Saturday 2 December 2023

Movie Review: The Americanization Of Emily (1964)

Genre: War Drama Comedy Romance
Director: Arthur Hiller
Running Time: 115 minutes

Synopsis: In London of 1944, D-Day preparations are underway. The US Navy's Lieutenant Charlie Madison (James Garner) manages logistics for Admiral Jessup (Melvyn Douglas), who is concerned that the Navy's war efforts are underappreciated. A charming womanizer and admitted coward, Charlie starts a romance with Emily Barham (Julie Andrews), a military pool driver who believes in notions of honour and sacrifice. When the ailing Jessup demands a propaganda film of the Normandy invasion, Charlie and his colleague Lieutenant "Bus" Cummings (James Coburn) are thrust uncomfortably close to the front lines.

What Works Well: The Paddy Chayefsky adaptation of William Bradford Huie's novel is full of sharp intellectual debate, delivered with cynical conviction by characters navigating the turmoil of World War Two. Themes include the contrast between the American and English perspectives on the war; the value and exploitation of service and honor as opposed to practical individual survival objectives; and the preoccupation with optics and finance plaguing the military's leadership. In a sexually liberated milieu, Julie Andrews as Emily is a bright light amidst the uniforms, representing British resilience in the face of personal loss and an American cultural invasion.

What Does Not Work As Well: The multiple competing narrative ambitions result in plot threads being abandoned for long stretches. The tonal shifts between romance, philosophizing, and outright cynicism are often jarring, with several characters recalibrating beliefs according to the whims of the script. Some of the dialogue exchanges are theatrically wordy. 

Conclusion: A whip-smart and well-rounded commentary on war's conundrums.

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