Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to Murder Your Wife Review

     This 1965 comedy revolves around the life of Stanley Ford. Stanley lives his life as a successful cartoonist, spends much of his time at the gym or working out new ideas for his strip, and, most importantly, is quite happily UNmarried. He's not lonely, however, he lives quite comfortably in his uptown townhouse and enjoys the company of his butler, Charles, and a slew of beautiful young women. But, all this won't last. His happy life is turned upside down one day when he awakes, after attending a party, to find himself married to the girl that was hired to come out of the cake!
     As if this wasn't bad enough, it's too late for an annulment, the girl actually loves him, and, to top it all off, she doesn't speak a word of English. Consigned to his marital fate, Stanley takes out his frustrations with his wife and himself in his comic strip changing the focus from Brash Brannigan- secret agent to the exploits of Brash Brannigan - family clown. All this time his new wife is encroaching upon everything that he once held dear, turning his manly haven into a frilly, purple nightmare. One night, in a desperate attempt to take back some control of his life he concocts a plan to murder his wife - in the comic strip of course- and proceeds to illustrate the perfect murder plan. The only problem with all of this is, once the strip is published, his wife disappears, and everyone begins to think that he really killed her!

Spirituality: n/a
  This movie did not deal with any spiritual themes at all. It was thoroughly secular.

Sexual Content: 5/10
There was no explicit sex in this movie. There was actually no, shown sex at all. That being said, there was plenty of innuendo and canoodling throughout the movie. Mrs. Ford smothers her husband with kisses nearly every time she sees him. The camera cuts away before any sexual content is seen at least six time, but leaves plenty implied. Twice Mrs. Ford is shown completely undressed, although covered with a blanket. It may be said, however, that the vast majority of the innuendo is done within a marital context, and Mrs. Ford even refuses Stanley's advances after a marital spat until he places her wedding ring back on her finger. Compared to a lot of films today the sexual content is very tame, still, it's something to be aware of.

Violence: 6/10
Now, take this from a girl who loves comic books, violence, when used appropriately, can be fun to watch. There's something really satisfying in seeing the hero punch the villain in the face, or shoot the horrible person who is holding all the school children hostage. Call it cathartic if your will. There is a kind of violence, however, that is inherently disturbing (think the saw movies), and while this movie is pretty campy overall, there's something dark and disturbing in it too. Stanley often acts out his comic strips in real life in order that he might draw scenes more accurately. In the beginning there's some obviously staged gunfights and stage violence shown. Not a big deal. The disturbing stuff comes later in the movie through the cartoonish depictions is his wife's murder, and Stanley's acting out of this fantasy in the real world (substituting a manikin for his wife). It wasn't graphic in any way, but there was something disconcerting with the glee that Stanley possessed as he carried out his 'murder' and the sense of satisfaction that he gained from it. It was a little weird.

Plot: 5/10 
'How to Murder Your Wife' had a fairly engaging plot, although it did drag on a bit. It took too long to get started, and once it got started it took too long to finish. That being said, there were some pretty funny parts, which is good in a comedy, and the story line was certainly memorable. The problem is that there was no satisfying resolution to the story. The ending came off as contrived and cliche. 

Character: 4/10 
There really were no great characters in this movie. All of the men were presented as weak-willed and put upon by their wives, all of whom were shrewish and manipulative. The movie played very strongly into gender stereotypes - which was appropriate given the scope of the movie. There was, however, no character growth, and no reconciliation between the sexes - unless you count a manly embrace of chauvinism as character growth. Stanley exemplifies this. He never comes to appreciate or love his new wife in any sense, except a physical one. He never shows any remorse for 'killing' her, and is never made to feel like he should. In fact, his 'murder' of his wife is even celebrated as a justifiable homicide, and used to celebrate male freedom. This disappointed me. It could have been a great movie if it had treated some of its issues with a little more gravity and realism.

Theme: 2/10
'How to Murder Your Wife', while still being a comedy, could have been a really deep and poignant look at the way married couples do, and ought, to function. It could have attempted to seek a resolution to the battle of the sexes. Instead, it played up the portrait of the poor married male who was dragged into marriage by his conniving wife, and was forced to surrender all of his freedom and happiness. The moral of the story was not that men and women compliment and need each other. It did not promote the biblical mandate for "Husbands to love their wives," and for "Wives to respect their husbands," (Eph. 5:22-33). It gives the message that marriage is an unnatural thing (this is specifically stated), and that the male figure would be better off without it. The only aspect of marriage presented as beneficial, and the only part Stanley didn't seem to mind, was the physical aspect. The movie starts out with the chauvinistic quip “Greetings, gentlemen! I assume your wives are not with you, as the very title of our piece is sufficient to strike terror into their hearts and cause them to remain at home in their kitchens - where they belong!”  and ends just as chauvinistically with the conquered woman in the bedroom, waiting for her husband to come home.

Overall Conclusion: 4/10
Let me start this by saying that I am not a feminist. I believe in a Biblical picture of marriage, and I believe that that includes gender roles. That being said, I also believe that men should respect women (and vice versa). This movie served as one major dysfunction. It had some funny parts. I can throw a kitchen joke around with the best of them. Still, I kept watching this movie and kept wondering when it was going to get better. It had a foundation to be a really powerful movie - some comedies are - but it fell flat. It expressed a male frustration with the loss of freedom that comes with marriage, a frustration with the female invasion of their lives - totally understandable. I'm not speaking from experience, but I understand that marriage can be a difficult thing, especially when a wife doesn't take into account her husband's feelings when taking over the domestic sphere. 'How to Murder Your Wife', however, seemed to me to be a pathetic backlash of male frustration. There's no reconciliation between the two sexes. It's a hollow victory march for the men as they seek to scare their wives into submission and take control of their own lives once more. I guess my overall conclusion is that this movie dealt with a very adult subject in a very childish and insulting way. It's funny parts and interesting story line aren't enough to save this movie from a horrible message. 

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