Posted on 4/10/13 12:20 AM
Love, marriage, and parenthood, all the bittersweet magnificence of life is on display in "Penny Serenade", a sentimental little film from 1941. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne star as the lovers who, as the movie opens, seem doomed to separate. As she's packing to leave her husband, she finds a box of old records and begins to listen to them. Each record is tied to a specific place and time in her mind, unlocking memories that show a relationship unfold as the movie progresses. The song she was playing at the record store where she worked when they first met or the song that reminded her of the time they spent living in Japan, each is a poignant little chapter in the lives of these two people. But why is she leaving her husband? The answer reveals itself slowly and tragically.
It's said that the human body is simply a vehicle for genes needing to replicate (Agent Scully, X-Files, season 4, episode 2), so the suggestion is that a body unable to reproduce might lose its purpose. If I can find any fault in "Penny Serenade", it's that the ending is wrapped up a little too neatly and perhaps a little too callously. There are some things in life you can't just kiss and make better. There are some losses that can't be cooled with an ice cream cone on the ride home. Dunne and Grant both deliver career-highlight performances (Grant was in fact, nominated for an Oscar), and maybe the ending was an audience appeasement. After all, when we've invested so much emotion into the characters, it would be cruel not to give some light at the end of the tunnel.