Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Searching, Desperately Seeking Susan, Heaven Can Wait, & Mr. Blandings’ Dream House

Four more movies that I saw simply because I wanted to see them (or revisit them):

A- Searching (2018), Shattuck

Yes, it’s a gimmick, but it works. The entire film is played on screens within the story: computers, smartphones, television news, with people captured on the many cameras around them. The plot is a basic mystery – which may or may not involve a murder. John Cho plays a widowed father whose teenage daughter inexplicitly disappears. Technically savvy, he hacks into her computer to find out what she has been up to, whether she ran away, or who might have wanted to do her harm. And of course, he discovers that he doesn’t know his daughter at all. Like any good mystery, there’s a big wallop of a surprise at the end.

B+ Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Fandor

Funny and sexy, Susan Seidelman’s comedy thriller (written by Leora Barish) sparks with popping colors and infectious pop music while celebrating the down and dirty over the respectable middle class. Rosanna Arquette stars as a bored, unhappy housewife who loses her memory and takes on the identity of the very wild Susan, a happy slut played by a not-yet-famous Madonna (she hit the big time while the film was in post production).

Heaven Can Wait (1943), FilmStruck

Ernst Lubitsch was a great director of sophisticated comedy, but moralistic sentimentality was never his strong point. Don Ameche stars as a rich playboy entering Hell after a life of sin. A surprisingly sympathetic Satan asks him to tell his life story. We learn that he didn’t always behave properly. But he had an overall wonderful marriage, and his transgressions were so minor that they’re not even entertaining. Basically, this Technicolor fable is about a very happy marriage between two horribly rich people, with only a few flashes of Lubitschian wit.

C- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), FilmStruck

What can you expect from a comedy with the word bland in the title? Cary Grant’s comic brilliance can only go so far without a good script or direction. The first half hour or so is reasonably funny, but the laughs thin out as the movie goes on, without anything else to replace them. Grant plays a New York ad executive who decides to build a house in the country. Things don’t go as planned, and everything costs more than expected. Meanwhile, he begins to suspect that his best friend (Melvyn Douglas) is hitting on his wife (Myrna Loy). That’s a setup for a great screwball comedy, but Blandings never even tries for madcap insanity.

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