In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_aprsjzadl6cggwjedxexw7kfnbc

Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Far Flunger Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Staircase

  |  

Stanley Donen's "Staircase" is an unpleasant exercise in bad taste -- in taste so bad, in fact, you wonder how Donen, who directed "Singin' in the Rain" and "Bedazzled" (1968) could have directed it. The fault isn't with the subject matter (the decay of two homosexual hairdressers), but with the style. And style is usually Donen's strong point.

But here he gives us no warmth, humor or even the dregs of understanding. He exploits the improbable team of Rex Harrison and Richard Burton as a sideshow attraction. We're not asked to watch a movie about homosexuals, but a movie about Harrison and Burton playing homosexuals. They play them with embarrassing clumsiness.

I wonder if that was deliberate. Harrison minces about in a parody of homosexual mannerisms -- not that many (or perhaps any) homosexuals ever acted as he portrays them. Maybe he's trying to tell us he's so straight he can't even play a homosexual. But he doesn't even play a character. Neither he nor Burton is believable for more than seconds.

The action vaguely involves a week or two in their lives. Burton cares for his aging and bedridden mother. Harrison worries about a court date after being arrested for soliciting in drag. They go for a picnic. They squabble. Burton has blood-pressure trouble. He makes a great deal of his bald head. Charles Dyer, the author, throws in a lot of crude theatrical symbolism; apparently we're being told that if Burton would only take those towels off his head and face the fact that he's bald, he wouldn't be queer anymore. Or at least not unhappily queer.

There's doubtless supposed to be pathos and tenderness in the way Burton cares for his arthritic mother. But these scenes are the most distasteful of all. In one, he changes her gown by pulling it up over her head, causing her to raise and bend her arms painfully. She screams. He dresses her in a clean gown. More screams. After her years of arthritis, shouldn't it have occurred to someone to use a gown that wasn't a pullover? Or is he being deliberately sadistic? No, that's not established either. So the scene is simply cruel without dramatic purpose.

So is the film. We never believe that any relationship, homosexual or otherwise, exists between Harrison and Burton; they carp at each other self-consciously, coasting through roles they obviously don't take seriously in a film they don't respect. The result is hideous.

Popular Blog Posts

Hashtag Activism and the #CancelColbert campaign

The recent #CancelColbert campaign on Twitter raises all kinds of issues about racism, but also about hashtag activism.

For the love of it: notes on the decline of Entertainment Weekly, the firing of Owen Gleiberman, and the ongoing end of an era

Owen Gleiberman's sacking as lead film critic of Entertainment Weekly — part of a ritual bloodletting of staffers at ...

One Year Later: Richard Roeper on Roger

Richard Roeper reflects on his long friendship and professional association with Roger Ebert.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus