Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Do We Know About 'Mendacity?'

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

What do we know about 'mendacity?' More than we're ever likely to let on. And that's a truth you can bet the farm on.

Such is the case of Tennessee Williams' classic play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, adapted for screen by Richard Brooks and . Fresh off the news that he is not dying of cancer, Big Daddy (Burl Irves) returns home to his multi-thousand acre farm, worth millions of dollars, and two children sitting on entirely opposite end of the spectrum. On the one hand you have Gooper, the loyal son who seeks for nothing but to appease his father... and if he's lucky get a large piece of the inheritance pie. Gooper is the archetypal child. Well mannered, well wed, and full family, with the business sense to see the farm into prosperity. Then, there's Brick (Paul Newman), the wild child, the star... the alcoholic. With his glory days behind him, Brick finds himself in a marriage he doesn't want, a life he can't stand, and remorse piled on so high he couldn't see daylight for miles. There's no denying something is eating away at Brick, but damned if he's going to let anyone in on it. That includes Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor), his wife.

Now, Maggie is by no means a saint. She knows time for inheritance talks are on the horizon and she'll be damned if she's going to let Brick lose out because of Gooper's trying ways. Only one problem: Brick doesn't want it. So caught up in trying to escape, Brick wouldn't care about the inheritance unless it was a ten feet tall bottle of Bourbon. Everyone can tell he's hurting, and the only one who cares enough to try and get in is the last person he's going to let anywhere near, Maggie.

Such is the world Big Daddy finds himself returning to. But even Big Daddy isn't the same. A brush with death has inspired a burning desire for life inside of him. He wants to do all the things he never did. Be the person everybody tries to tell him he isn't. Like Brick, he also wants to escape. He wants to escape his family, the pressures of death, the tales of inheritance, the conniving, the planning, the cunning and cheating. He wants peace, tranquility... and a beautiful girl with inviting arms for him to collapse into.

Yet as Tennessee Williams so masterly proves, for all their tales, complaining, and selfish ways, the one person each of them lies to most is thyself. It is in that spirit that throughout the next two hours, our characters do everything under the sun to convince those whom live in their tiny world that fault lay at the feet of everyone else.

However, there was one aspect of the film that struck me in a most unusual way: the submissive attitude of women. Perhaps it was the time it was written, or set, but despite some strong and commanding female presences, each woman feels beholden without question to the man. The man is the stronghold, the maker and breaker, and through his actions they define themselves more than anyone probably should. I do get that they are often the voice of reason in their respective relationships, but even still they seem to be voices of reason without conscience. What few actions they take on in absence of their other half, are often conniving, conceited, or just downright cruel. And while I won't argue that their male counterparts are any better, they at least show some sentiment of self-dependability. Something decisively lacking in the women.

Alas, that characterization seems limit minded and unfulfilled giving the overall greatness on display. From the lyrical styling to the volatile confrontations, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a classic to behold

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