Sunday, October 15, 2006

Swing Shift

Starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Swing Shift is a fun, light-hearted look at the American homefront during World War II. Goldie plays Kay, a sailor's wife who goes to work at an airplane factory in California. Along with her friends Hazel and Lucky (Kurt Russell), she begins to find there's a whole lot more to life than being a housewife.

The strongest point of this film, besides the wonderful costumes and well-acted roles, is the focus on discrimination of women in the workplace. Even though the government urged women to go to work in the factories, they faced criticism, sexual harrassment, and rudeness on the job from other men. Worse, they were forced to quit their jobs when the war was over and told to go back home where they belonged - as housewives and mothers.

At the heart of this movie, though, is also the way war plays on human emotions. Affairs were not uncommon on the homefront between married women and single men, just as they were not uncommon for men overseas with foreign women. Kay must take a good look at what she wants out of life when her husband, Jack (Ed O'Neill) finds out she's having an affair with Lucky. Will she choose Lucky, the happy-go-lucky trumpet player or Jack, her faithful and brave husband? The answer just might surprise you.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Charlotte Gray: The Movie

Starring Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup, Charlotte Gray is based on the novel by the same name by Sebastian Faulks. Unfortunately, I tried to read the novel and didn't have much success. I found the writing stilted and the character motivations a little unbelievable.

Fortunately, the movie was none of these things. And in poking around the novel a bit further, the movie deviated from it quite a bit. But isn't that always the case? Hollywood likes to chop the pieces of the book that they like the most and form it into something much more Hollywood-ish. But in this case, I can honestly say that I liked the movie much better than the book.

En route to London, Charlotte Gray is approached by Richard Cannerly who believes her French-speaking skills and time spent in France would be a great asset for Britain. Charlotte mulls over his proposition. At a party, she meets Peter Gregory, an RAF pilot. The two fall madly in love. While Peter is away, Charlotte decides to train to become a courier in France. It is while she is in the midst of training that she learns of Peter's plane going down in France. She immediately volunteers to go on a mission into Vichy France, thinking that she might have an opportunity to rescue him.

But nothing goes right when she arrives. Her contact is arrested almost immediately and Charlotte is forced to seek help with the local Resistance fighter, Julian. Before long, she finds herself caught up in the Resistance and taking care of two Jewish boys whose parents have already been deported.

Perhaps Charlotte Gray is more Hollywood than history, but in this case, it manages to bring out a few issues pertaining to Vichy France. A scene in particular struck me. A Vichy French official said that the highest form of patriotism was collaboration. Definitely a quote to ponder.

Even though this didn't garner much attention when it was released, I certainly think Charlotte Gray is worthy of a place in your DVD collection.