Young Wives Tale (1951) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Young Wives Tale (1951)

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I assume everyone who reads this blog is intimately familiar with the works of playwright Neil Simon. His tepid comedies are often filled with low-intensity verbal sparring between spouses that is often the perfect prelude to a warm summer afternoon nap.

Ramping up that sort of breezy interplay can lead to interesting results: "The Honeymooners," His Girl Friday, or today's movie, Young Wives' Tale, which ramps it up to an extreme that's not only unpleasant to watch but anger-inducing to boot.

It's the story of two couples, two children, and Audrey Hepburn all stuck under one roof in post-World War II Britain. There's a housing shortage, so all of the couples have to share a living room and kitchen. Both couples have a child each, and their spectacularly unfunny nanny troubles take up a major portion of the running time. I'll spare you the details.

However, the real black hole of this movie is the leading couple, Rodney and Sabina. Rodney is a writer, and is stuck working in the living room while Sabina has to to do laundry, chores, and generally keep their lives moving. He chews her out for this, spewing forth passive-aggressive manipulations with such ferocity as to make a Grand Wizard blush. The film tries, tries to paint him as kind of a jerk but completely forgets to give him a remotely sympathetic moment; if this character had gotten hit in the face with a 2x4 covered in nails, I would have stood up and applauded.

His wife, Sabina, gets a little more sympathy, since she actually spends the movie trying to make amends. While Rodney is paralyzed by the simple fact that he decided to bring a child into this world with another human being and for some reason this is disruptive, Sabina is at least understandably henpecked. She's also being pursued by a number of other men, and she coyly resists them for most of the film.

This is the opposite of Rodney, as he eagerly flirts with the spry young Hepburn behind his wife's back. She plays young Eve (oh, I get it with the name, movie, you're sooooo clever), a self-professed man-hater who turns out to actually be receptive to Rodney's overtures, a flight of fiction easily comparable to The Lord of the Rings or "Star Trek: Voyager."

WHY. WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY. We're never given a shred of a half of a reason why this man deserves our sympathy or interest, let alone Audrey freaking Hepburn's. That the whole plot of this godforsaken movie relies on the linchpin of us caring for him is a surrealist enigma.

We're never told what kind of writer Rodney is, but considering his general attitude, I'd assume he's just writing nasty letters to housewives telling them that they're horrible and he hopes that their children are kidnapped and molested.

The other couple sharing the house with the Lockhorns are Mary and Bruce, who can best be described as 'terribly bland'. Mary gets the worst of it, as she's soon cheated on and is frozen in place, unable to do much besides patronizingly smile and gently forgive her husband's indiscretions. Bruce is a weak willed idiot who also possesses little or no personality of his own. He mistakenly helps out a female friend when she needs her confidence bolstered since she's constantly abused and harassed by her repressive husband.

That this film doesn't end in a bloodbath is either a miracle or a grave miscalculation. This film is nothing more than a group of British people thoroughly annoying the hell out of each other for ninety minutes, and none of it is funny, smart, or endearing.

At one point, Rodney smugly complains that his broken 'B' key disallows him from swearing in his writing. Luckily, I have no such complications, and I can even swear without using the 'B' key: this movie is an annoying piece of shit.

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Young Wives' Tale (1951)

This film is available on VHS.

Directed by Henry Cass
Starring Joan Greenwood and Nigel Patrick

For more articles in the Audrey Hepburn Sundays series, please click here!

Posted by Danny

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