Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

06 March 2008

Family Plot, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1976)

NIKKI says:
I'm thinking we might end Hitchcock Week now before our opinion of him as the "master of suspense" alters any further. In just a handful of films, Hitchcock's catalogue is beginning to resemble a Backstreet Boys album -- some really fine work scattered amid a hell of a lot of filler.

Family Plot is the worst of that filler. An attempt a suspense-comedy (if that is a real sub-sub-genre), this one gives us a relatively complex plot that pieces together in novel ways, but instead of suspense, we're treated to meandering scenes, boring chases, and so-called comedic moments which are really just Barbara Harris being way annoying. I wished Humphrey Bogart would wander along and just slap her.

This was not Hitchcock's finest hour. In fact, apart from the sagging second half (as in Torn Curtain and The Man Who Knew Too Much), I could barely find Hitch here at all. Where was the suspense, the horror, the dark shadows, and even darker human thoughts? This was all just surface sheen, so little depth, and I don't want shallow in a Hitchcock movie.

Perhaps it was his old age turning on him? What a tragic pity this was his last movie. It's just woeful. So, I think Hitch Week is done, unless we just go back and watch the known classics -- Vertigo, The Birds, Psycho, Strangers on a Train, and the hit tracks. But even then I'm a bit scared. I think, even in those, I might spot more clearly Hitch's failings. I don't want that!

If we do finish Hitch Week on this one, it's definitely been an education.


STEVE says:
Wow. Up until Family Plot, I would have said that a Hitchcock movie is like pizza - even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. But that's not taking into consideration squid pizza, or potato pizza (no kidding), or Aussie pizza, where they put egg on it. Egg! What are you doing? You've ruined an otherwise perfectly good pizza with egg!

And that's where I stand with Family Plot.

It didn't start off too bad. A little wacky with Barbara Harris' pseudo-psychic and Bruce Dern's cantankerous cabbie, but that's alright. Hitch likes to have fun and can quite often play up the comedy in an otherwise straight scene - as we saw in The Man Who Knew Too Much. Here we learn that Harris is helping a wealthy octogenarian find her last living relative - a bastard nephew who has no idea of his heritage - so that he can be named a beneficiary in her will.

Once that's set up, we move away from them and on to the mysterious blond with the gun, the whole kidnapping/diamond heist plot with Karen Black and William Devane. Switching gears, I like this. So it's back and forth between these two stories until they come together at midpoint - Devane is the missing-and-presumed-dead bastard nephew. That's at 45 minutes; great midpoint for a 90 minute flick, but for 2hrs it comes up a bit short, leaving the second half an extra 15 minutes to meander and lag.

Family Plot reminded me of the worst of the Coen Brothers' work - in my opinion, the Oscar-winner Fargo. The comedy and the drama weren't balanced, the comedy often sapping the drama out of otherwise fairly tense scenes. When the brakes on Harris' car are cut, for example, all Babs can do is grab on to Dern's tie and swing her legs up around his neck - forget that he's doing all he can to keep them on the road and in one piece. It's meant to be funny, but in all actuality it's just irritating as fuck.

Don't get me wrong, there were some great twists and turns, but more often than not I was sitting there, rolling my eyes. No less so than in the final moments when Hitch pulls out the old chestnut of having Babs' "fake" psychic powers turn out to be real. So what, she was faking being a fake psychic the whole time? Are ya fuckin'... what? WHAT?

We had wanted to do a whole week of "unseen" Hitchcock, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with Nikki on this one: Maybe it's best if some of the Hitchcock titles we have here remain unseen.


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