A Face in the Crowd Reviews
Lonesome must be the voice behind Donald Trump, using words that reach the common people at first, but in actuality isolate him from the leadership people need. The politicians who align themselves with him "know what's best for the people," and Lonesome is willing to jump right on that wagon. But he wasn't always like this, he's far more complicated than that. In fact it was a fiery independent spirit that propelled him, never succumbing to the sponsors (like the mattress man) who paid him, thus empowering him over them - people would riot in his favor. Unlike Barry Lyndon, he's willing to take a backseat to success at first; rather be poor than kiss anyone's ass. But something clicks at a certain point, when he sees that he can influence powerful people, that suddenly he's willing to work with them. It starts off at Vitajax, where he pops these useless pills like candy, taking over the room with nothing but charisma, the suggestion they ought to be yellow, and ultimately the placebo to a hungrier sexual appetite, which is played out rather explicitly for a 50s film. The Marilyn Monroe girl selling the giant bottle at her bedside was priceless. From here, we suddenly see him happily selling products on his TV show, whereas before he was mocking them. He's getting a hell of a pay, and as he grows in success, shamelessly dotes on women, even though Marcia is his gal. But she is na´ve to his playboy, even when he's chasing other girls in front of her. This attitude doesn't change until he shamelessly goes after a teenager in Betty Lou, which creates some reluctance in certain circles, but doesn't throw him out of the fold quite yet. He ends up marrying her deceitfully behind Marcia's back, who he'd just proposed to. And it's all downhill from here. Eventually he catches his manager and friend Joey sleeping with Betty, thus tossing her from his life, which results in a whiny teenage tantrum.
One of my favorite moments is the descent into Hell montage in which we symbolically watch the lights on the elevator take him down while intercutting with various sponsors and fans pulling out from the Lonesome camp. I laughed when he said , "take me down" - I didn't think the symbolism would carry any further. From here, Lonesome enters the murky depths of his own phony existence, succumbing to a completely detached from reality breakdown after learning that the world has heard his negative view of them when Marcia Jeffries left his microphone on through the end credits. He was bound to get to this point, a boy trapped in a man's body, anxious to feed his insecurities, hurting anyone along the way to do it, including the only person who ever really believed in him, loved him, and gave him the chance, Marcia. There's a terrific thunderstorm set moment when he cries in her lap and we see her acknowledge herself as the creator of this monster, a shadow coming across her face like Bride of Frankenstein. But her intention was good, to help someone who probably didn't have a real shot in life, and she does not deserve to take all the blame, nor will the film ultimately punish her that way. Lonesome is like David Lynch's Experiment, formed in a box (jail cell), let loose in the world, viciously causing damage to anything it comes before - and it was always just that, an experiment gone wrong.
I was initially reluctant to sit down and watch a movie in the middle of the day when this came on, despite it being an Elia Kazan film. I decided I'd watch the opening minutes, and if anything grabbed me, I would stay with it until I was slightly less interested. That's the magnetic power of Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal, two fiery ambitious, extremely attractive people. Griffith's electricity shocked me, as I know him to play much more low key roles with calm. And I couldn't stop looking at Patricia Neal, not beautiful in the bombshell way, but so much more obsessively intriguing, a more broken in face, a woman with experience, and yet the desire to be ever young in Lonesome's rebel fantasy.
This is a movie that I had not heard of before when I decided to watch it. I saw it was directed by Elia Kazan, the man behind "On the Waterfront", one of my all-time favorite films, as well as "Gentleman's Agreement". So I could at least hope that the movie would be well-directed, well-acted, and kind of interesting.
What might be your first reaction to a movie about rise to fame? Will it end happily or tragically? Is it just a typical story of the pitfalls or perks of being a celebrity? Does this look familiar from another movie, or even in real life? I'd be surprised if this kind of story does not sound even slightly familiar, because it turns out to occur in the real world to so many people. There are some who use their popularity to entertain people in many different ways, and there are those who try to help people change their lives for the better. Sadly, there are people who can get so wrapped up in their fame that they get involved in dangerous things, such as drugs, or grow haughty, manipulative, and selfish, that they end up negatively affecting their lives and those of their close ones. This movie seems to be all the more relevant in today's society.
If a movie is going to have a very familiar story, though, it needs something added to it to separate it from other films of its kind. In "A Face in the Crowd", my favorite parts were Griffith's acting and the story. Most of the cast members do well in their parts. I think Walter Matthau could have used more screen time as Mel, but at least he has arguably the best phrase in the movie: "Demagogue in Jeans". Patricia Neal does a very good job playing Marcia. She portrays different emotions well enough to make people feel sympathy for her, especially with her relation with Lonesome. And speaking of Lonesome, Andy Griffith was downright incredible as the singer/motivator! I could totally believe that his character can exist because of his wide range of emotions and expressions from being likable and talented to selfishly manipulative. It's quite interesting that a film from the 1950's features a celebrity with his own talent show as the sole judge, one of different factors contributing to his ego. It reminds me of someone running for president this year... (Please note, I'm not taking sides here; I'm just bringing this up because I immediately related him to this candidate when I saw the film in January).
The story is thoroughly engaging. Save for a few slow scenes, I was quite invested in Lonesome's journey and the effects of his life choices and ego as a celebrity. I won't talk too much about what it all leads to (because, spoilers), but suffice it to say that as the movie approached its end, it grew more intense, and the aftereffects are powerful.
"A Face in the Crowd" is a very well-acted drama featuring a timeless story that does not seem to fade away in our society any time soon. I look forward to watch this movie again, and really hope that eventually more people will see this.