It’s maybe surprising to see this movie so far down on my list. Going my Way is the kind of movie barely anyone talks about, a forgotten winner in this category but at the same time hardly anyone seems to have a problem with it. It’s a sweet and innocent story about priests, singing children, men fighting for their country – basically everything the Academy was looking for at the end of World War II.
I thought for a long time about this movie and its position in my ranking because on the one hand, it is kind of cruel to put it so low because there isn’t anything I dislike about it – but there is also almost nothing I do like.
I think that Bing Crosby’s performance is the best aspect to explain my opinion: he is nice, he is harmless, he doesn’t do anything wrong – but that doesn’t mean that he is great in any way. And this is basically also true for anything else about Going my way. Everything is just so…unremarkable. Okay, there is Barry Fitzgerald – he gives a wonderfully charming and amusing performance as the old, stubborn priest and he is definitely the shining part of this movie. But apart from him, nothing ever goes beyond being ‘adequate’.
The story itself is so incredibly sugar-coated and done in the most innocent way that could never offend anyone but if you don’t care for singing children and a kind-hearted priest, then you are lost with Going my Way.
The movie also fails to captivate the audience with a secondary plot about a young girl and her boyfriend, mainly because the two actors are incredibly pale and because…it’s just not interesting.
The better parts of the film involve Bing Crosby and Rise Stevens as an opera singer who used to be in love with him. Their scene in her dressing room, in which she talks and talks without knowing that he became a priest, is done very beautifully and especially the look on her face when she finally realizes provides the movie finally with some more intriguing moments that hint at more beyond the sugar-coated surface.
The chemistry between Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald is also very engaging and in their scenes, a lot of the sentimentality works, mainly because Barry Fitzgerald knows how to be sentimental without appearing to be. The whole theme of the movie unfortunately very often gets lost – Going my Way seems to want to present the struggle of modernity vs. traditions, of new ideas vs. old thinking but these aspects never truly develop.
Since Going my Way is about singing children – what about the music? It’s mostly done very nicely, Bing Crosby’s voice is one that is somehow always exciting and boring at the same time and the kids do a good enough job. But am I the only one who is almost angry about the lyrics of ‘Swinging on a Star?` The most captivating moment comes when Rise Stevens performs as Carmen but it’s hard to credit Going my Way for Bizet’s music and I find it also rather strange for how long this opera sequences goes on.
As I said, it’s hard to criticize the movie in any way because there is nothing that’s really bad about it (and it’s again a step up from Rain Man) but at the same time it’s just not good either.
It’s an adequate, sentimental story with mostly adequate performances and an adequate direction but too often the movie becomes paper-thin and loses its focus. I just expect more from a movie that won 7 Oscars.