Underneath "Meet Me in St. Louis" lies some of the best cinematic cheese you shall ever encounter. This classic musical is cheesy, sappy, and often times corny. Perhaps that's the point of aging, and what makes it still work now is the fact that it's still charming. If a film is charming once, I do not believe it will ever loose its appeal. Perhaps age comes to collect once in a while, but this is one of those films that fails to age as much as it should. "Meet Me in St. Louis" may not improve much as time goes on, but it doesn't get worse either. Long story short, this film is good, but not great. "Meet Me in St. Louis" is recognized for being upbeat and cheery for long periods of time. Never during the film did I feel the smallest bit of sadness that the characters did, although that does not mean that I was smiling at all times. However, I did smile a whole lot. This film is entertaining, pleasing, and amusing. Perhaps that is why people seem to enjoy it so much. And I understand why they would: it's a well made production. It might not be as good in 2010 as it was in 1944, but it has aged quite well in my opinion. If you aren't a fan of musicals to begin with, then I advise you to avoid it. This is not the best musicals out there, and I have seen better. This will NOT change your opinion on the film genre, although for a fellow such as me who enjoys good music once in a while, it was sort of refreshing. It's a treat; it really is. So if you're up for it, then please proceed. "Meet Me in St. Louis", while flawed, is worth your while. After all, who doesn't love a good classic film to get you in a good mood? I know that I do. I find these films interesting, although "Meet Me in St. Louis" was just one step down from true cinematic art. It's not meant for pure admiration, but it is made with considerable skill. Well...considerable enough skill for me to admire it on some given level. And that counts for something, right?
"Meet Me in St. Louis" is part musical, part drama, and part romance. The musical part means that there will be parts where very little makes sense. However, the plot is surprisingly woven together with craft, making the experience an easy one devoid of true burden. The story itself is a bit too upbeat for me, but it's well-written as far as musicals go. Not the entire story is told through the music this time around. So "Meet Me in St. Louis" is about a family who has a lot going on. One of the eldest daughters has fallen in love with a neighbor, the father announces that the family must move to New York for work, and the youngest is getting into all sorts of trouble. "Meet Me in St. Louis" goes through an entire year of seasons, showing the exploits of the characters contained within each one. The plot is fairly simplistic, although that doesn't mean it's masterful. The screen-play is well-written on its own, but the story doesn't exactly shout "classic". Nevertheless, the simplicity of the plot seems to fit in quite well with the happy mood of the film, and in the end it pieces together well enough to win me over. I found myself entertained for good periods of time, although in all honesty there were moments of boredom. None the less, I believe this is good filmmaking. It's an honest film; or at least one that wants to be. It should appeal to most people, unless you can't get past the fact that there's a lot of sap in this old Oak.
The performances are all-around quite good, and I think it's safe to say that nobody is horrible. Judy Garland is good in the leading role, although I don't know if it's anything higher or lesser than "good". There's also something quite charming about the performance of young Margaret O'Brien. Why wouldn't there be? Some may call her simply "cute", although I see fiery talent in this young lass. It's easy to miss that aspect. Tom Drake is the only actor who I think deserves any "major" awards for his efforts, since he actually tries REALLY hard, so it would seem. And he succeeds on his part in being a part of "Meet Me in St. Louis"; and by "part", I of course hint at a good one. If I had a complaint about the cast though, it would be that some of them aren't THAT good at singing. Luckily, this isn't quite the all-out musical one would expect. There's not a whole lot of musical numbers compared to other "musicals", although perhaps I would have liked a bit more; that is if more could have been supplied to begin with.
Most of the awards that "Meet Me in St. Louis" got were very well deserved. One of these awards was for "Best Cinematography", and I think I will address that first. I noticed up front how stunning this film looked for its time. It was in color, and the camera angles were actually complex for the 40's. That's not to downgrade the good old 40's, but it's to say that not everything had the gift of looking so damn good. The musical numbers in the film are mostly decent, although I didn't find them to be anything astounding. They weren't really "catchy" for the most part, although the few songs that did appeal to me tended to stick with me for quite some time. The film tells its story not through music, but through actual narrative. This is not the kind of musical that you may think it is, and that might be all the more reason to see it or not see it. You will most likely come out of it feeling the same way as you did when you went in. And that could either be a good thing or a bad thing. I won't be the one to judge. But before YOU judge this film, see it. I would like to discuss it with at least one more person. It feels as if it's one of those films that needs to be seen, discussed, and even criticized. Perhaps others will not agree with me when I say that it's purely pleasure.
It wouldn't hurt to give this film a try. I say go for it, especially if you can appreciate a good film. This is, indefinitely, a well-made production. Not only is it well produced, but it's also well directed. Director Vincente Minnelli is smart about his directorial choices, and in turn he makes a pretty smart movie. "Meet Me in St. Louis" is not perfect, and it's not something that I could watch over-and-over-again, but it's good enough to earn its stripes. I don't know whether to call it art or purely entertainment. Perhaps it is art. It has been said to be so by many film historians and critics alike. But I have my own opinion, and I regard this film as neither a classic nor a triumph. But it's good. And I say that with utmost honesty. If you like extremely upbeat stuff, then this is Heaven for you. But if you're like me and you want something a bit more in your tea, then it's still worth it, but you may not love it. I do not stand alone against the masses. I have established that. But...I still regard this as solid filmmaking. It's just not wonderful. And I will leave things at that.