Saturday, October 02, 2010

Cats jump off roofs and they land uninjured - Brick in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'


Mendacity is a word you would hear often if you watch ‘Cat on a hot tin roof’.
What would you say about a rich guy who has a drinking problem? That he is shallow and empty and drinking would come easily to him? Then you would be mistaken,
Brick (Paul Newman), the dipsomaniac has too many thoughts going on, most important of them is ‘Mendacity. You know what that is. It's lies and liars.’

Brick and his wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) are visiting Bid Daddy (Burl Ives), Brick’s rich father for his 65th birthday as also are Brick’s brother Gooper and sister-in-law, Mae.

The story is nothing fancy and you would wonder how different, an age old yarn of greedy kids eyeing their father’s riches, can be?
This electrified drama is not only about it but also the relationship between Brick and his father, as well as Brick and Maggie, his wife.

Maggie is the cat, sometimes soft and mushy as a lovey-dovey wife of Brick, other times ferocious when she fights Mae and tries not to lose her hold on Big Daddy’s money. Her moods are as fluctuating as Scarlett O Hara and her reasons no different.

“Maggie: That I've gone through this horrible transformation, that I've become hard and frantic and cruel...Oh Brick, I get so lonely.
Brick: Everybody gets that.
Maggie: Living with somebody you love can be lonelier than living entirely alone - if the one you love doesn't love you.
Brick: ...Would you like to live alone, Maggie?
Maggie: No! No, I wouldn't.”


But the highlight is the way Big Daddy tries to explore the reasons behind Brick’s drinking problem, he asks Brick

Big Daddy: Son, you know you got a real liquor problem?
Brick: Yes sir, I know.
Big Daddy: Is that why you quit your job, sports announcin', because of the liquor?
Brick: I guess so, yes sir, that's it.
Big Daddy: Don't guess about it, son, it's too important.

Brick: Somethin' hasn't happened yet.
Big Daddy: What's that?
Brick: A click in my head.
Big Daddy: Did you say, 'click'?
Brick: Yes sir, the click in my head that makes me feel peaceful.
Big Daddy: Boy, sometimes you worry me.
Brick: It's like a switch, clickin' off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on and all of a sudden, there's peace.
Big Daddy: Boy, you're, you're a real alcoholic!
Brick: That is the truth. Yes sir, I am an alcoholic, so if you'd just excuse me...
And when Brick mentions Mendacity, this is what Big Daddy has to tell him

“Mendacity. What do you know about mendacity? I could write a book on it...Mendacity. Look at all the lies that I got to put up with. Pretenses. Hypocrisy. Pretendin' like I care for Big Mama, I haven't been able to stand that woman in forty years. Church! It bores me. But I go. And all those swindlin' lodges and social clubs and money-grabbin' auxiliaries. It's-it's got me on the number one sucker list. Boy, I've lived with mendacity. Now why can't you live with it? You've got to live with it. There's nothin' to live with but mendacity. Is there? “


During the course of the conversation, it becomes clear that the main reason of Brick’s drinking lies in his relationship with his now-dead, best friend, Skipper.

It is endearing to see how the father tries desperately to reach out to his unruly son and the open conversation is a show-down between the father-son duo until the barriers break down.

Like any Tennessee Williams play, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ is not about movie, it is the dialogues that keep you going.

And I would really not do justice to this, if I do not mention Paul Newman. How can one man who is so good-looking also act so well? Did someone not say, ‘One can’t have everything in life?? look at Paul Newman in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ and you can prove them wrong!

Updated on 2/06/2012 :

We often see movies that depict stories in various periods of time.Flashback (too many movies to quote) and random chronological order (Pulp fiction, Memento et al) but how many movies are there where the characters and time are built through dialogue? Not many I guess.

Cat on a hot tin roof cleverly uses dialogue to build entire characters and reveals stories across time periods. At the heart of the story is the relationship between Maggie and Brick (who fight like cats) and then the relationship between Brick and his father, Big Daddy. Intertwined with this is the story between Brick and his dead buddy, Skipper. Although we never see Skipper the conversations between Maggie, Brick and Big Daddy builds us not only a very colorful image of Skipper but we can actually fathom the deep relationship between Brick and him. 

In my first review, I did not do justice to Liz Taylor at all. If there is one woman who can act catty as well as soft and sexy, it is Liz. She is almost like Scarlett-o-hara, albeit a little softer. In her resolve never to face poverty she puts up a good cat fight against the other obnoxious daughter-in-law, Maue. Her love for Brick is expressed in multiple ways, but the one where she narrates the story between Skipper and her is the best. Here is a woman, whose loyalty is questioned in front of her father in law and she faces it with grace. The candid narration of the incident between her and Skipper, makes Brick mock her but I think it is this candidness that brings him back to her at the end.

2 comments:

Arvind Swarup Pathiki said...

smiles... is that Erich Segal's Love Story that you begin with? it is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has the most recognised opening lines in any novel. But i insist that Erich Segal's Love Story takes the top spot. while on the topic, George Orwell's 1984 also would feature in my list of most recognisable opening lines in novels. but i digress... coming back to mendacity, it sounds like something out of the editorial section of 'The Hindu' newspaper... i hope you agree too. smiles.

I have not watched this movie. now that i read about it here, i will not miss the next opportunity to watch the movie. any movie that explores father-son relationship is of definite interest to me and i shall remember to revisit this page when i watch the movie to add more.

keep them coming....

Chimera said...

oh my my!you haven't watched this movie? can I say you are missing something in life??? :)