Best Movies of All Time + Thomas Barbour



Arthur is a 1981 comedy directed by Steve Gordon. It follows Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore), the grown son of extremely wealthy parents, as he is pressured into an arranged marriage with a similarly wealthy daughter named Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry). Arthur is a bit of a man-child, never taking the opportunity to "grow up." He spends his money frivolously and drinks more than anyone has ever seen. He doesn't love Susan, but his father (Thomas Barbour) tells him that he will be cut off from the family's riches if he refuses to marry her. Just after agreeing to the marriage, Arthur meets Linda Marolla (Liza Minnelli) when he catches her stealing a tie from a store. The two share an immediate connection, and Arthur asks her on a date to which Linda readily agrees. Arthur soon finds himself falling in love with Linda - and it seems as though the feeling is mutual - but the looming marriage causes him great concern. However, with the help of his trusty butler and best friend Hobson (Sir John Gielgud), Arthur works towards winning Linda's heart despite his family's wishes.

To be fair, I only really watched this film today because I wanted to see it before the upcoming remake (starring Russell Brand and Helen Mirren) is released this Friday. I generally don't like to see sequels or remakes without having seeing the original fare first, so getting this one out of the way opens up the possibility for me to see the new version this weekend. But I digress... This Arthur actually came with quite a few accolades. For example, it was nominated for four Academy Awards back in 1982, and it won two of them (Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Song). So I had some high hopes going into the flick, and although they weren't completely met, Arthur still proves to be a fun ride.

The acting isn't really the issue here, although I don't think it's quite as brilliant as its accolades might suggest. Moore scored one of the Oscar nominations for his leading role, and although he's rather funny for the film's entirety, I didn't really see too much of a character arc for him. Actually, there's really not a strong arc for any of the characters, but I suppose that's more of an issue for the screenplay than the actual acting. Moore is bitingly hilarious during his drunken binges - and trust me, there's quite a few of them - but I would have liked to see him pull it back a little bit more than he was given the chance. The over-the-top happy drunk routine got a little old after a while. Minnelli also does well with her role, bringing a bit of sarcastic sass to the screen that helps move the story along. Gielgud is probably the best one in the film - he nabbed the Oscar win for his supporting role - but I felt like he was completely underutilized. I would have liked to see much more of him, but there's nothing I can do about that. His scenes are golden, however.

And now to the screenplay. As I mentioned before, there isn't a strong character arc for anyone in the film, but there are some small arcs that don't pack much of an emotional punch. With everything that's going on in the film, the filmmakers had the opportunity to craft something powerful, but I felt like they held back just a little too much. Also, I felt like everything that happens to Arthur in the film comes just a little too easily. He never really has to fight for anything he wants, and maybe that was the purpose (the character had never had to "fight" for anything in the past, so why should he start now?). But when a somewhat forbidden love is brought into the mix, I would have liked to see a little more punch from Arthur as he fought for Linda. As it stands, it all just flows too easily, and the conflicts in the film just aren't emphasized at all. There's never really any question as to how the film will end, and I just wish there could've been some speed bumps along the way.

As I previously stated, the film also scored an Academy Award for Best Original Song, winning for the song "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)." I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the song, but maybe you'll enjoy it. I've embedded it here for your listening pleasure:

Overall, Arthur is quite funny, if only for the performances. Don't expect to be blown away by the screenplay or anything, but just enjoy Dudley Moore and Sir John Gielgud as best you can. After seeing this, I'm not sure how I'll feel about the remake, but it should play a little better to my tastes considering the time period. But we shall see.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: C+
1 Thumb Up

1981, Arthur, comedy, Dudley Moore, Jill Eikenberry, John Gielgud, Liza Minnelli, movie review, Oscar win, romance, Steve Gordon, and more:

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