Saturday, 10 March 2018

Movie Review: The Thrill Of It All (1963)

A romantic comedy with a focus on the career versus family dilemma faced by women, The Thrill Of It All is out of step with the times but still offers plenty of laughs.

Beverly Boyer (Doris Day) is a housewife happily married to successful obstetrician Gerald (James Garner). She is fully in charge of running the house and raising two kids. Beverly is unexpectedly offered the opportunity to star in a television commercial for Happy soap, and her honest style is an immediate hit with viewers.

The Happy company make Beverly an offer she cannot refuse to become their regular spokesperson, and soon she is appearing on countless television commercials, billboards and in magazines. Her sudden success disrupts the Boyer's family life, Beverly and Gerald barely get to see each other, and he begins to deeply resent her career.

Directed by Norman Jewison and co-written by Carl Reiner, The Thrill Of It All offers an attractive package. The chemistry between Day and Garner is strong, the writing is sharp, the kids are unusually cute, the humour on the sides of the main plot is potent, and the story finds its way to some interesting emotional games between husband and wife.

At the heart of the film are the shifting household dynamics when a woman chooses to pursue a career. Stuck between the traditional 1950s and the turbulent 1960s, the film attempts to find its feet, and does not shortchange Beverly's willingness to try a new role and industry's big-money pursuit of a woman to represent a corporation. But Gerald is the most traditional of traditionalists, and much as he loves his wife he is incapable of elegantly adjusting to her having a career outside the house.

Jewison, in his second directorial feature, surrounds his troubled couple with plenty of wacky animated energy. The two young kids provide wry commentary, a German housekeeper rumbles through the household with tanklike charm, and Gerald's patient Mrs. Fraleigh (Arlene Francis) and her husband Gardiner (Edward Andrews) are fumbling with an unexpected later-in-life pregnancy. Gardiner's old coot of a father (Reginald Owen) owns Happy soap and is still smart enough to recognize a viewers' darling when he sees one. And an overnight swimming pool installation creates opportunities for some good madness.

The film's chosen ending belongs in another era entirely, but does not fully take away from the entertainment value. The Thrill Of It All is a societal relic, but it's a glossy and funny relic.

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