After I came home from my expedition, I watched Laura, directed by Otto Preminger in 1944. I was pretty happy to watch a film noir, and even happier that it had a young Vincent Price in it. I was excited on more levels than normal because Anthony and I are playing L.A. Noire (a noir video game!) together right now. How does one play a single-player game with two people? He does the driving and the street crime, and I investigate crime scenes and interrogate everyone. It's had me even more in the mood for noir than I usually am. I really liked the movie. It had all the great little plot twists that somehow worked really well. The acting is really great as well, and I had a lot of fun watching it.
Laura is dead as soon as the film starts, and we know this because we are told in voice-over. Mark McPherson, a detective, is investigating her death. Who could have murdered this beautiful young woman? It seems like every man she met fell in love with her. Mark finds himself falling in love with her, as well, as odd as that might sound. Then, one night, alone in her apartment, something happens that changes the entire case.
I find that when I read about film noir, there is either a heavy amount of summary, or a lot of analysis of the plot. It's sort of a hard genre to write about without straying one way or the other. Because I don't want to do either of those things (to avoid spoiling the plot, for one), this post will probably stay kind of short. I was kind of hoping that Ebert would have some neat insights into something, but he doesn't write too much about this movie, either. Man, that makes it sound underwhelming.
For me, the strength of the movie is it's characters. I really like how complicated characters in film noirs tend to be, and it's not much different here. There is an interesting love triangle at play, with strange homosexual undercurrents. The character of Waldo Lydecker is really fascinating. We first see him meeting the detective when he is naked, which is beyond weird. I love that - it sets up his whole character, and we see him as a sort of arrogant dandy kind of man, who feels like he basically created Laura and is jealous of her interest in the doofy Shelby Carpenter. Waldo used all of his power and money to advance Laura's career, and he feels a sort of entitlement to her because of that. However, she gets engaged to Shelby, a normal guy, really, and Waldo doesn't really like that too much. Ebert mentions that Waldo is much too old for Laura and there is no chemistry between them, which is true. To some extent, I sort of liked this, because it made Waldo into a sort of creepy character, which is always good.
I don't want to spoil all the plot twists, but I have to comment that I liked them. They're not the most original or anything, but they just felt right for the movie, and I had fun with them. I like film noir because sometimes it creates a world that isn't really reality, but you buy into it anyway. It's not our world, but it feels real, and we like it anyway. I feel like I'm rambling a little.
This is a great movie, and worth watching. The acting is really interesting, and the interplay between the characters is as well. The storytelling is pretty neat, too. How many movies have a plot where the detective falls in love with a dead woman? A less tired person would have a lot to say about the meaning of that, haha! You can rent the movie on Amazon, and it's for sure a fun way to spend your evening.
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Laura
Buy or rent it at Amazon