Top positive review
Their final film...
on 10 December 2015
Version I saw: UK Bluray release
Photography/visual style: 7/10
Screen icons Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable made a film together. By the time it was released, Gable was dead, and Monroe died before completing her next film. If nothing else, that makes The Misfits a curiosity worth investigating.
The screenplay is by famed playwright Arthur Miller, so it is unsurprisingly somewhat theatrical, and I can imagine much of the action taking place on a theatre stage. Famed director John Huston adds the cinematic touches, though, to make this very much a visual film.
Miller was also married to Monroe, divorcing during the making of the film, and this is where the uncomfortable parallels begin, because Monroe's character Roslyn is herself a divorcee. However, as odd as it is, this must also be considered quite ahead of its time: divorce was much less common in those days, and fault still considered a key pillar in proceedings.
Roslyn is shown to be divorced for a reason though. The Misfits revolves around three damaged personalities, in what is an unremittingly bleak work. Montgomery Clift (who also died young) is a thrill-seeking rodeo rider who is so tragically doomed that the repeated foreshadowing of his demise is almost funny. Gable is an old-fashioned cowboy, ill-at-ease with a world which is changing around him and rendering him obsolete. Again, fiction mirrors life here, for Gable's heyday was 20 years previously. However, whereas his character Gay (it stops being funny before too long) refuses to adapt, it seemed to me that Gable was making too much effort to retain his physique into his late 50s, probably contributing to the massive heart attack which ended his life not long after filming.
The film itself shows some signs of its age. Attitudes towards drink and women are uncomfortably dated, and some of the treatment of animals required to film the climactic horse wrangling scenes would never be allowed today. On the other hand, some of the shots of Monroe, clearly intended to be very risqué, seem ridiculously tame to the modern eye.
The main theme is one of disillusionment, an unwillingness to adapt to a changing world. It's uneasy watching, especially as it asks whether we are the same. Miller's deft handling of the pace and rising sense of doom is a testament to his genius as a playwright, as are the numerous great lines that pepper the dialogue. Monroe has an odd approach to the acting, but this contributes to a performance as strong as anyone's in a cast of very strong performances. Her manic breakdown at the very end, filmed in a long shot against the backdrop of barren desert, is grimly fascinating viewing.
Despite the presence of two screen icons and a directing legend though, the one person who comes out of this excellent production with the most credit is Miller.
For my full review, see my independent film blog on Blogspot, Cinema Inferno: http://cinemainferno-blog.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/the-misfits-1961.html