You Can't Take it With You is a 1938 romantic comedy film starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, Jimmy Stewart, and Edward Arnold and is directed by Frank Capra.
Jean Arthur plays Alice Sycamore, a stenographer that comes from a well-meaning, but rather eccentric family. She becomes engaged to Tony Kirby (Stewart), the vice president of his family's company. Tony's family is extremely wealthy, but also snobbish. Uneasiness arises when the two families come together in preparation for Tony and Alice's marriage.
I enjoy a good love story. It Happened One Night is a timeless love tale that I would definitely recommend. Then there are others in the likes of Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey that will make you question what is going through the characters' heads. However, I could not wrap my head around the way the love story in You Can't Take it With You was presented. It was presented in such a way where I felt the romance was an important subplot in a much larger ordeal. I could not shake the notion that I was watching a film indirectly dealing with the struggles and tensions of class division. A rich and condescending Kirby family looks down upon a quirky Sycamore family that looks like they belong to the working middle class. Two members of each class fall for each other, forcing the two opposing classes into a bitter scuffle.
I feel this film had some inspiration from Romeo & Juliet, which is telling a similar story of two opposite sides coming into conflict with one another, only this film is not in medieval times and has no bloody violence of any sort. In Romeo & Juliet, the love story stimulates everything around it, but in You Can't Take it With You, the love story is just kind of there, with the focus put more on how the families as complete wholes are affected. The attention is given to specific members of each family with the two lovebirds nowhere in the vicinity.
- Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur. The two created a convincing couple, and were delightful to see when on screen. Stewart acts calm and mature, and is receptive to the rather unusual behaviors of Alice's family. Alice can act somewhat uptight, particularly because Tony's mother despises her, but Stewart helps keep her from becoming an emotional roller coaster. Stewart pretends there are mice running around when the two are at a fancy restaurant, causing an uproar. This happens right after Alice begins to grow upset by Tony's mother, who is also at the restaurant, staring at her. The two also have a nice dance routine with a group of little kids, before having to run away from a policeman. Little charms like these give the love story its appeal.
- The film is relatively unfocused. You would think the love story is the central focus, but too much time is dedicated to other members from the two families, such as Tony's father being frequently accused of having no friends and no heart, as well as a scene involving Alice's Grandpa being tormented by an IRS agent for not paying his income taxes. The first 15-20 minutes of the film is mostly given to a character named "Poppins" who quits his job and shows off a toy he created in which a rabbit continues to poke its head out of a hat. The focus seems to rather be on the two families instead of the love story that brought them together, as if the love story is just a plot device to bring about the issue of class in-differences that I mentioned above. An actress like Jean Arthur and an all-time great like Jimmy Stewart should not be seen as second fiddle in a film that seemingly centers around their romance.
It does provide for some light-hearted romantic comedy, but You Can't Take it With You also suffers from a mild case of ADD which prevents it from being a truly memorable Best Picture winner. The wit and charm of It Happened One Night has this one beat.
Recommend? If you're a big fan of Jean Arthur and/or Jimmy Stewart, yes. Otherwise, no
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