Goodbye, Mr. Chips Reviews
Greer Garson as his wife changes his life
I had hopes for Goodbye Mr. Chips. Released in what many consider to be Hollywood's Greatest Year (a year filled with greats like The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Stagecoach), but nope; Goodbye Mr. Chips is not the moving, touching melodrama that I should be.
Based on some novel that I have zero interest in reading, the film is about a shy but strict British teacher named Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat), or "Chips" who dedicates himself to teaching generations of schoolchildren. Greer Garson makes her debut appearance as Chips' lovely wife that dies after childbirth.
What's wrong with the film? Well, first I could never care for the Chips character. While not a completely horrific character per se his traits are handled in the blandest way. I'm not familiar with actor Robert Donat, but he didn't convince me. I admit the makeup was good, but he didn't convey the traits that should have made the character a fantastic one. Take the scene where he loses his wife for example. Donat fails to convey any single emotions in this scene. I also didn't care for the so-called attempt at comedy in the picture. His jokes are almost unbearable and especially unfunny. In a very forced WWI subtext, where firing is heard in the distance, Chips says something like, "There's nothing as scary in the past like these walls," and every single kid laughs. I admit that's nowhere as bad as let's say dog sex in Transformer 2, but you got to do a better joke than this!
What annoys me about Donat's role is that he won the Oscar for it, beating out Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind and Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith. I don't know about you, but I think that Gable and Jimmy are far better actors than someone not-so-great like Donat.
And that leads to my next point, and that it's hard to relate to any of the kids. The pacing seems extremely rushed and because of that, I never cared for any generation of children. Also it looked like the same kids were playing each generation, which was very irritating.
As obvious, the drama just didn't work for me. I've enjoyed b&w melodramas in the past (Casablanca is in my Top 20 Greatest Films of All-Time), much of the drama just felt too forced or too syrupy for my liking. As mentioned, Donat's emotions for his wife's death was severely lacking, and the WWI subtext was completely forced and a painkiller in pacing. Other moments turn from what should have been moments of inspiration into unintentional funniness, such as Donat running after a train with Garson in it and Donat in his deathbed. Seriously, if this was made today and colorized (cause you know children today don't care at all about no b&w), this would be your weekly Hallmark Channel movie. I guarantee that last statement.
But unlike your traditional Hallmark movie, there's one thing that makes me appreciate the film, sort-of, and that's Greer Garson. In her relatively small screen-time, cause (IT'S BEEN SPOILED ALREADY) her character dies, Garson shows more serious things in what's truly called acting than anything actually aired on Hallmark. Unlike so-called acting in Hallmark films, which involve Joey Lawrence riding a horse throughout the traffic of NYC to impress a girl and Carla Gugino "abducting" her sister's children to get away with it, Greer Garson (my first experience from her, by the way) virtually nails anything bad about my experience.
But despite Garson's short-lived attempt to make the film more interesting, I couldn't care less. Goodbye Mr. Chips is an utterly boring melodrama. The dramatic material is either forced or syrupy, the characterizations are one-dimensional, the comedy is horrid, and Robert Donat gives an extremely bland performance as the title character, one that should not, I repeat SHOULD NOT have won the Oscar, especially when greats like Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable were nominated the same year. 1939 may have been "Hollywood's Greatest Year", but Goodbye Mr. Chips is not Hollywood's greatest movie.