The most interesting part of this film to me was its highlight of how people set themselves up for failure and get bogged down by the idea of what they feel obligated to do vs what they want to (or need) to do for themselves. I loved how the film shows how Marty's friends and family came to rely on him being a failure, all the while criticizing him for continuing to be one. What an honest film.
The film stars Ernest Borgnine as the title character, a butcher who lives with his mother and hangs out with his buddies at night and on weekends. Even with all of these people in his life, Marty is lonely. He longs to be with a girl; a nice girl. As the film proceeds we follow Marty as he attempts to begin relationships with females that are mainly acquaintances, ships floating by in the dead of the night that you may wonder where they traveled after your encounter, but you'll never see them again. What happens next is the "when you least expect it" notion kicks in and Marty meets Clara (Betsy Blair) who he becomes enchanted with, even though Clara goes against the world that Marty has created for himself.
Borgnine's performance is on par with some of the best work of the 1950's, going well beyond the norms of the era. When Marty is shot down, lonely, excited, you feel it in his performance. You come along on this ride with Marty and it is an emotional roller coaster. It's a portrayal that will stay with you long after seeing this film. It's a masterpiece of a performance that won Borgnine a well deserved Academy Award. Those feelings go hand in hand with what you feel as a viewer, particularly when Marty and Clara begin their courtship. You feel those feelings that a person experiences when they meet a person and they like that person, spending hours with them just talking or walking or whatever because it doesn't matter. You just want to be with that person. It's a hard feeling to describe and it is something that comes up when reminiscing about that first meeting, but it's a universal feeling that a person holds onto throughout the rest of their life. Marty captures that moment perfectly. I can't think of a film that displays that moment and those feelings like Marty does. Usually they end up in slapstick like blah. There is not gimmick or pratfall. This is just two people falling for each other.
Marty is a best picture winner and coming from a time when epics and big names usually won the big prize Marty is a nice little breath of fresh air. It still holds the record as the shortest Best Picture.