Thursday, July 21, 2011

All That Heaven Allows (Sirk. 1955)

"Then talk not of inconstancy, false hearts, and broken vows. If I by miracle can be this live-long minute true to thee. 'Tis all that heaven allows."

Rock Hudson is gorgeous. If I were a female, or more suitably a homosexual man, I would be all about him. I am secure with saying this because it is true. He is super good looking and unmistakably cool.

That being said, my first encounter with Rock from the 1077 is a simple and heartwarming film called All That Heaven Allows. Made in the conformity obsessed American 1950’s, this is a film that stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause in terms of historical significance. It has been said that Rebel catches the truest essence of the 50’s by portraying the frustration of the disconnected youth, but what about the misunderstood and nonconformist grown-ups? This is their outlet.

We have all taken a history class in our academic lives, so we all know that the 50’s was a time that seemingly glistened with convention. But underneath all of that was a much darker and more frustrated reality. Like Ray did with Rebel, Sirk managed to film the essence of two separate movements. Conformity is more the bad guy than any antagonist while self-serving almost becomes the heroic ethos. I believe that All That Heaven Allows is an extremely underrated and overlooked portrayal of this combustible time period.

Why is it so often overlooked? On the surface, All That Heaven Allows is one of the simplest films I have seen. This feature screamed Lifetime Movie long before Lifetime ever existed. We are following the story of a well-to-do widow named Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) who falls in love with her gardener, Ron Kirby.

Hudson plays the rugged and free spirited gardener who also cannot help but to fall for the MUCH older Scott. As family and friends continuously try to stifle Scott’s feelings for the young suitor, the audience is made to feel sorry for the widow. Her country club brethren refuses to accept the scandalous new relationship. Worst of all, Cary’s children refuse to accept the scandalous new relationship. Everything is so scandalous in the 50’s.

In terms of storytelling qualities, All That Heaven Allows barrels through love story clich├ęs, one after another, in an attempt to hurry the audience into a happy ending. And though the pacing may seem frantic, the story is very sweet in a meant-to-be-taken-seriously sort of way. When Cary is unhappy – the audience is unhappy. We want our couple to fight for love. As corny as that sounds, it has proven to be a working formula. It is simplistic, but also very emotional.

All That Heaven Allows is not on the same mark as Rebel Without a Cause; it is not even close. But it does posses the same ignitable anti-picket fence underground bubbling that made both films work. As the immediate precursor to the free-lovin' counter-culture decade, the 50’s annoyed a lot of people. All That Heaven Allows shows us that exact thing. It is a film made in the 50’s that is about the 50’s and the people who inhabit that time period. That is what makes the film interesting.

All That Heaven Allows: C

1 comment:

  1. I love that film, it's so simple, yet so beautiful. I wish I was alive in the 50s, even if I was just a child. All That Heaven Allows is definitely one of my favorites with Rock Hudson, he's such a great actor- and he's gorgeous!