31 December 2004 | Dan1863Sickles
Jean Simmons Is Dynamite -- Make That Pure Feminist Kryptonite!
The strange thing about this movie is that it really is what its title promises -- the story of Desiree, and nothing more. Made in the dark years before the feminist movement, (indeed, in the worst days of the feminine mystique) the film makers seem to assume that the "ideal" woman is warm, impulsive, kittenish, flirtatious and yet non-sexual. Desiree is forever stuck at the end of childhood. She lives through great events but her "womanly" nature makes her ignore everything but her own physical comfort. She is Scarlett O'Hara without the suffering, cruelty or ambition, and Natasha Rostov without the fellow-feeling, patriotism and mystical sympathy for others. It's odd how you feel enchanted by her, and yet you feel disgusted with yourself for wanting a girl who remains infantile in so many ways. Truly a guilty pleasure.
Some of the things Desiree says in this movie are beyond belief. For example, after she becomes Princess of Sweden, her husband suggests that she needs some tutors, and she cries, "I haven't learned anything since I was ten!" And like, who is supposed to stand up and cheer? You could be the worst sexist pig in the world and this movie would make you feel like Anna Quindlen.
Or take the scene where the Swedes arrive in the middle of the night and tell Marshall Bernadotte (a superb Michael Rennie) that he is now in line to be King of Sweden. Bernadotte tells Desiree, his wife, to hurry up and get dressed. "Put on anything, you understand?" And she wails, "no, no, I don't understand anything!" Some other comments have said Jean Simmons is "whining" in this movie. But it's much worse than that. She's really pure feminist Kryptonite! The whole point is that men find her irresistible because she always, always, plays dumb and does nothing but bleat about being hungry, tired, or confused.
Problem is, Jean Simmons is just so natural and so attractive that it sort of goes down easy. You really do find yourself wanting to hug her every other scene, if you're a man anyway. If you're Anna Quindlen you probably just want to slap her. She's the feminist anti-Christ.
At least she's not a blonde!