The Band Wagon

Today I watched The Band Wagon, directed by Vincente Minnelli in 1953. It wasn't really a bad movie, but I really didn't enjoy it. I was feeling like I was in a mood (not a bad mood - just a mood. You know, the kind where you just pick at jalapeno poppers for dinner instead of feeding yourself) and maybe that made me more cynical during the film. I also just didn't enjoy it. I like Fred Astaire, and he's a great dancer. I wish I could just have watched those scenes (as in, only the scenes of him dancing. So not even entire musical scenes, just the parts with Fred Astaire). The filler between them was meh, and a some of the songs were meh as well.

I feel like I sometimes just dislike musicals, but I do like some of them. I watched a few for this project that I ended up enjoying, because I could see why they were awesome, and they had enough awesome to outweigh the bits I didn't like. This felt like it was mostly bits I didn't like, and didn't have enough things to counter-act the blah parts. I don't know, it just didn't work for me.

The film is about an aging Broadway stay, Tony Hunter, who feels like his career might be over. His two friends have written some sort of musical stage play that they think will be the perfect for his comeback. Tony agrees, and they get "famous" director, actor and writer (read: pretentious) Jeffrey Cordova to direct and help them out with the play. He decides the story is actually a modern Faust, and starts to redesign it as such. Of course, it's unbearable and a failure. There is much tension and romance with Tony's co-star, Gaby, a famous ballet dancer. They both intimidate each other, and don't get along, but they do make up eventually and dance and smooch and whatnot. Eventually, Tony mans up and decides to just perform the musical play as intended, and it's a hit on Broadway. Yay!

I hated the actual play that they perform in the film the most. Not the Faust one, that was at least funny. I hated the musical comedy. It made no sense. None of the songs that we had to watch from it were related in any way. It went from a jazzy tap dance to Louisiana hay ride to awful and disturbing singing babies. Was the musical just a bunch of acts, like Vaudeville? Did it have a story to fill in the gaps between top hats and dancing toddlers? Because I am immature, I was frustrated by this. I honestly think it could just be a historical or cultural gap for me. I can't understand watching disjointed acts like this, but I do know that this is what Vaudeville used to be like. Maybe people who enjoy that sort of style or were used to it liked this film, but it's lost on me. I know that there is something I'm not getting about this, you know? I want the songs to be linked together somehow. I like story, not just dancing. I mean, the fictional play in the movie bothered me because I just expect story. That really says something.

Like I said before, I would have been happy to just watch the parts with Astaire. I really like him - he's obviously incredible. It's too bad that his talent had to be smushed into this unhappy little film. I like him because not only is he an amazing dancer, he is a great actor. Unlike many of the other actors in the film, he's able to not be over-dramatic all the time. Everyone often seemed like they were overacting, with too much loudness and facial expression. Fred Astaire is more calm, not always yelling or widening his eyes freakishly. I appreciate this. Again, I know that this is an age thing. I'm not used to this style. I'm used to realism in acting, which is what we strive for today. In a different time, this style was more poplar. I just don't really get it, and it doesn't appeal to me. Maybe because I'm simply just over-saturated with modern films. I can't say for sure. But maybe had I grown up seeing that style, I would accept it, but I struggle with it now.

There were some dance numbers that were fun to watch, like the famous "Shine on my Shoes," which I loved because I was just astonished by Astaire's talent. Other numbers, like the strange one where everyone is dressed up as babies, were not so good. I mean, I can appreciate that they way they had to dance was painful and difficult, but I could not get over how unsettling and weird it looked.

Overall, it just wasn't my kind of movie. Some of it may be that I am unpleasant, and some of it might be a generational thing. I just know that this sort of film sometimes doesn't work for me - usually because of the musical numbers and the acting. It might just be me, though. You know, just my opinion and all that.

Have any thoughts on The Band Wagon? Share them in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Band Wagon
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