Sunday, March 9, 2008

Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Elia Kazan's Splendor in the Grass is really an outstanding picture. When I first saw it I was about sixteen, and I did not feel that way at all. I think this was probably due to the very slow pace of the film, because as we all know Mr. Kazan takes his sweet time. Natalie Wood plays Deanie Loomis, a high school girl in the late 1920s. Deanie is dating Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty in his first big screen role) who is the captain of the football team and son of oil tycoon Ace Stamper. Deanie and Bud are madly in love, but Bud is becoming increasingly frustrated with not being able to sleep with Deanie and his father not allowing them to be married. Meanwhile Deanie is also becoming frustrated because of her strong physical feelings for Bud but her mother telling her that nice girls don't feel that way. All of Bud's frustrations take hold of him on New Year's Eve 1928, when he finds his drunken flapper sister in a car with one of Deanie's friend’s date. This incident makes Bud feel that he is not being fair to himself or Deanie knowing that all he wants is sex at this time in his life. He doesn’t want to cheat on Deanie with the local flapper Juanita Howard, so he calls it off with Deanie. This sends Deanie into an emotional downward spiral, eventually leading to her attempted suicide that lands her in a mental hospital Wichita. Natalie Wood gives an absolutely incredible performance that should have won her the Oscar, which went to Sophia Loren instead. Warren Beatty is great as well in the role that made his career. Splendor in the Grass is a great story with even greater characters, definitely one to see if you're old enough to appreciate it. Overall 3.5/4 Stars Grade = B+

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