On The Waterfront
Katieschmatie and I are both watching movies for our 101 Tasks: I’m watching the AFI’s Top 100 List and she’s watching all the Oscar Best Picture winners. There’s a fair amount of overlap, and we’ve decided to watch this one together! Watching a movie with a friend makes it a lot more fun, because we can compare notes / perceptions and laugh together at the funny parts (and the occasional ridiculous melodrama).
On The Waterfront stars a young Marlon Brando, which I was very excited about. I can’t remember seeing him in any movie other than Don Juan Del Marco, in which he is much older, balder and fatter. Seeing him as an attractively muscled hero was a little bit of a shock to my system, but I was pretty ok with it.
I really loved some things about this movie and thoroughly disliked other things. Let’s start with the bad.
Marlon Brando’s character, Terry, is an idiot. Not just uneducated (although he is that too), he doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of street smarts either. A lot of his heroism seems to be based on being so rockheaded that he can bulldog his way through any situation; no matter how many times he’s kicked down and beaten bloody (metaphorically and literally), he’s too dumb to quit and just keeps getting right back up again. He constantly throws himself into danger because he doesn't think before he acts, ever.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing at first, added some realism to the situation and gave him a reason to be grateful for his job from the mob. But then the love interest, Edie, arrives and my tolerance for his machismo, pig-headed behavior lowered considerably. The fact that Edie becomes interested in him also seriously lowered my opinion of her.
Well educated, sweet and naïve, she’s just as stupid as Terry when it comes to street smarts, and somehow Edie finds her passions ignited by Terry’s lackluster romancing of her, which mostly includes stalker-like behavior, getting her drunk, insulting her, lying to her about his involvement in her brother’s death, breaking down her door after she locks him out and kiss raping her. Swoon.
Other than Terry’s behavior towards Edie, there’s also the utter predictability of the plot – and some parts that make no sense at all. Terry’s brother is supposed to hush him up – one way or another, and when Terry refuses to promise to keep his mouth shut his brother sends him out of the car. Then the camera pans to the driver, who is one of the mob bosses’ goons, who almost immediately takes off and speeds to one of the hideouts. Um… why on earth did he let Terry out of the car? Why not just take care of both brothers at once?
The good: I felt like this was a very realistic situation. Katieschmatie and I started wondering if this was based on a true story (as far as I can tell it’s not). Even though it’s not my normal genre of movie-watching, I ended up getting really into the whole brow-beaten underdog general workers fighting for their rights against the corrupt and wealthy minority. As the men try to band together to give their union the strength in needs, even though it has been undercut by the corrupt for so long, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Despite the fact that this movie was made in 1954, a lot of the themes carried through quite well to modern times.
The speech by the Reverend was particularly moving as he compared all the men who died in pursuit of justice against the corrupt minority as martyrs like Jesus, exhorting the true Christians to stand up in the face of adversity for what is right. I thought it was a great portrayal of what Christian virtues should be and how they can relate to modern circumstances.
My favorite quotes from the movie:
Terry: “They tried to beat an education into me, but I outfoxed ‘em.”
Edie: “Shouldn’t everybody care about everybody else?”
Terry: “Oh what a fruitcake you are.”