My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 58: Tom Jones (Best Picture Ranking)

Another movie that is usually regarded as one of the worst choices by the Academy – but back in 1963, Tom Jones was a real sensation, winning practically every award leading up to the big night. Considering that Tom Jones is a frivolous comedy about a young man who enjoys the opposite sex, this may seem rather surprising but it mixes its plot with a lot of originality and energy, features a strong cast of British actors and knows how to entertain by (mostly) keeping a rather fast tempo.

Most importantly, Tom Jones achieves the task to never feel forced – a lot of movies that so desperately try to be different, new, original only feel extremely mannered in their attempts to do so. But somehow everything that is so unique about Tom Jones keeps a very welcome and refreshing feeling of never overdoing it. Characters looking into the camera, talking into the camera, silent movie scenes, a rhyming narrator and unusual use of score, editing and cinematography only help to create a maybe weird but still strangely captivating movie.

In the title role of Tom Jones, Albert Finney may seem like an unusual choice for a womanizing heartthrob but his easy-going, charming and uproarious performance carries the movie well and he is able to let Tom Jones be completely winning and unlikable at the same time. I was somehow convinced that Susannah York was Oscar-nominated for her beautiful turn as Tom’s love interest but the three supporting ladies that Oscar chose were others. Diane Cilento could have easily been replaced with Susannah York since she really doesn’t do a lot as the wild daughter of the gatekeeper. Joyce Redman is a step up and she brings just as much playfulness and humour to her role as Albert Finney to his. But the show-stealer is Edith Evans who could not only show a plunging neckline at the age of 75 that would put a lot of 20-year-olds to shame but who also has the wonderful talent to insert sarcasm, irony and clever wit into every remark she makes while always upholding a façade of British superiority. The scene in which she decisively chases a gangster away is a true highlight. Also Oscar-nominated was Hugh Griffith and rumour has it that he was always drunk during the filming but given the character he plays, this works very well.

Tom Jones mostly benefits from this cheerful ensemble but the story and the direction add a lot to its overall charm, too. The story itself may not be too exciting in itself and obviously the movie lacks a lot of depth or true development but Tom Jones never pretends that it wants any of these – instead, it proudly carries its lightness and unconcern. I admit, the movie not always delivers on a high level – it begins to move rather slowly after the first 30 minutes and also the last 20 minutes could have been better and yes, overall, the movie could have been shorter since 128 minutes are quite an exaggeration. But still, there is enough in Tom Jones to turn it into a curious but ambitious little movie – the surprising honesty of the hunting scene, the dialogue between Edith Evans and Hugh Griffith with all the farm animals as ‘spectators’ or the famous dinner-scene between Albert Finney and Joyce Redman.

Tom Jones is an enjoyable and interesting movie which may not be the height of sophistication in any way but sometimes, a little silliness, playfulness and creativity is just as good.


Louis Morgan said...

I really am not sure about this one, I recall being bored, but I need to watch it again.

dinasztie said...

I liked this one. Not the best ever. It's like a great Carry on movie.