the scarlet woman).  That rather robs things of tension or dynamism.

Anyway, our narrator is Dan Brown, a struggling composer who lives in a boarding house with several other people, including his girlfriend Linda.  The two are just waiting on Dan to finally sell some music so they can start their life together, when into the house comes Kitty Travers (played by Martha Vickers, who also portrayed Lauren Bacall's younger sister in The Big Sleep).

Kitty sets her sights on Dan when he seems on the verge of a big sale.  Dan, proving himself quite the jerk, ditches Linda and writes a song inspired by Kitty.  But when the sale falls through, Kitty dumps him as fast as he dumped Linda.

Linda, because she is consigned to the 'good woman' box, takes the jerk back.  They get married.  And then the exact same thing happens: Dan makes a sale, Kitty swoops in.  'Jerk' is not really a strong enough word, but I generally try to keep the language on here family friendly, so feel free to insert your own pejorative.

Can you guess what happens when Dan's star starts to fade?  I bet you can.  You might in fact wonder why we needed to have the same mini-narrative play out twice in the film (I sure did), and how anyone would have any sympathy for either Dan or Kitty at this point in things.

The final twenty minutes or so of the movie are about the wicked getting their comeuppance, though it takes some Doppleganger Ex Machina to do it.  Some folks go to jail.  Jerks who ditch their girlfriend/wife not once but twice are unfortunately not among them.

When Kitty gets out of jail, she's learned her lesson, asks for (and receives) forgiveness from those she hurts, and resolves to go back home and live with her father once more.

... like I said, the ending isn't good.

A solid cast made this more watchable than the script deserved, but it's ultimately not worth seeking out.

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