1 July 2002 | marcslope
As MGM As It Gets
Joan isn't all that gorgeous, only a halfhearted hussy, and not much of an actress, either--at least not here. Rather, she's a nice but confused innkeeper's daughter in 1820s Washington with love and politics on the brain. Mostly she lifts her considerable eyebrows up and down, up and down, to indicate joy, worry, bafflement, empathy, ecstasy... All the while she's pursued by most of the leading men of MGM circa 1936, for reasons best known to them, since there's nothing particularly fascinating about her character. This lengthy melodrama does have first-rate production values and intermittent good acting, especially from the quieter performers, Melvyn Douglas and (most of all) Beulah Bondi, as a gentle, pipe-smoking Mrs. Andrew Jackson. But as a historical romance it's rather listless, with a rote Snidely-Whiplash villain (Louis Calhern) and much nattering about states' rights. The conflicts feel painted-on. The ending feels hurried and contrived. And Joan always seems to be looking for her key light.