Title: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Director: Stanley Kramer
Writer: William Rose
Music: Frank De Vol
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
The film Certainly had its impact at the time of its release, 45 years later, it is still compulsively watchable and if one swap the interracial couple with a gay couple everything would work effortlessly and even no big change of the dialogues is necessary.
The ensemble is the quintessence of the film’s success, personally I adore Poitier’s well-educated mien and his eloquent rebutting of his father’s parochial opinion of offspring’s duty to conduct what parents think is right, evade from social prejudice and merely follow the leader. But in lieu of the plot, John (Poitier) and his white-skin trophy wife-to-be Joey (Houghton) have to recede to a morally-low position, William Rose’s script has proffered all the possible (and impossible) approaches to dramatise the situation (a 15 years age difference) and pressure the judgment call should be resolved within the meagre time span (half day at most).
Thus, the entire climax is the father of the bride Matt’s (Spencer Tracy) decision (it seems a bit racist their black counterpart has little saying in this condition), the professed liberal white man’s crucial decision is the game changer seeing that his wife Christina (Hepburn) has capitulated long ago and “completely sympathetic”, has firmly chosen her side of her mollycoddled daughter. So Matt’s ultimate 8-minutes soliloquy (prefaced by a self-affirmation “I will be a son of b****”) not only has its power of wisdom and appeal to be an excellent showpiece of ethical preaching, a cordial and visceral performance merits standing ovation, but also in the nonfictional life, Tracy’s ailing health and his fervid love for Hepburn (out of marriage) are tangible and heart-wrenching, in the coda of his swan song, it reaches a pinnacle by his declaration of love and it is an impeccable curtain call both on and off screen (Tracy died weeks after the filming).
However, it is Hepburn, won her third second Oscar together with Rose’s Best Adapted Screenplay win (out of its overall 10 nominations) while Tracy’s posthumous recognition come unstuck. With a borderline leading role among a peerless cast, Hepburn’s win might be an overrated adulation, nonetheless it is no slander could smear the performance itself, it is her competency is shortchanged. Houghton, the real niece of Hepburn and a debutante in the film business, tackles with an unsympathetic role out of her naivety, she is reckless and selfish enough to put her parents into such a difficult situation, but it is what the storyline requires, so what left for her to subjectively interpret is very limited.
Supporting players are also commendable, Kellaway and Richards are nominated as well (the stereotyped good persons with high moral conscience, admirable and amiable), but Sanford’s biased black maid’s opinion behooves much more introspection towards the innate frailty of human race, love guides us and love blinds us too.
This almost one-apartment cramped family drama even now has its pertinent social reference, which is a sad truth to accept, just wish Tracy and Hepburn will not be disappointed up there in Elysium.