Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Suspicion (1941)

I meant to have this done for the Hitchcock blogathon at the LAMB, but I just didn't have time. Oh well. Let's talk about it anyway! In Suspicion, the bookish and reserved Lina (Joan Fontaine) is caught up in a whirlwind romance against her own better judgment, quickly charmed by playboy gambling addict Johnnie (Cary Grant). He spends more money than he makes so he can give Lina the wealthy lifestyle she's accustomed to, and wracks up heavy debts. When he goes into business with his goofy old friend Beaky (Nigel Bruce), Lina begins to suspect (ha!) that her husband may be plotting to kill him to steal his money. Eventually her fears grow and she becomes convinced he's trying to kill her for her insurance.

This movie is all about the slow build-up, taking about half of its run time to develop their romance and highlight certain personality traits of Lina and Johnnie. For the most part Grant is rockin' his charming, overconfident persona and Fontaine is smart but sensitive. The film is sprinkled with tiny hints of possible malice, so that every small look or line that Lina notices is a signal for the audience as well. The action picks up and the story becomes more of a mystery in the second half, as Lina anticipates a murder at any moment.

I appreciate the subtlety with which Hitchcock approaches this tale, along with the stylistic flourishes and clever cues that always keep things interesting. Though it was at first hard to really be engaged with the story, the ever-present questions about Johnnie's character and the overall splendid performances from Grant and Fontaine kept me interested enough until the tone shifts and there is suddenly much more at stake. The ending is a complete cop-out, but I know there were some studio issues there as well as audience expectations about Grant as an actor. It's too bad, really, because it could have been more satisfying had it ended a different way.


Pair This Movie With: I was tempted to recommend another classic relationship-based thriller, like Double Indemnity or Vertigo, but instead I'm going with the more recent À la folie... pas du tout (He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not), a French film that also deals with matters of perspective. Audrey Tatou plays a woman in love with a married man who trusts that they'll run away together soon, but when the point of view is switched to show the relationship from a different angle, it becomes a much darker story.

1 comment:

  1. One thing I notice about the few Grant-Hitchcock collaborations is there tends to be some debate about the ending and studio influence. At least with Notorious and this film. I tried to watch 'To Catch a Thief' once but the got I got had audio issues so I haven't gotten around to it.

    Though I do still need to see this one. Have been meaning to check out more Joan Fontaine films, perhaps this is an ideal venue.