One of my favorite pastimes, one in which I indulge all too infrequently, is to watch movies from the 1940s. I love their middle class snobbery, their sexism, the clothes, the sets, the silly plots, the humor. So when I read in one of my shelter mags that a woman had decorated her house based on the movie Mrs. Miniver, I knew I had to see it.
Mrs. Miniver starts with an emphatic scene of double-decker buses. England! Better and better. Greer Garson, the star, is on a bus, looking troubled. She fights her way off and hurries against busy street traffic with the air of someone rushing to a deathbed. She enters a shop and inexplicably buys a bit of roadkill to wear on her head then hurries home with her guilty purchase. Meanwhile, Mr. Miniver is buying himself a new car. It's like an ocean liner on wheels. There's a charming bedroom scene (twin beds) where Mr. Miniver tries to introduce the new car by saying he had another flat tire and Mrs. Miniver generously tells him to go ahead and buy a new tire, and then models the roadkill for him for which he shows a marked lack of enthusiasm.
And so I thought I was in for a comfortable domestic drama: Hollywood's idea of Middle America's idea of Merrie Olde England, where there's a man you address as "Vicar" when you meet him on the train, an elderly lady aristocrat who behaves like a contender for Monty Python's "Upper Class Twit of the Year" award, the young son who goes off to Oxford to learn how to be a bore, and the Miniver's chintzy house, which is like Beverly Hills meets Ottery St. Catchpole. Then the War begins and things take a darker turn, although I still thought the movie would end with Mrs. Miniver selling the roadkill at a jumble sale to benefit the RAF. Actually, the ending, which would otherwise be cheesy, is poignant when you realize that the movie was made in 1942, with the outcome of the war still unknown. Apparently Mrs. Miniver won a ton of Oscars and I feel a little guilty for making fun of it. I would watch it again, definitely.
Then last night, my daughters and I saw Sherlock Holmes. I was really excited to see this movie, but I have to say I was a bit disappointed. It's such a silly movie. There are some good scenes, definitely, and clever dialogue between Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law--unfortunately uglified with Victorian facial hair. I almost didn't recognize him. I do recognize that of all historical periods, the Victorian era had the most unattractive men.) I think my main problem with this movie is that it isn't good enough for Robert Downey Jr., or for Sherlock Holmes. It's a nice try, but a tad too brutish, both physically and intellectually.