“Notorious” – Nathan’s Movie Challenge, Week 16
“We are protected by the enormity of your stupidity, for a time.”
I say with a heavy heart that I have finally found a Hitchcock film I dislike.
I’m not sure where to place the blame, though. I’m not sure if it’s the script, Grant and Bergman, the editor Theron Warth, or Hitchcock – or all of the above.
The story is a bit muddled and features particularly dislikable characters to lead it. Grant seems annoyed to be there throughout the film and has almost no chemistry with Bergman (the lauded long-kiss scene seems incredibly forced and inauthentic).
There’s such a palpable difference in how Cary Grant comes off in His Girl Friday or North By Northwest – not to mention his chemistry with the leading ladies of those films – that is in such diametric opposition to how gruff and unlikable he comes off in this film. I even preferred his exaggerative swagger in Charade to what he brought to Notorious. He just seems to be an actor that can either sell it or sink it for me.
The most interesting element of the film (the spying on the Nazis) take the back seat to the least interesting element of the film (the leads’ paper-thin “love” for each other). Never once did I believe there was any reason or cause for Grant and Bergman to fall in love, nor was there enough time or situational room for it to grow in the film’s opening act.
I liked the brief moments of suspense during the party, and the film’s ending scene (which obviously speaks to Hitchcock’s strengths), but was rather disinterested for much of the rest of the film.
There are a ton of unusual edits seemingly spliced in purely for continuity’s sake, but ultimately rather unnecessary. There’s also several rear-projection scenes which unfortunately bring very obvious and unwanted attention to the artifice of the picture. Again, I’m not sure if this is a lighting issue, a poor editing or film compositing issue, or what – but it’s glaring and pulled me out of the film many times.
The ending is abrupt and completely unresolved – which makes for a maddening resolution to an already tedious plot.
I’m sure there are film scholars and cineastes that should be able to point out what I’m missing. By all means, tell me and link me to some rebuttals in the comments.
I wish I enjoyed it more, but I found it really a slog to get through, and came away sorely disappointed.
Notorious was at the time of this review at #12 on my Flickchart list of shame (ranked #65 among the best movies of all time). Here’s how it entered my chart:
Notorious vs. Pulp Fiction
I’m notoriously (ahem) lukewarm on Pulp Fiction, but I do understand its merit and influence, and enjoy most all of the scenes involving Jackson and Travolta. Pulp Fiction wins.
Notorious vs. Lucky Number Slevin
Lucky Number Slevin is a clever movie hampered a bit by lackluster direction and inconsistent tone. Either way, it’s still more entertaining and interesting than Notorious.
Notorious vs. Monster’s Ball
Not much of a fan of the very brown-palette, very bleak Monster’s Ball. Notorious wins.
Notorious vs. Music and Lyrics
Yeesh. I guess Notorious – although Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore probably have more chemistry.
Notorious vs. Harry and the Hendersons
For Rick Baker’s unparallelled makeup work alone, it wins over Notorious.
Notorious vs. Fantastic Voyage
There are a lot of remarkable components to Fantastic Voyage, and Raquel Welch is only but one of them. Definitely beats Notorious.
Notorious vs. Rocky
I didn’t like Rocky. I didn’t like Notorious. I guess I disliked Notorious the least. Not by much.
Notorious vs. Bridesmaids
Ugh. Hated Bridesmaids. I didn’t hate Notorious – just disappointed.
Notorious is now ranked #1066 out of 1400 movies on my Best Movies of All-Time chart.
Next up are In a Lonely Place and Le Cercle Rouge. In the meantime, check out the other films I’ve ranked during the challenge.