The Cobweb - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Cobweb Reviews

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November 29, 2016
A complicated drama compounded only to drive you nuts. It must have been very popular in its day. Another lost flixster rating to boot.
½ September 16, 2016
gr8 another lost review
½ September 18, 2014
Melodrama aplenty in an exclusive psychiatric unit where the staff are just as crazy as the voluntary patients.The movie would have worked better as a comedy as the heavy handed approach used here falls flat and the ending is entirely unconvincing despite the stellar cast and Minnelli's direction.
December 23, 2012
A beautiful and ridiculous film
Super Reviewer
½ May 29, 2012
Minnelli managed to assemble an all star cast for such a strange concept. On paper it would seem like the plot of a screwball comedy but the movie is played completely straight, and is all the worse for it. You'll be screaming at the characters to lighten up. None of them are particularly likable, neither inmates or administrators. You would think someone with as much experience of clinics as Minnelli had, thanks to his estranged wife, would give us more of an insight.
The patients just aren't convincing enough and are reduced to big name extras. The administrative staff are given cliched storylines to follow. If there are any central characters it's Widmark and Grahame, a bickering married couple. Bacall is completely wasted in a throwaway role as a chain-smoking activities director. Levant is perfectly cast as an inmate but doesn't get enough screen time to exploit his melancholy persona.
Perhaps the movie would have fared better had it been made twenty years later. With it's sprawling cast it resembles the films of Altman but Minnelli couldn't call on the technology that allowed Altman his famous overlapping dialogue. Considering the subject matter the movie is far too sane. A seventies version would have allowed a lot more freedom to explore the issues.
At one point, young inmates Kerr and Strasberg leave the clinic for a night at the cinema. A metaphor perhaps for Minnelli's plunging himself into his work to escape the grim reality of life with Judy?
There have been some great movies set on psychiatric wards, "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest", "Shock Corridor", but I wouldn't bother booking yourself in for treatment here.
October 27, 2011
An absolute masterpiece experienced in all of its 35mm glory at the BAM tonight!
Super Reviewer
½ September 16, 2011
It's all about the DRAPES!!!! Truly odd film is loaded with great actors and a ludicrous story. How it ever got the green light from the studio is mystery number one, that Vincente Minnelli said okay to directing it is the second although that would explain why so many great actors allowed themselves to be involved. Laughable take on mental health but good for one fun viewing as a camp catastrophe.
September 16, 2011
Much Ado About Drapes!!!! I don't see the point of this Film....
½ February 15, 2010
Stellar cast. The main action of the film revolves around the selection of new drapes for the library at the Castle House Clinic for Nervous Disorders. The ending did not suit my tastes.
October 15, 2009
There is an element of escapism in Minnelli's penchant for melodrama, and joy is the voice of the escaped psyche, but he hasn't quite released himself from his frustrations with reality, as they are all over his melodramas, disparaged by the atonal brasses from composer Leonard Rosenman. Like Minnelli's Hollywood melodrama The Bad and the Beautiful, his 1955 film The Cobweb depicts the indoor routine of a secluse, insulated group of people, and like the former, it focuses on professional careers atoning for emotional hang-ups, particularly isolated, disheartened home lives. In a sense, the film follows the quest for the perfect family. The film's effect relies on the acute lucidity with which the audience can relate to the characters. The Cobweb becomes a personal film for Minnelli in more manners than one.

The psychiatric environment embodies a disparaging enthrallment for Minnelli, after years of shepherding Judy through myriad institutions. The curious scenario, and some of the characters, strike a unity, playing to the inner pretentious aesthete in us all. The animosity between the clinic's patients and the bickering personnel detonates over a presumably frivolous decorative issue, the choice of new drapes for the lounge. Though for an epicure like Minnelli, the matter is invariably not frivolous but crucial. Furnishings express not only ornamental but more deep-seated conscientious matters as well.

Richard Widmark plays a clinical psychiatrist stuck between his household family of his wife Karen and their two children, and the makeshift family that he propagates in his clinic with self-motivated staff worker Lauren Bacall, and agitated teenage artisan John Kerr. Widmark and Bacall ask Kerr to create new drapes for the clinic's library as a healing activity, not knowing that Gloria Grahame, Widmark's frustrated wife, and a stately administrator at the clinic played with bureaucratic bustle by Lilian Gish, have already taken charge of doing it. This unfolding intrigue conveys considerable labyrinthine kindred, civil, and administrative warfare. Reproach flourishes in the forms of the artist as refugee, profession as rectification for private disenchantment, the grind between cultivating one's identity at the cost of solitude and the compulsion to follow and synthesize into a comprehensive society.

The clinic on screen doesn't parallel any specific or incidentally real institution. The group scenes play out like Minnelli's usual party scenes, a neurotic congregation of loose-lipped free-thinkers and recoiling self-observers, boldly highlighted by Charles Boyer's admirably self-effacing performance. He is an actor utterly sure of himself and needs no abstract means of support. And no matter how many times one has heard thoughts expressed by however many people, Lauren Bacall always makes them sound original. Thus The Cobweb is not impaired by a lack of realism but embellished by a uniquely expressionistic blend of tones.

The movie's household scenes are more horrific than those at the clinic. Many couples will identify strongly with the arguments between Grahame, who believes her husband is implying malicious affronts, and Widmark, who never says anything to his wife that means anything but exactly what he's saying. Widmark is not giving a wooden portrayal of a sensitive man but a sensitive portrayal of a man who is not bothered by much. Conversely, Grahame famously said, "It's not how I looked at a man; it was the thought behind it." I believe her, because she plays Widmark's wife as someone unhappy with who she is and what she has because her mind is scattered and she is not content with thinking.

It's a nugget of blackly hilarious, embroidered reality that indicates the immediate misanthropy about family life in the flush 1950s, and how many American marriages persist in self-insulated conditions to this day with similar results. Note this bit between a patient and his psychiatrist: "Your'e supposed to be making me fit for normal life. What's normal? Yours? If its a question of values, your values stink. Lousy, middle-class, well-fed smug existence. All you care about is a paycheck you didn't earn and a beautiful thing to go home to every night." Or the fleeting brush between Grahame and Kerr, in which they consider the connotations of flowers.
½ August 16, 2009
Mildly entertaining Minnelli soaper, but nowhere as good as "Bad and the Beautiful" or "Two Weeks in Another Town." Graham is excellent and Widmark is solid, but the fact that much of the drama swirls around which drapes will be hung in the hospital is rather silly, even if it was supposed be a ridiculous disagreement that brings simmering emotions bubbling to the surface. The film is not available on DVD, so it was still a treat to see Minnelli in widescreen when it was shown on TCM.
½ August 10, 2008
with Minelli you can't go wrong
½ March 12, 2008
I only wish that someone had uttered the line "It's curtains for you!". It would not have been out of place in this often over the top drama of drapes and doctors. Also, was it planned that Gloria Grahame's skin looked so shiny? She looked like she was sweating the entire film, and I guess it fit her character's simmering sexuality, but even still someone should have gotten her a towel.
½ March 11, 2008
A power stuggle over drapes serves as a vehicle for exploring the screwed-up lives of doctors and staffers at a psych clinic. A little too slow and overly dramatic, but hey, it was the 50s.
March 11, 2008
Totally schmaltzy. Was that seriously a 2-hour movie about the trials and tribulations of hanging drapes in a mental institution common room?
September 11, 2007
SOAP OPERA! Very Peyton Place-y. Where Peyton Place was set in a small-New England town -- this one is set primarily at a small-New England Mental Institution. Peyton Place also had up-and-coming and pin-up idols as most of it's cast -- The Cobweb uses all formidable actors and "method"-up-and-comers. The performances that John Kerr and Susan Strasberg put in are wonderful and reminiscent of James Dean and Julie Harris. But Richard Whitmark, Lauren Bacall (one of my favorites), Lillian Gish, and others all put in amazing performances. The real star and center of the film is Gloria Grahame. She shows off her acting chops very well as the forgotten, neglected, sexy wife.
This film has to be released on DVD! It is right up there with Peyton Place and those small-town melodramas. A favorite of mine. Catch it on TCM -- but you can find copies on Ebay.
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