Monday, April 7, 2014
Father of the Bride. B+
If you don't really think about it, Father of the Bride is a whimsical, moving and diverting comedy about a father (a typically skeptical yet lovable Spencer Tracy) coping with the emotional and financial complications that come along with his daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) getting married. Yet there's a dark, cynical undercurrent to Vincente Minnelli's 1950 film in the way that it creates a general mood of stress and unhappiness in the character of the father that's in direct relation to post-WWII American consumerism (which, in this case, is represented by a lavish, expensive wedding). Most weddings in present-day America have two things in common: they're formulaic and they're way too expensive. It seems like this is a more recent development, yet as Minnelli's film shows, its roots go back nearly 70 years. The reason it's easy to ignore the more cynical elements of the movie is because the father's constant bickering and poor fortune (at the engagement party he's forced to play bartender the whole night because his guests just want, want, want, and so he ends up disgruntled and not getting to give a speech for his daughter) do actually work as comedy. One of the oldest forms of humor is laughing at another's misfortune, and thus it's easy to watch this movie as a pure lighthearted whimsy and ignore the grimmer undertones. Are these undertones a bad thing? Not necessarily, but because they're so connected to the actually content of the movie, it makes for a somewhat more unsettling experience. It also shows that by 1950 the age of the classic screwball comedy was quickly fading.