Hmmm, I really wanted to like this more than I ultimately did. There’s a lot to recommend in it. James Stewart and Jean Arthur are both really young and charming and I especially loved the first few scenes where they are just flirting with one another. There are sweet jokes that made smile like realizing that the last name of the accountant who wants to make toys is Meek. All the people in the Vanderhof house are reasonably endearing (although they did feel horribly caricaturish to me). But ultimately, despite finding the movie entertaining enough, there were other things I didn’t like about it. For instance, the characters in the Vanderhof household are all painted as really good-hearted souls who are clearly living life the right way (and the film does take a stand on what this right way is according to me) but the way they are portrayed (mostly as people pulling funny faces and engaging in random activities) makes them appear almost annoying. I mean, there is something of the commune from Mister Lonely about the Vanderhof household and I couldn’t help but think that there was something sad underlying the whole operation. Maybe I’m just a bitter jaded cynic. I also felt like we get far too many of the “Do what you really want to do because you can’t take it with you anyway” speeches during the course of the film. The movie also felt visually uninteresting somehow. Large parts of the movie look like a play (which it might’ve been to begin with, I don’t know) but the whole visual aspect felt generic to me.
Okay, enough of the hate. The parts that I did really like are the way the central characters are written. James Stewart’s poor-little-rich-boy character is the one real character in the film and the scenes with him made me wonder why the same kind of effort wasn’t taken with the other characters in the film. There’s one scene in particular where he is taking Alice out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and they bump into his parents and he is completely oblivious to Alice’s embarrassment at their reaction to her. Similarly, he decides to prepone his parent’s visit to Alice’s house not realizing that Alice would not enjoy her family being paraded like oddities. His privileged upbringing seems to have made him almost ignorant of what it’s like to face embarrassment or shame making him unintentionally cruel almost. Another part I liked was Alice’s anger during the court scene. Her rejection of the Kirby family was consistent with the way she is always portrayed as Stewart’s equal in the film. Other than that, things mostly fell flat for me.
I suspect I might have liked this film better if I hadn’t watched it so soon after watching Trouble in Paradise. Somehow while watching this, I really missed the lightness of that film and this just felt so clunky in comparison .