By Anna

The Big Sleep is a normal 113-minute movie, but with little action and few questions answered so it feels a little bit more like a 154-minute movie. Even when the questions are answered the audience might not realize it because it doesn’t seem to really be about the complicated murderous plot.

Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) is a private detective who gets wrapped up in the lives of a millionaire and his rogue whoring daughters (Lauren Bacall and Martha Vickers). Marlowe is hired by the millionaire to catch a blackmailer and if it wasn’t for his charm and attraction to women he probably wouldn’t succeed. Throughout the film he seems to fall in and out of love with the married of the two sisters (Bacall), all the while leaving the audience wondering if they ever really did find out whom Sean Regan was (aside from being the most mentioned name in the film). The complicated plot overshadowed by the love/lust story between Bacall and Bogart is why Roger Ebert thinks The Big Sleep is a great film.

However, the problem with Ebert’s assessment is that the audience might not know what Ebert knows—that off screen Bacall and Bogart (26 year age difference) are falling in love in spite of Bogart’s failing marriage. And that the film was ready to release in 1945, but was re-shot by Director Howard Hawks after the studio cut too many of Bacall’s scenes in Hawks’ original version, making the film what it is today.

The Bacall/Bogart relationship and Hawks/studio battle makes the film fascinating, but not great. Alone, without the context of the off screen tensions and love story, the film is just another film noir and not one of Bogart, Bacal, or Hawks’ best. Though the dialogue is clever and sagacious at times, I disagree with Ebert’s assessment of its greatness.

Quick reviews from movies I saw this week:

Despicable Me

It was sheer boredom and humid, viscous heat that took me to the theaters last week. Of the options my obtuse movie going brother gave me, Despicable Me sounded the least worst. Factoring in my lack of excitement, it was a pretty fun, though not very funny, film. The kids in the theater laughed a lot, I laughed a little, but they’re the ones who count. The plot was a bit weak, but the story of love and family was tender. See it if you have kids, or see it when you have kids, but don’t see it if you don’t have kids.

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