Thursday, August 25, 2011

Room at the Top

During the late 50's and early 60's, British cinema had a flux of realism dramas. Most of them haven't aged well, but those that did are relevant to today's audiences.

Laurence Harvey is better known by modern crowds for his work in The Manchurian Candidate but he is also stellar in Room at the Top, which he did three years earlier. It got him his only Academy Award nomination, but that's an understatement as to the scale of his performance. Like in The Manchurian Candidate, his Joe Lampton isn't a very likable person yet you sympathize for him because he falls under the spell of a woman.

Joe becomes interested in two women: Alice (Simone Signoret, who was wonderfully evil in Diabolique) and Susan (Heather Sears). Of course, both women are complete opposites and have their flaws. Alice is married and older but brings out what remains of Joe's warmth; Susan is dull but comes from a family of wealth and high class, something Joe wants to be a part of.

By the end of Room at the Top, Joe has reached his goal. But he realizes something: he's not happy. The final shot of Joe captures what he's feeling, a look of hopelessness. That shot, as well as the performances by Harvey and Signoret, is what makes Room at the Top so memorable.

My Rating: *****

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