We all fall in love. And we are all the better for it. Whether or not our love ends in a long, happy relationship is besides the point. And that is exactly the point that this 1967 masterpiece makes. Directed by Stanley Kramer and brought to life by Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier, the story is about how we reason with love. And the truth that, sometimes, love is beyond reason.
I am very much a person who looks for character development in the movies I watch. And I have come to realize that movies in which the story takes a character and molds it right in front of my eyes, are the movies that I find inspiring. For isn’t that what we find inspiring in life too? IN this movie the stage is set for confrontation when a young white girl brings home a negro as the man she wants to marry. We hardly hear the term negro these days, but I use it because it is uttered generously in the movie. Other than the couple, we have the girl’s mother and father, the girl’s nanny (a black woman), the boy’s father and mother, and a priest who is old time friend of the girl’s parents. We start with certain people expressing what I would call as almost disgust at the prospect of a white girl marrying a black man. And we have some people expressing a restrained disapproval. And how that changes over the course of a little over an hour and a half.
The movie is rich, very rich, is serious, moving dialogues. Some of them might very well live with you forever. I could specially relate to a few since I happen to have experienced similar situation. Like when Sidney Poitier (as John) says “It is not just that our color difference doesn’t matter to her. It is that she doesn’t seem to think there is any difference”. There is a lot of difference between the kind of persons in those two sentences and you just have to know it to know it. Or the part where John’s mother (played by Beah Richards) remarks about men losing a perspective on love as they grow old, of not remembering how it was when they were young. The movie is replete with what I’d term as swashbuckling American language, the kind that makes you smile and thump even when the scene is somber. Here are some examples.
Spencer Tracy as the girl’s father and Katharine Hepburn as the mother put in stellar performances. You rise and fall with them. You feel their anguish and their joy. The movie is set within the span of half a day and in that little time scale it runs the gamut of human emotions giving you a glimpse of your own self many times over. Developing along what I said about characterization is the point that in this movie, any person who gets more than a few minutes of screen time comes across as a complex real person. As examples, I present the African maid and the white Priest. You’d think they behave a certain way. But they do not. They both startle you and yet you will immediately connect to them. And you will recognize the larger statement the movie makes about being non-judgmental, free spirited, liberal, and finally accepting the grandeur of love.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is effective prescription for anyone suffering from excess objectivity. And a resounding confirmation for those who revel in the celebration of love.