Philip Barry didn't lack for pretenses, and the pretense of his Story is that Tracy Lord's disapproval of alcoholism was responsible for her ex-husband's alcoholism—as we know, unconditional forgiveness is the only cure—and Tracy Lord's disapproval of fucking around on her mother was responsible for her father fucking around on her mother. This menace must be humbled!
The first ten or twenty times I watched the movie, such clamshell packaging was easily discarded in favor of the good stuff. But by the eleventh or twenty-first time, the good stuff has spent decades in mental rotation, available for instant play at any moment. And so what attracts attention when re-watching the artifact itself is the garbage: while moments-as-recalled maintain their on-call identity, movie-as-experienced becomes a jabbing skeleton of patriarchal hysteria.
Neatly enough, the comedy of re-marriage relies on the opposite mechanism: its protagonists have dwelt so persistently, so tediously, on aversive memories that their ex-partner's in-the-flesh attractions strike with renewed, or even intensified, force. (Which bodes ill for the couple after movie's end, but most comedies don't go there.) What I feel instead is the alienation of reunion.
Which lends me hope that if I write this complaint and stew over it for a while, The Philadelphia Story will again become a guilty pleasure—or, more succinctly, a pleasure.
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