Tom Jones Reviews
Started well. There was a lightness and exuberance to the film that carried it along and it had the potential to be a great comedic look at the lives of the landed gentry. I kept waiting for it to click into top gear and let the humour flow.
Yet it never really came. The set up was often there but the writer and director pulled their punches. From a point it just degenerated into silly farce, Carry On-like.
It has its moments but these are few and far between. These moments do serve to remind you how good the movie could have been. They also make the movie quite uneven, as you have these highs, making you think that the film has at last kicked up a notch, only to go back to the mediocrity that came before.
Somehow this movie won the Best Picture Oscar in 1964. Must have been a lean year for good movies and, looking at the other contenders, clearly it was.
From a silent film-style prologue and the occasional fourth wall break, to edgy dark humor, biting satire and colorful slapstick, the style to the humor and storytelling is unorthodox and typically effective, but uneven, with too loose a grip on the balance to the stylistic dynamicity for it to feel necessary. The stylistic inconsistency waters down the effectiveness of the humor, although I question if he hits were ever going to keep consistent by their own right, because as riotously funny and fun as this film is on the whole, whichever style it jars into comes with flaws, whether it be the dark humor which gets too awkwardly edgy for comfort, or the satire which lapses in subtlety at time, or the wit which gets too dry to be lively, or the slapstick which gets kind of cheesy, marking a height in the silliness which never really strays too far from storytelling. It's sometimes a little hard to embrace all of this quirk in the context of the telling of this very intentionally romantic and very colorful story, at least once you're faced with a combination of overblown fluff and overblown plot structuring. When I deem the plot structuring overblown, I mean that this film takes a convoluted route by layering on various branches and themes to the narrative, then having the audacity to rush through the development of these excessive aspects in order to exacerbate their feeling forced, and to establish a sense of inconstancy to pacing to accompany a sense of inconsistency to focus. Due to there being an unevenness to the structural pacing of this simultaneously undercooked and convoluted comedy, rushed spots go compensated for by tight aspects, in addition to aspects of excess which extend beyond the overall layering of the narrative, coming in the form of needless, almost repetitious filler which thins what realized focus there is to this disjointed affair into an aimlessness that a film so conceptually reliant on momentum cannot afford to succumb to. I mean, in a lot of ways, this film simply is what it is: an inconsequential affair whose conceptual lack of depth cannot justify a runtime of almost 130 minutes, let alone compensate for missteps in humor, focus and consistency. This film is almost rather forgettable in retrospect, but it is made fairly memorable by its being so fun, even in its musical style.
The film's opening prologue is, not in black-and-white, but still presented in the style of a silent film, complete with dialogue cards and a quirky piano score, by John Addison, which is not abandoned after the opening, though often subdued with beautiful, traditional light classical sensibilities which bring some diversity to this colorful and genuinely unique score, which compliments the fluff and taste of this affair, as surely as Ted Marshall's art direction sells the era, and handsomely. This story is dramatically slim, yet still convolutedly overblown with melodramatic layers and themes whose incorporation doesn't even feel all that realized, thus, there is plenty of unexpected blandness to this plot, but on the whole, even in concept, it is very lively, juggling themes of fluffy romance and adventure with diverse, if uneven humor which encompasses edge, satire and silliness, and holds plenty of potential for entertainment value. Tony Richardson's direction does not fail to draw upon the color of this story concept, at least more consistently than the script, never allowing pacing to fall to blandness, and rarely even allowing it to descend beneath brisk, securing it through anything from a flashy style to some dynamically staged action set pieces. Richardson at least keeps the charm up by working exquisitely with a charismatic cast of talent, each one of whom is assigned a distinguished role which he or she nails through dynamic and thorough charm that ranges from endearing to sparkling, yet is never lost in any performance. The charisma and chemistry between just about every performer featured in this film make for some memorable characters, although the roles would not be so distinguished if they weren't well-drawn in an unevenly structured script. John Osborne's script delivers on more than just colorful, if either over-the-top or thin characterization, also delivering on, say, an uneven comic style, flat spots in humor, and a convoluted, inconsistent plotting structure, that is, when he isn't delivering on some tight and all of the bloating, and whose liveliness goes augmented by generally sharp humor which has enough wit and energy to amuse as frequently chuckle-worthy, and often, well, downright hilarious. This film is so much fun, and outside of entertainment value, it hardly has much going for it, and yet, plenty of style and amusement make the final product a fair one, despite its limitations and missteps.
When the adventure is done, some inconsistencies in style flatten the liveliness about as much as flat spots in humor, questionable themes, and an unevenness to focus and pacing which convolute a story that is still of little consequence, but quirky score work, solid art direction, lively directorial storytelling, across-the-board sparklingly charming performances, and a script full of color and sharp humor manage to make Tony Richardson's "Tom Jones" a fun, if underwhelming pseudo-classic of a romantic period comedy and adventure flick.
2.5/5 - Fair