Pat is a women's sports sensation unless her fiancé is around. Her new shady manager Mike keeps them apart and develops feelings for her.Pat is a women's sports sensation unless her fiancé is around. Her new shady manager Mike keeps them apart and develops feelings for her.Pat is a women's sports sensation unless her fiancé is around. Her new shady manager Mike keeps them apart and develops feelings for her.
This film is evidently a star vehicle for Tracy and Hepburn, containing next to no artistic pretensions or even any real attempt to press a subtle feminist point (in contrast with other Tracy/Hepburn films like WOMAN OF THE YEAR or ADAM'S RIB). In fact, the film seems to be just a comfortable, familiar joke between actors, writers and audience--we know these characters, we know these actors, we know what kind of relationship they always have (bantering, sparring, and in the end just a perfect fit)... the only thing that's different is the names of the characters. Sam, Adam, Mike--Tess, Amanda, Pat--what's the difference?
To be fair, Hepburn's character of Pat Pemberton is much softer and more vulnerable than either Tess Harding or Amanda Bonner. This character variation doesn't hide the real point of the screenplay though--Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin evidently wanted a chance to display both Hepburn's natural athletic abilities (phenomenal for a non-professional, but possibly not 100% believable against sports stars like Babe Zaharias) and her incredible legs. Well, they did succeed at both of these things, to great effect. It's great fun for a Hepburn fan, having read about her deep and abiding love of any and all sports, to get a chance to actually watch her playing golf and tennis onscreen. (This doesn't mean, of course, that the frequent and long golf scenes don't test one's patience occasionally!)
Spencer Tracy has great fun as Mike as well, the sports agent who originally wants Pat to flub a game and come in second. He claims early on in the film that the trouble with her is that she's got too honest a face--it's only Tracy's ability to make rough-and-tumble characters believably vulnerable at heart that makes his later declaration ("I must have caught something from you" i.e. honesty) acceptable. The chemistry between the two is probably closer to the comfortable rapport they shared in ADAM'S RIB as man and wife than the fireworks that went off between them in WOMAN OF THE YEAR. Whatever the case, it is still always a joy to watch Tracy and Hepburn together onscreen, and it's largely because this film stars who it does that you can allow yourself to enjoy and be taken in by what is evidently a cutesy star vehicle written by the stars' friends (Gordon and Kanin), and directed by the leading lady's best and favourite director George Cukor. (Some of the visual tricks, particularly Hepburn's face appearing on that of a horse, are actually more disturbing than flattering, and I--for one--would prefer not to pursue the metaphor through to its end.) Tracy and Hepburn are also boosted by an excellent supporting cast, particularly William Ching as Pat's obnoxious suitor and Aldo Ray as Mike's dimwitted star protege (until Pat comes along, that is!).
PAT & MIKE is a romantic comedy, but it's also romantic-comedy-*lite*. There are no forced or fake separations that are geared towards wringing tears from viewers before a reconciliation (contrast again with ADAM'S RIB and most formulaic films in recent years). The film is just a little piece of joyful fluff--not taxing at all for either the writers, the actors, or the viewers. For a brilliant comic set-piece, watch out for the scene in which Pat takes on the two seedy sports racketeers and dispenses them with remarkable ease and efficiency. Otherwise, watch PAT & MIKE with the knowledge that this is neither Tracy and Hepburn's best, nor is it their worst. If you keep your expectations down, you'll certainly enjoy watching this film because it aims low (aiming only to please and amuse, and not necessarily to engage and thrill), and fulfils those aims very well. 8/10.
- Jun 28, 2002