Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sweet Smell of Success Movie Review

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Rent Sweet Smell of Success on Amazon Video
Written by: Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, Ernest Lehman (novel), Alexander Mackendrick (uncredited)
Directed by: Alexander Mackendrick
Starring:  Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison
Rated: --/

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!

J.J. Hunsecker, a powerful and corrupt Broadway columnist, intends to break up his sister's romance with a musician by coercing press agent Sidney Falco to do it in exchange for a favorable review.

What a movie. Don't let the black and white fool you, despite the lack of internet and modern communications this feels modern. It was a movie ahead of its time. Lancaster and Curtis nail their parts. It's a timeless premise of greed and treachery, with a script full of slick dialog.
Watch it.

Tony Curtis has a lot of charm as publicist Sidney Falco, which is fortunate since he's despicable. Falco is trying to get an article published promoting a client, and newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker is using it as leverage to break up his sister's relationship to a jazz musician without getting his hands dirty.

Falco is willing to lie and blackmail to get ahead. He's a gopher for Hunsecker just at the promise of favors. He's willing to do anything for a quick buck. He's the kind of person that would claim some acts are too far, but spin that just to increase his asking price.
Falco manages to see one of Hunsecker's columns praising a local comic early and plays a ruse on the comic, telling him he'll put in a good word for him at the paper. We and Falco know the column is coming out, but the comic has no idea. Falco claims to call Hunsecker and tell him about the hilarious comic.  We've seen the fake phone call before, but this does it will with a great set up. Then again, when this movie came out, that might have been a new concept.

Hunsecker is a guy that seems to know a little bit about everything, using that knowledge to his advantage. He's friends with beat cops and politicians. He doles out rewards to Falco, getting him to do his bidding. Despite his power he's quite petty, feeling the need to exert control over his sister. Is there anyone good enough for her?

Together they plan to break up Hunsecker's sister. Hunsecker will stop at nothing, and while Falco thinks they've gone too far, he won't stop at the promise of promotion in the paper. Their acting is phenomenal, overshadowing everyone else. This movie didn't do well when it was first released because no one liked seeing Lancaster and Curtis as bad guys. It was atypical of their usual roles.

The dialog is sharp, with good lines and quick back and forth conversations. It was ahead of it's time. You'll soon forget about the black and white images, completely immersed in the story. The dialog and performances don't feel dated, and that can often happen in films this old

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