Here’s a catchy little number that’s not on DVD and should have/could have been included in that Tennessee Wiliams boxed set of a few years back. There’s not a lot of reviews on the web for this one, and there should be. I couldn’t even find any decent pictures to steal. So I put up Jane from her Hanoi period. Is she not awesome!?
Made in 1962, this is a shrill but ultimately touching and funny film that occurs almost in real time, ala the stage play. It’s being shown on TCM the 23rd, no doubt because it occurs on Xmas, and there’s a hilarious side track with neighborhood carrolers who get offered drinks at every house they go to, so by the time they get halfway around the block, they’re sloshed and need to be hauled into the police station on drunken disorderly charges. Tony Franciosa is actually great playing a warm, complex and ultimately good-natured guy. How often does that happen? In the films I know him from, he’s cringing and scheming in misguided bids for his father’s affection. Here he’s finally standing up to the father-in-law, whom he works for, and is a jerk who needs to get told the what’s what and has troubles of his own, sack-wise, so it’s a reversal of roles where Tony gets to play the prodigal for a goddamned change. And he knocks it clean out of the park. It’s easy to cringe, but it’s hard to make us not cringe if you’re going to be “nice.” But he does it. Meanwhile Tony’s fellow Korean War vet buddy Jim Hutton has married Jane Fonda, who is in her drop dead gorgeous hubba hubba oh you kid phase. You just can’t believe any girl could be that beautiful and yet take everything so goddamned seriously. Only with Jane it works. What was it Roger Vadim said in MEMOIRS OF THE DEVIL?
Jane thought she had no personality and was desperately trying to find her identity. In front of the camera she analyzed herself, shut herself away in introspection and looked for an intellectual justification for her every word, every movement, every smile. She was basically afraid of herself. She thought through hard work she could “fabricate” a talent for herself, but refused to admit she already had something unique, infinitely rarer and more precious than fortitude or will-power.” (1975, p. 165)
Damn right, Roger! And somehow this misfocused intensity makes the panicked blandness of Jim Hutton a perfect foil. He pulls out all the stops in his effort to keep away the fear of intimacy. Frankly, Fonda’s so hot, I might be scared of the pressure to get it on, too. (It’s honeymoon jitters that makes him want to spend Xmas with his old buddy Franciosa’s dysfunctional family). Hutton comes off as if he’s trying to sneak away from all this intense Williams adulthood and back into some cozy sexless sitcom like Bewitched. No one likes to chip off their frozen masks and armor to expose the quivering warm human within, and perhaps no playwright before or since has ever been so keenly observant of these human defense mechanisms and yet so compassionate; Williams pulls off his character’s masks like a kind but determined doctor, then gives them a nice lollipop. Everyone gets great dialogue and chances to shine like crazy diamonds, which they never fail to grab. And best of all is how the weakness perceived by Vadim becomes Fonda’s strength; her character’s life lessons are Fonda’s acting lessons and nothing is more beautiful than watching her learn them and find her intellectual justification at last, in the brilliant sea of Williams’ dialogue
This being a dramatic comedy and not an oppressive Anna Magnani showpiece (like The Rose Tattoo), what we end up with here is something true and beautiful and moving, where the characters actually change and grow in a believable and inspiring fashion and laughs and fond feelings are had by all. The perfect thing to watch with your own dysfunctional family or “sig other”, PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT should not be overlooked just because the name makes you think it’s going to be some tired Brady Bunch-esque farce with Doris Day and a room full of disgustingly cute children. Think again! And Plug it into your TIVO: TCM- Tues 12/23 at 10:30 AM. (EST)