An ingenue insinuates herself in to the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends.
Year 2, Film #51
THE REVIEW: For a film that’s all about Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), All About Eve doesn’t really create a character that you want to follow, let alone care about. It’s a long and drawn-out story that goes absolutely nowhere for the longest time. There is conflict, mainly between Eve and famous theater star Margo Channing (Bette Davis), but what conflict that does exist lacks all emotion and is instead just bland and boring.
The film begins at an award ceremony where Eve is receiving the Sarah Siddons Award for breakout performance and an annoyingly long voice over by theater critic Addison DeWitt. DeWitt describes the setting and people in excruciating detail and what can only be described as information overload. We barely see the characters for more than brief glimpses and yet we’re being told their whole backstory as a way to establish where the film will be going. Establishing is all well and good and must be done, but not in a comprehensive voice over. The whole point of watching a film, or even reading a story for that matter, is to learn about the characters as you go along. Begin with some simple facts early on so you can identify everyone later on but don’t try and explain everything in five minutes because you’ll end up missing half the information and your mind will begin to wander once you realize you can’t remember everything.
From here, the rest of the film is told in flashback (until we catch up with the present day at the presenting of the Sarah Siddons Award). Here things start a bit better but they don’t last for long. We’re reintroduced to Eve and Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) who, after seeing Eve in front of the theater every night, invites her up to meet her dear friend and star of the play, Margo. To me, this is where the film should have began, not in the “present day” with voice over to get everyone acquainted. Eve meeting Margo and the rest of the bunch — Karen’s husband Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe) who is the playwright, the director of the play Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill), and Margo’s maid Birdie (Thelma Ritter) — was a great introduction to everyone. It showed who everyone was much more than a voice over can do. We see that Karen is a kind and generous person and that Margo can be quite hot-headed.
But once everyone leaves Margo’s dressing room, things go downhill. Despite her qualms at the beginning, Margo decides to let Eve work for her after Eve tells her life story and everything she’s done to get to New York City and meet Margo, her idol. Before we even get through one scene, it’s already clear that Eve is an extremely hard worker who will do anything Margo asks of her. And yet for the rest of the first half all we see is how diligent and persistent Eve is at making sure she does a good job for Margo. After the halfway point, things pick up a bit. We learn about some ulterior motives of a few different characters which finally introduces some conflict and purpose to the film. But this too is then shoved away and made out to seem meaningless. The reason is that the focus shifts away from these now interesting characters to the uninteresting ones. Whereas before, everyone got a fair share of the spotlight, now only a select few do and it’s of the wrong people.
The reason I’m being quite vague there is that there is a pretty decent twist that’s presented right at the end. It was completely unexpected and really caught me off guard. Especially from a film as boring and disinteresting at All About Eve, in the end it presented this bombshell that makes you stop and think. Only problem about it was that it was too little, too late. By the end of the movie I was already writing the review in my head and thinking about how to put my thoughts into words. I couldn’t have cared less about what happened to the characters because the film never gave me any solid reason to care for them in the first place. All of a sudden the twist at the end comes along and I thought, “if only the rest of the film could have been this mysterious and this captivating, I might have enjoyed it.”
All About Eve either completely missed the mark, or I completely failed to see the appeal of it. A look at Rotten Tomatoes shows that many others would disagree with me as it has a perfect 100% rating. Looking at the critical reaction on Wikipedia I came across this quote describing the film:
…to this day the quintessential depiction of ruthless ambition in the entertainment industry, with legendary performances from…
The film does depict ruthless ambition but I would never call it quintessential or its performances legendary. The ruthless ambition was hidden until the end behind lackluster performances that had me yawning at times, wondering what the point of it all was. A few times these bits of greatness were able to shine through and the ending does show just how ruthless a couple of the characters turned out to be, but these moments were just too few and far between to make the film entertaining to watch.
THE RATING: 2 out of 5