As an American, getting a peek at post-War Britain in decline, a look at Olivier as a most interesting character in the person of never-was vaudevillian Archie Rice, and a look at several British players (Joan Plowright, Anthony Bates, and Albert Finney) very early in their careers is priceless.
Archie Rice is a despicable character, and the drama centers on his problems of having all of his financial issues - including some long overdue tax debt - come to a head just as he can finally get no more work as a vaudevillian even in the bad music halls. He has a way out - one of his relatives will pay off his debts if he'll accept his drunken wife's nephew's offer to run a motel in Canada. But like any Briton who can remember England's finer days he's just not about to cut and run, and even though I can despise the lying, the cheating on his used up wife, his odd ideas about parenting, and his willingness to use his own father, I can't help but admire his "pioneer spirit" to use an American term. He'd rather fail on his own terms than succeed on someone else's.
Joan Plowright is the other lead, and she plays Archie's daughter, Jean. She shows some pioneer spirit herself. She shares some characteristics with dad - she's a painter who can't paint, Archie's a vaudevillian who can't entertain. Unlike dad, she owns up to her shortcomings and wants to make a contribution anyways by teaching art to poor slum kids. She has a way out of Britain just like dad does. Her fiancé has been offered a job opportunity in Africa, and he encourages her to leave her dead country behind, but she just isn't ready to give up on England or her family just yet. The two have a falling out and Jean goes to visit her dysfunctional family, in which she finds comfort.
I just don't get people who say that they don't like this one because it's boring, depressing, ugly. Every minute of this film held my interest and stayed with me long after I'd watched it. I think you need to have lived awhile, to have had disappointments, and to have dealt with those disappointments in ways you may not be proud of to really appreciate this film.
Action / Drama
Action / Drama
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On the far side of middle age, Archie Rice (Sir Laurence Olivier) lives in a British seaside resort with his father, retired successful vaudevillian Billy Rice (Roger Livesey),second wife Phoebe Rice (Brenda de Banzie),and doting son Frank Rice (Sir Alan Bates). Following in retired Billy's footsteps, Archie is a song-and-dance music hall headliner, with Frank supporting his dad as his shows' stage manager. The waning popularity of Archie's type of shows, a dying form of entertainment, is not helped by Archie's stale second rate material, which brings in small unappreciative crowds. Archie clings to his long-held lifestyle, including heavy drinking and chronic infidelity, of which Phoebe is aware. What Archie has not told his offspring is that Phoebe was his mistress while he was still married to their now deceased mother. His want to be a music hall headliner is despite his financial problems, he an undischarged bankrupt who now signs Phoebe's name to everything. Phoebe wants them to escape this life to something more stable, such as the offer from her relations to manage a hotel in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, while Archie, always one step ahead of his creditors for his current show, wants to mount another for the winter season. Long-suffering Phoebe often drowns her sorrows with booze. One person in their immediate family who has somewhat escaped their life is Archie's daughter, Jean Rice (Dame Joan Plowright),an art school teacher in London, she who is still trying to find her place in the world. Her pre-engagement boyfriend Graham (Daniel Massey) wants her to move to Africa with him for a job, which she is reluctant to do if only because of not yet being ready to leave her dysfunctional family behind, they who she still feels to need to watch over. Unlike Archie, Jean is more concerned about the fact that her brother Mick Rice (Albert Finney) has just been shipped overseas to fight in the Suez Crisis. Archie's steps in his determination to mount that new show, seemingly at any cost, may break the family apart once and for all.
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