Sunday 23 February 2014

Movie Review: Father Of The Bride (1950)

A heart-warming comedy, Father Of The Bride pokes fun at a father's befuddled emotions, with Spencer Tracy in top form and Elizabeth Taylor blossoming into adulthood.

Kay Banks (Taylor) suddenly announces to her parents Stan and Ellie (Tracy and Joan Bennett) that she will be marrying boyfriend Buckley Dunstan (Don Taylor). The news that his only daughter is about to fly the nest comes as a complete shock to Stan, who does not even know who Buckley is, let alone what he does for a living, how he will support Kay, and who his parents are.

After overcoming the initial shock, Stan meets Buckley and then his parents Doris and Herbert, and the family starts planning for the wedding. Although everyone desires a small ceremony and reception, the event quickly grows into a major and expensive event, complete with a snooty wedding planner. And just as the big day approaches, Kay and Buckley encounter a crisis.

Capturing every father's frazzled feelings when he realizes that his baby girl is about to belong to another man, Father Of The Bride is a bittersweet comedy. The film strikes all the perfect tones, as Stan progresses through the shock of receiving the news, anxiety about his future son-in-law, pride in his daughter, financial panic as the wedding arrangements threaten to get out of hand, and finally sweet resignation to just go with the flow. Spencer Tracy brings plenty of sincerity to the role, allowing the comedy to remain soft and grounded in genuine emotion.

All of the humour comes from the disconnect between Stan's bluster and his actual actions, as he misses every opportunity to actually get to know Buckley and his parents. Stan is of course clueless that he is the architect of his own angst. And when the wedding arrangements move into high gear, his natural inclination to want to solve problems collides with the expensive reality of professional event planning, and he is eventually sidelined into one role: paying the mounting bills.

At the heart of the movie is the tender relationship between father and daughter. The king loves his princess beyond what he can ever convey, and the idea of her heart being tied to another man is agonizing. Yet Stan cannot help but be proud of his role in the woman that Kay has become, and Tracy's performance finds that line between personal loss and unbridled joy.

Joan Bennett and Elizabeth Taylor are more physically busy than Tracy as the wedding day approaches, director Vincente Minnelli placing dad at the centre of the storm and therefore the point around which everything else revolves. Bennett and Taylor effectively portray women caught up in one of the biggest events of their lives, Ellie and Kay finally marginalizing Stan into an observer, ironically the perfect vantage point to come to terms with his emotions.

With wit and pathos hand in hand, Father Of The Bride walks down the aisle with pride.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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