Time: 108 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography, Actress (Taylor), Actor (Newman), Director, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.
SYNOPSIS: Family tensions come to a head, when Big Daddy returns home from a health clinic for his 65th birthday and discovers his eldest son drooling over the estate and his youngest drowning himself in the bottle instead of the arms of his pretty, young wife.
BOTTOM LINE: Nobody writes bitter, broken people better than Tennessee Williams. This affair begins with suppressed anger and quickly moves to boiling rage, as the members of an unhappy Southern family attempt to come to terms with the fatal illness of its' patriarch, the seemingly unstoppable force known as Big Daddy (Ives). With everything to live for, but very little time left, Big Daddy is forced to come to terms with himself and the disfunctional family he's created. Despite the cheerful facade, there is no love lost between the siblings, who have nothing but disgust for each other's lifestyles. Maggie (Taylor), Big Daddy's favorite daughter-in-law, is fighting not only for the future of her marriage, but their stake in the family fortune. Brick (Newman) wants no part in the celebration or the money-grubbing, drinking to forget the pain of his best friend's death and to avoid Maggie's various attempts at reconciliation. Even with all the alcohol, I don't see how his character could resist her.
Taylor is at the height of her beauty and power here, giving such a raw and sultry performance that I'm stunned the screen didn't catch on fire. Newman is his super-cool, smoldering self, channeling his anger and pain into those crystal blue eyes and sarcastic grin. The chemistry between them is electric, bringing unbridled emotion to every word. No shrinking violet himself, Ives makes his presence known with unquestionable authority. Whenever he's onscreen he demands your attention, almost making you forget about Taylor and Newman, which is quite an accomplishment.
Though Big Daddy's mostly a blowhard, his performance has tremendous nuance, especially once he learns he's dying sooner rather than later. His struggle with his own mortality is heartbreaking to watch, giving his determination to enjoy what time he has left true pathos. His conversations with Brick are operatic, each desperate to get at the truth the other is hiding, throwing verbal punch after punch to bring down the tough facades that shield their pain and finally make an honest connection. This being Williams, their search for the truth involves a lot of shouting and physical destruction. That Brick is hobbled both emotionally (the booze) and physically (he's forced to move around on a crutch due to a broken foot) is more than a little obvious, but it gives such a dialogue heavy piece movement and a deeper meaning, as various characters try to remove it from him.
That years of silent suffering and blatant lies get tied up in a pretty little bow at the end Brick reconciles with both Big Daddy and Maggie is a Hollywood given, but it still manages to be satisfying nonetheless. Though the story is stripped of it's more scandalous nature (Brick is a repressed homosexual in the original play, which gives Maggie's desperation and childlessness and Brick's pain at the loss of his "friend" a whole new and deeper meaning), the screenwriter manages to keep the soul of the piece intact. CAT is a vibrantly filmed, brilliantly acted family drama that incorporates every possible human emotion into a two-hour time span, leaving the viewer slightly overwhelmed and extremely glad you're not part of their clan. It's a film that hasn't gone out of style because it's themes still resonate today. A classic well worth the watching.