sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote 2017-07-03 11:32 am (UTC)

The plot thickens!

I don't understand this movie. The WWI backstory is a stroke of topical genius—it strengthens the stakes of the firewalk and ties it into the reasons Johnny's trying to drop off the map to begin with, so that it's not just an arbitrary opportunity for redemption but the closing of a long-wounded circle; it anticipates Depression-era concerns of the "forgotten man" and makes Girl of the Port one of the few Hollywood movies of the time I've seen to deal directly with the war and its aftermath.1 Even if it slingshots the recovery at the last minute, the focus on shell-shock is also unusual enough to be valuable. All of that is clever and resonant, exactly the way a screenwriter is supposed to turn decent material into something special. Changing McEwen's ethnicity is . . . not that. Not only is it a utterly superfluous alteration in that it doesn't amend any deficiencies in the original story—which provides, as I sensed it would, plenty of reasons for McEwen's behavior that have nothing to do with being called out racially in front of a crowd—it introduces problems the original story didn't have! It improves nothing. On a merely structural level, I don't understand how it persisted long enough in the script to get filmed. And yet here we are.

1. This was a parenthesis until I realized it was incredibly clunky. [personal profile] newredshoes has a great article on the paucity of American films about World War I. Off the top of my head, I can think of several silents I've encountered on the subject, like The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), The Big Parade (1925), What Price Glory? (1926), and Wings (1927), as well as some notable talkies, like The Last Flight (1931), The Lost Squadron (1932), Heroes for Sale (1933), and The Dawn Patrol (1938)—and I know others exist that I haven't gotten around to—but I agree it's nothing like the volume of World War II pictures out there.

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