Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)
Sometimes you’ve got to slog through the dull and meandering to appreciate the true gems once in awhile. But, my god, did this do everything wrong.
From a production standpoint, Sweet Bird of Youth is pretty generic and unremarkable, but its characterizations and storytelling, like Paul Newman’s character, take the wrong doors every time.
There are too many characters, and the ones there are, are melodramatic caricatures. The whole thing is a farce. I couldn’t bare to watch Ed Begley’s performance as Boss Finley. His wide smile, his spitting, everything he does is just so mean spirited with little to no justification. Sure, there are people like that, but they aren’t cartoon characters. The entire subplot with his lover was completely unnecessary and pointless, and also completely derails a proper introduction to his daughter.
That’s a big issue. We don’t really get to know any of the characters before the melodrama starts. Every character introduction is completely botched. The timing is wrong, too. We’re introduced to Boss Finley with a 4-minute newsreel going on about his history, after about two minutes I thought he’d shut it off, but we go on about something to do with his son. Our introduction to the main antagonist is from a newsreel. And then he’s a cartoon. His daughter, Paul Newman’s supposed love, is introduced by yelling at her dad how he can’t perform in bed. And Paul and the daughter don’t share any scenes until about half an hour before the end! Even though this is supposedly what the movie is about.
What the hell is this movie about?? In the end, I don’t care.
P.S. I’m shocked that this film comes from the man who brought us Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a similar film in what it’s trying to present, but vastly superior in every way.