Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Film Review

Synopsis

Writer and notorious marriage detractor Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) falls for girl-next-door Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), and they tie the knot on Halloween. When the newlyweds return to their respective family homes to deliver the news, Brewster finds a corpse hidden in a window seat. With his eccentric aunts (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), disturbed uncle (John Alexander), and homicidal brother (Raymond Massey), he realizes that his family is even crazier than he thought.
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Release dateSeptember 1, 1944 (USA)

My Review 

If you have not seen this film… Go Watch It Now! This movie has been on my top 10 list of films for years now.

My favorite thing about this film is the plot structure. They based this film off on a play and that shows. This play follows the old style of comedy with dramatic irony. The audience is fully aware of what is going on in the movie, however a lot of the actors are left in the dark. Which leads to a lot of confusion among the characters within the film and adds to the comedic element for the audience.

Something I love about this film that I think more plays and films need to be inspired by is all the comedic timing and use of facial expressions. Image result for arsenic and old laceCary Grant’s facial expressions throughout this film makes for some of the best comedic moments. This is also something that is known to be one of Cary Grant’s signature strengths.

The plot of this film is quick paced, and there are several stories lines going on all at the same time. Newly wed Mortimer Brewster is trying to leave on his honeymoon, his aunts are murdering elderly gentleman, his uncle thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and his crazy brother Jonathon shows up  on the run from the police. While the overall feel of the movie is left very light and comedic, the action within the play is insane and the audience gets to watch along on the journey.

I absolutely adore the acting in this film. Besides Cary Grant’s amazing performance, everyone else does a fantastic job. There is not a bad acting performance in this entire film. Image result for arsenic and old laceJosephine Hull and Jean Adair as the two aunts is my favorite. These two women do not disappoint in this film, and their characterization is amazing. They are nothing short of being sweet elderly women in this film, which makes it even more of a comedic shock to find they have single-handedly poisoned and buried several men in their cellar. 

Lastly, the camera work and lighting of this film are unique and appealing. Much like the play, this film takes place solely inside the Brewster’s living room. While we see action take place in a few other locations, most of the film is set in one area of the house. However, the film does not get boring and as an audience member it’s hard to notice that the camera has not left the one room. The camera work is very innovative and creative.

My Rating 

4.5 out of 5

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