“Oh, you’ll love it!” That’s what everybody and my mother told me when I said I was going to watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the first movie in the Walker Art Center’s Newman Rocks retrospective of the early work of the late Paul Newman. Imbued with the innate cynicism of the iGeneration, I was skeptical about the likelihood of falling in love with one of the great films of a bygone era.
Newman plays Brick Pollitt, a Bourbon-drinking former high school football hero who broods over a mysterious event, which is somehow the cause of his marital tensions with his wife, Maggie “the Cat.” At her insistence, Brick and Maggie have come home to Mississippi to celebrate his father’s 65th birthday. Played by Elizabeth Taylor, Maggie is intent on securing the inheritance that Brick has no interest in. Tensions in the household culminate in a confrontation between Brick and his father, Big Daddy (Burl Ives), who demands to know why Brick is apathetic about his future and his wife.
|cat on a hot tin roof is screening at dusk (about 8:45 p.m.) on monday, july 20 in loring park, minneapolis. preceding the screening, at 7:00 p.m., will be a musical performance by halloween, alaska. admission free.|
Based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name, this is a story about lies and love and how the one gets in the way of the other. That said, the movie, which was released in 1959, has almost nothing in common with the play. Williams wrote Cat to explore the ways in which 1950s society dealt with homosexuality, and how the social repression of that era deeply affected both individuals and families. The movie replaces edgy social commentary with a romantic drama that contains no allusion to homosexuality. Normally this kind of selling-out would be enough to make me hate a film, but this movie actually won me over.
Despite its shortcomings, the movie retains all of the playwright’s characteristic intensity and emotional honesty. Taylor and Newman were both nominated for Academy Awards for their vibrancy in this film—from Maggie’s desperate desire for children to Brick’s disgusted, luminous eyes. But what really won me over about this movie was the characters’ introspection, which is so rare in major motion pictures nowadays. The acting makes this movie worth seeing, and at the price (free), it’s perfect fare for a Monday night.
Marinda Bland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a feminist, Francophile, aspiring writer, and counterculture vulture.
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