When a movie receives a ninety-something rating from Rotten Tomatoes, it kind of sets a high precedent for itself. Not that I don’t trust the internet. I do, sometimes. But so much is over-hyped that I didn’t want to set my expectations too soaring. Nor did I want my movie-going friend to be disappointed–she had only seen one other “old” movie before, so, yeah. It had to be good.
Surprise! It was! Duh. Cary Grant is mesmerizing, which is why he was so famous and all of that. (Shouldn’t I be telling you things you don’t know? Sorry.) Grace Kelly had this aura about her that I had never noticed before in other movies, too; she was at once very elegant and very tough. Her beauty wasn’t necessarily delicate or soft. It had a presence, and thus she did, too. As I watched, I kept thinking about what it must have been like to be a movie star back then, just 60 short years ago. Even though the movie was restored to its beautiful, vibrant, original color palette and enhanced by XD viewing–thanks, corporate America!–I always felt like I was standing right next to them as they performed their lines. Movies don’t feel like that anymore, because the film is too crisp and the lighting is too perfect, and it’s so real that it’s obviously not real. To Catch A Thief, while very fantastical, still felt like a good-old-fashioned movie. They really don’t make them like they used to.
Of course, there is an advantage to that. John Robie’s (Grant) compatriot, Bertani (Charles Vanel), spoke with Vanel’s incredibly thick French accent. It was thusly dubbed, and thusly super obvious and terrible. My god, it was terrible. It was worse than a Kurosawa film. You know what I mean. Whenever Robie went back to talk to this guy, I wanted to erupt in laughter. Then again, Grant’s chin also reminds me of this, which means I’m twelve years old and easily distracted. At least I’m honest.
Let’s get back to the good parts, because there were a lot of them. Hitchcock’s sense of humor really came through in this movie, especially with his lingering shots on the actor’s faces. He allowed for Grant and Kelly’s natural chemistry to play itself out, to see their actions and reactions, to let us revel in their perfect witty banter. He also put himself in the movie quite hilariously, mostly because of the look on Grant’s face when he spots him. Without that weird man, meta humor just wouldn’t exist.
I find it very interesting that this whole thing took place in France–Robie, an American and a notorious jewel thief, takes up residence there and gets blamed for a heist long after he gave up the gem ghost–and that most of the characters are French, and many of them just straight-up speak French with no subtitles. Sneaky Alfie, that one. He wants us to be confused! Fine, I’ll play along. As you might imagine, there are quite a high number of hijinks that ensue in this movie, though they’re less silly and more thrilling, as A.H. is the master of suspense.
Before I contribute the bajillionth redundant positive review of this movie to the world, I do want to mention how much I loved (a) Grant’s copious use of the ascot. What a fine look that I wish I could wear myself (but I can’t, because I’ll look butch) and I wish men would wear nowadays. On a non-sartorial note, I dearly loved Jessie Royce Landis as Jessie, Frances’ (Kelly) mother. She played this interesting, completely loaded, utterly confident lady who didn’t take her wealth or herself too seriously, and it was sort of nice to see a woman so comfortable with (but not overbearing about) her status. I wish there were more characters like her. I also wish there were more directors like Hitchcock. A girl can dream.