22 August 2008 | PudgyPandaMan
Bloodlines, snobbery and Southern reputations
No, this isn't a masterpiece of a movie. Far from it. But I didn't find it quite as horrible as some reviewers.
This movie is based on the Polan Banks novel, "Carriage". I haven't read the book so I can't comment on whether this adaptation is accurate. It does feel like there are some missing details that often get cut in an adaptation to keep a movie's running time to a modest length. However, this movie runs quite short (at 1 hour 15 minutes) and they certainly could've included more than they did.
I wasn't as confused as other reviewers about Barbara Beaurevel's (Ava Gardner) forbidden past. It involves the fact that she is Carrie Crandall's granddaughter. Mrs. Crandall is known as a "notorious" woman in New Orleans. She married a gambler who promptly left her. She had a daughter (Barbara's mother)who she then gave another name and sent to be raised in a convent in order to protect her. The attorney, Mr. Toplady, who is sent to find Barbara (in order to pass on the inheritance that has been left her) states that Mrs. Crandall would do anything to provide for her daughter. I think it is only natural to assume this meant she became a prostitute or Madame. With this being New Orleans and the fact that she hooked up with a gambler - this is not too far-fetched. Barbara's mother then met and married affluent Mr. Beaurevel (Barbara's father). What I wonder is what ever happened to Barbara's parents? Why is she in the care of her Aunt? Again, these are items probably explained in the novel but cut from the movie.
Ava is perfectly lovely as usual. There are a couple times when her acting was quite good. I liked when Mitchum's character walks away from her on the terrace at the dance. Watch Ava's very subtle but effective facial expressions (an almost undetectable raise of an eyebrow and a few lip quivers). She could've easily overacted her hurt and anger but is wonderfully subtle and yet still powerfully conveys the emotions.
I did find it hard to believe Mitchum in his occupational role as do good medical researcher - willing to work for low pay for a good cause. Its obvious he was a street kid from New York who had to gamble his way through college. Its hard to believe he would have acquired noble aspirations and not just gone after money. Plus he is such a notorious cad is most of his roles - its hard to buy his noble speech to Ava at the end - "if you do all these things you might turn out to be quite a woman." But otherwise, I do like the chemistry between the two characters.
I think there are some interesting elements to the plot - I like the unexpected event towards the end. It adds an unexpected twist. But apart from this, the dialogue itself is quite weak. My other complaint is that the musical score is rather forgettable and could've done much more to enhance the mood and feel of New Orleans and the grand ole' South. But I still think the movie is worth a look, especially for Ava.