Review of Misfits, The
Arthur Miller was one of the finest playwrights of the 20th Century, being responsible for among others “Death of a Salesman” and “The Crucible”. John Huston is similarly one of the century’s finest directors. And, of course, Marilyn Monroe is one of the iconic figures of 20th Century.
The Misfits brings these three great figures (effectively, art, entertainment and style) together in a low key, intimate film that is, largely, about loss.
Monroe plays recently divorced Rosalyn who falls in with Gay (Clark Gable) and Guido (Eli Wallach) two men who feel that they lost everything that was worth living for (Guido, his wife and Gay, the free cowboy lifestyle). Rosalyn is desperate to be needed, to make a connection with some other human being. She quickly develops a rapport with Gay and Guide (although more Gay than Guido, much to Guido’s chagrin). They drink and dance and desperately try to find some comfort.
Rosalyn moves in with Gay and for a time, finds contentment. However, Gay begins to feel constrained and years for the freedom of his cowboy years and, with Guido and Perce (a jaded rodeo-rider – Montgomery Clift), sets off to catch some mountain Mustangs. Rosalyn comes along and all four characters are forced to confront their demons in an emotionally charged finale.
The Black and White image is presented in a 1.78:1 Anamorphic transfer. For a 40 year old film, the image quality is adequate but there are plenty of sparkles and scratches visible. Visually, the film looks pretty good with some inventive cinematography especially during the desert sequences.
While Marilyn was as radiant as ever, there is little doubt that she was starting to look a little worn in this her last film, and she is filmed in soft focus throughout.
The soundtrack is presented in the original mono and it is basic but effective. The film is mostly dialogue driven and this comes through clearly. The score by Alex North is simultaneously emotive and distant and, while it would have benefited from a bigger presentation, can be deeply affecting at times.
That said there is a constant noise running under the soundtrack that is initially distracting.
Other than a worthwhile trailer, none.
Miller (who was married to Monroe) delivers a complex script for a film that, while appearing deceptively simple, operates on multiple levels – a love story, a study of loss and loneliness, and an allegory on the loss of America’s innocence (among others). Houston directs effectively, never lets his style get in the way of the actors, but encourages them to some career best performances.
Monroe was more a movie star than an actress, but here gives a subtle and tender portrayal of a woman who has been disappointed but refuses to give up hope in people, in life. Gable (although looking old) gives one of his quintessential “man’s man” performances and his world-weariness is a perfect foil for Monroe’s optimism. Wallach and Clift also deliver great performances but are overshadowed by Monroe and Gable.
The film is about loss, and often the loss of something that was never really there at all. Were Gable’s recollections of his beloved cowboy life really accurate? Did Wallach really have the perfect relationship with his late wife? Probably not. Thus, the film is also about self-delusion and (particularly) America’s tendency to romanticise its past.
Monroe and Gable give touching and effective portrayals of two lonely and disillusioned people desperate for someone to take away the pain and give their lives some meaning. Their performances are given extra poignancy by the knowledge that this was to be their last performances. Gable was already ill and this is obvious in some of his scenes but this lends additional pathos. Monroe was fast becoming a symbol of America’s lost innocence, a role which sits well within the Misfits.
A sad and effective film which is poorly served by the DVD.