another great frank capra film. this one was remade with sandler playing deeds instead of gary cooper. when i first saw that version i hadn’t seen the original yet so i had nothing to compare it to. i found the remake enjoyable and funny enough. well, i finally got around to seeing the original and its amazing to see how watered down the remake is in comparison. this film starts as fairly light comedy, but grows into something resembling “gabriel over the white house” meets “grapes of wrath.” i said before that capra creates films that “are so easily made fun of, yet so undeniably inspiring that it almost seems a paradox.” what i essentially meant is that he creates situations that, if taken out of context, could seem cheesy or saccharine. but, when within the context of the film, are also quite inspirational at the same time. as it turns out, he summarizes this idea better than i ever could via jean arthur who, in this film, says “do you know what he (mr. deeds) told me tonight? he said me when he gets married he wants to carry his bride over the threshold in his arms.” the roommate responds “the guy’s balmy.” and jean arthur replies “is he? yeah, i tried to laugh, but i couldn’t – it got stuck in my throat.” this is the essence of capra’s work – sometimes your outward skeptic tries to laugh at the themes or situations he presents, but you can’t because his work is so effectively poignant that the laugh gets stuck in your throat and (often) turns to tears. he should be an inspiration to any director who wants to tell a story without frills. his compositions are fairly simple, but effective. his editing and camera placement aren’t overly technical or artistic. the music in mr. deeds goes to town is minimal. in other words, he tells these great stories through acting and writing. as strange as it may seem, these two elements are overlooked in today’s hollywood. actors are chosen as much by their ability to draw as their ability to fill the role. writing is mechanical, simplistic and uninspired.
jean arthur (one of my favorite actresses) is fantastic in a role that has been done a million times (usually by men and usually in “teen” flicks like 10 things i hate about you or she’s all that). she plays the reporter who dupes mr. deeds into thinking she’s just a girl who wants to get to know him, when in fact she is in it for the story. gary cooper plays the eponymous character and does a better job here than in “pride of the yankees.” his character is variable, complex and inspiring. he’s a simple, but tough and intelligent man. who fills this role now? who plays the inspiring everyman like cooper or stewart did? do these roles still exist? tim robbins in shawshank redemption is the first one that comes to mind. lionel stander also does a good job as mr. deeds’ loyal right hand man.