Splendor in the Grass - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Splendor in the Grass Reviews

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July 10, 2016
good period pic and film debut of warren beatty-shirley maclaine's brother.
June 25, 2016
Thoughtful and emotionally moving. A very satisfying experience.
A must-see flick.
Powerful and shockingly revealing treatment of teen sexuality, repression, and especially mental illness. It even exposes the American Dream with its underside of false hopes, crushing expectations, and the weird demands overly ambiguous parents put on their children bc of societal norms.
If you are willing to follow everything despite the Technicolor flourishes and the sometimes overwrought emotions, this is a surprisingly satisfying story.
There is a thoughtful, naturalistic element to the acting here, and it speaks volumes to the craft of acting, and it rings true.

5 out of 5
June 9, 2016
A real masterpiece by Kazan. Nuanced and intelligent performances by all of the actors, a perfect cast really. Wonderfully complex themes on love, growing up, letting go of childhood, waking up to the flaws of adults, reconciling your parents as fellow humans, and what I like to call the condition of being female in society. I'm sure in '61 all of the women in this movie were easy to dismiss as the stereotypes they all as characters play into, but in 2016 it's hard not to see all of them as layered, relatable and misunderstood. There's never a moment in which Kazan dismisses any of these women, they all have their moment of sympathy and empathy from the camera and the script.
What a sad, beautiful film. Not to mention some really shocking scenes (especially for '61) that still make you gasp.
Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
½ May 27, 2016
Such a heartbreaking tale of teenage angst and tragic love. Natalie Wood is stunning and in a story with some real weight to it, performs brilliantly. The film 'introduces' Warren Beatty, who's no slouch himself, and finer looking couple I don't think you'll ever see.

The film opens with the two of them making out heavily while parked by a waterfall (the crashing falls a little heavy in their symbolism), and her stopping him, much to his frustration. Once home, her mother cautions her about going too far, and then tells her that not only do good girls save themselves for marriage, but they don't have those urges at all(!) Meanwhile, he goes home to a father who tells him he'll have to marry her if he gets her pregnant, and then rams his vision for the boy's future down this throat, which is Yale followed by a job in his oil business, all without pausing to listen to him. Both go to bed understandably frustrated. Their parents have spoken to them out of love, but not in an open-minded way, and one that's hopelessly outdated.

You really feel for Wood in this film. Her looks of love into Beatty's eyes are intensely endearing. Frustrated, he tests his power over her by pushing her to her knees and saying "at my feet, slave", and makes her tell him how much she loves him. She says she would do anything for him, and we believe it, but understand she won't do *that*. It drives Beatty crazy and he wants to marry her, but his father insists that he wait until after college, and encourages him to go after a "different kind of girl" to relieve his frustrations(!) The well-meaning but bad parenting abounds. Ultimately Beatty breaks it off with Wood despite their love for one another, and from there, her spiral begins.

Wood has three fantastic scenes that earned her an Academy Award nomination. In the first, her teacher forces her to recite a poem from William Wordsworth; the words clearly relate to her heartbreak:

"What though the radiance
which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass,
of glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind..."

The second has her in the bathtub, where her mother's only concern is whether he "spoiled" her, and her emotional reaction, expressing her grief and frustration of it all, "spoiled?? I'm not spoiled, mom! I'm not spoiled, mom! I'm just as fresh and viriginal as the day I was born, mom!" her voice and emotion rising. We really feel the hypocrisy of the double standard - girls are either "bad" or "good" - and the horrible position this puts them in.

In the third scene, Wood throws herself at Beatty, saying she's not a nice girl, and he resists, sensing her desperation and knowing they shouldn't do it in her state of mind. He asks her where's her pride, and she erupts, "My pride?! I haven't any pride! I just want to die!"

Did I mention heartbreaking? They part, Beatty to a life of dissipation at Yale, Wood to a mental institution in Virginia. They never forget one another, but their time is past. The ending is brilliantly balanced. A couple of years later she sees him for closure; he's married with a child, and she's engaged. She asks him whether he's happy, and he replies, "I guess so. I don't ask myself that question much ... What's the point, ya gotta take what comes." So poignant.

One thing I've always found a little odd is how Beatty's bohemian, somewhat wild sister, played very well by Barbara Loden, disappears after some great scenes, the last of which has her drinking too much out of frustration at a New Year's party, 1929. She underscores the double standard and the desire to freely pursue one's destiny, wanting to go to California and study art, and saying she's a "freak in this town". The other small knock I have is that while the film is set in 1928, aside from the old car and some elements of the set, it really feels like 1961, the year it was made, based on the appearances of the characters and the story itself.

No matter, though. This is a timeless story of heartache and passion, and yet in the end, maturity in working through breaking up over a love that (unfairly) couldn't be. Kazan directs it well, bringing out great performances and emotion, without being overly melodramatic. He's also daring - what Beatty (and Wood) want is abundantly clear - while at the same time being honest, and real. Definitely recommended.
½ May 20, 2016
I was skeptical at first but I found this to be a great film that battles a lot of today's issues with young love and the coping skills young teens lack. How young heartache can cause so many issues mentally. Not only in the category of love but in the loss of those we are close to in many ways, not just romantically. Natalie Woods gave a stellar performance! Warren Beatty was also great in his first film debut.
½ March 5, 2016
More than about love, this movie is about generational abyss. However, the only good thing is Natalie Wood, with a full of emotion interpretation: the rest of the characters (families, Beatty) are just dominated by the morality of the time. So, everything seems stupid and avoidable.
½ May 30, 2015
Elia Kazan (with playwright William Inge) brings us melodrama of an almost Sirkian kind - although Sirk typically took things much further, emotionally and sociologically. True, Natalie Wood does allow sexual repression to drive her to hysteria (and the sanatorium). And Warren Beatty can't come to terms with his own impulses. And Kazan does take aim at the late 1920's Kansan context and the way that nice girls didn't and bad girls go to hell (and what's a poor boy to do). But in comparison to a film like Written on the Wind, it feels as though Kazan is holding back. Having watched this directly after Palo Alto (2013) with its depiction of kids running rampant and no urge really restrained suggests that there are both differences (actual behaviour) and similarities (pressures to "become" something) in the experience of high schoolers across films/generations. The one exquisite emotion that Kazan's film is able to achieve spawns directly from the title (and Wordsworth's poem): a bittersweet nostalgia for previous episodes in our lives that used to mean so much but which have now faded gently away.
½ March 7, 2015
Brilliant direction and curious themes that are observed in this film that were of current interest back then.
February 19, 2015
A film that confronts traditional taboos with contemporary problems via youth trying to find themselves.
February 6, 2015
one of the greatest films ever made... the cast, the director... William Inge the creator, the musical score,so perfect, so eloquent, so perfect a representation of a time and place and people... I'm blown away with awe every time I see it. MJL
November 24, 2014
An okay, but not great, drama. While it tackles a few interesting themes - love, insanity (and how they're related...), domineering parents, independence - it just feels choppy in its storytelling. The pacing just feels uneven, and some of the themes not fully developed. The movie also seems to run out of steam at a point.

This is in part rescued by the great performance by Natalie Wood (which got her an Oscar nomination) and the solid performance by Warren Beatty, in the lead roles. This was Beatty's big screen debut.

Support is a bit hit-and-miss. Pat Hingle is incredibly irritating as the overbearing father. One could blame the writer or director for that, but he seemed way over-the-top.
November 23, 2014
***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***
August 12, 2014
Culturally interesting as an early 'teen movie'.
August 5, 2014
Splendor in the Grass is one of my favorite films, but when I was about to watch it to review I had forgotten why I liked it so much. After watching it, I remembered why. There are many reasons, from Natalie Wood to containing the best piece of advice in the world, "You should always drink plenty of milk." The best part is the first twenty minutes. It is loaded with great lines and iconic scenes. That is where they set up just about every pre-counterculture sexual archetype.

The first half of the story is a coming of age story. It explores the social dynamic of two types of girls. It used to exist in this country, and still exists in many others. As doctrine it states, "There are two types of girls, one who is chaste and pure that you eventually marry. The other, one who is lose and fun that no one will ever marry." Warren Battey wants to sleep with Natalie Wood, and wants to marry her. He is willing to wait until they are married, but his father won't let him, so he is left with wanting to sleep with Natalie before they are married. Natalie wants to sleep with him as well, partly because she wants to make him happy, partly because she wants to. She resists because she doesn't want to be the second type of girl, thus they will never get married.

Natalie's father is somewhat interesting. He seems ineffectual. The first few times I saw him, I laughed. Very silly, in one scene he walks right into a dramatic moment, just thinking, "I'm just going to walk over here, wearing my straw hat." That might just be my interpretation. While perhaps an ineffectual man, at the end of the day he is a very effectual father. He sells his stock in the oil company to take care of his daughter. He has faith in her, he is the only one willing to allow her to meet Warren at the end of the movie.

One interestingly disturbing scene is when Warren is choking Natalie and commanding her to worship him. It is not the best scene in the movie, but every time I see it becomes more compelling.

Warren Battey's mother is not interesting. His father is obsessed with making sure his son marry the right type of girl. He doesn't even care that his daughter has become the wrong type of girl. He so wants a better life for his son that Warren isn't allowed to have the life he wants.

Natalie's mother is perhaps the most compelling adult. She comments to Natalie that a woman doesn't enjoy sex, she just does it to make her husband happy. This compounds the confusion Natalie is having, by asserting that she is wrong to even want to have sex.

This reminds me of an interview I once saw with a homemaker. She was talking about how much she cooks, and it seemed like she enjoyed cooking. When asked if she likes to cook, she took a pause and said, "Not really." This may be a wild guess on my part, but I think she actually likes cooking. She says she doesn't because she considers herself a feminist, and she believes that a woman doesn't do those things she does them because she has to. Feminism is good when it allows women to do things, but bad when it holds them back. There is a George Carlin routine where he, in the name of feminism, attacks housewives. When feminism is used like this it leads people to react negatively to all feminism.

Natalie Wood goes crazy, which she always does brilliantly. The most brilliant scene is her confronting her mother in the bathtub. The last part is basically an extended conclusion. Natalie goes to a mental institution. Here a psychiatrist gives her the second best piece of advice in this movie, "We blame our parents for everything these days, but remember they had parents too." She gets better. The market crashes, which means Natalie's father was able to get more out of his stock than anyone else. Warren's father commits suicide, a fairly fitting finish. Warren meets a woman in New York. "You've never had pizza?" she asks. She rejects the two types of woman doctrine and leads a healthy, modern life.

The very end has Natalie (now engaged) and Warren (now married) meet again. Natalie is surprised by his barefoot and pregnant wife. We are left with a shot that leads us to wonder if Natalie is okay with Warren's happy marriage. I think she is.
½ July 17, 2014
Love can be both splendid & splintered, especially a first love.
½ May 8, 2014
must admit I did nod off toward the end
April 30, 2014
Wishy washy teenagers
Super Reviewer
April 1, 2014
Quite an interesting film in its time..the discussion of hormones in the early 60s before everyone else was talking about it. The late great Natalie Wood plays off Warren Beatty and eventually her character trumps him for good measure.
March 2, 2014
Natalie Wood and Warren Beauty are a high school teenage couple who seem made for each other, but are torn apart with disastrous consequences due to living in conservative 1920's Kansas. It doesn't help that Warren's father bullies him, and that Natalie's parents fail to understand her. Warren's first film and possibly Natalie's greatest performance.
February 6, 2014
Splendor in the Grass is my favorite movie!!!!!!!!
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