Alfred Hitchcock showed the playful side of suspense in his direction of Family Plot (1976) through the actions of a cab driver, a charlatan, and two kidnappers with shady pasts. Hitchcock uses dramatic irony to push forward the humor of the plot of the movie as these two sets of couples try to find the other because of very different reasons.
Comedy, suspense, and mystery blend together to make the batter of the cake that is Family Plot. Each element is perfectly balanced to bring about a film that is funny but not over-the-top silly with high stakes brought from the actions of the characters with a dash of sprinkles caused by explosions. The script leaves the audience wondering what will happen next until the very end where they can have their cake and eat it too.
If there is anything to be learned from this movie it’s this: lying is hard and usually gets you into ridiculous situations. Also, try not to kill people. That’s just a general rule but Hitchcock felt like it needed to be addressed and so here we are people.
So, let’s move on to a little section called characters vs. film. What was most important in this scenario? The answer here is film. Don’t get me wrong, the characters are great and well developed—it’s Alfred Hitchcock we’re talking about here—but if an actor was changed in the middle of the movie I would just accept it and carry on. Why? You may ask, well the answer is quite simple: I cared more about the plot and what would happen next than about the well-being of the characters. What kept me on the edge of my seat was the dilemma, not the character styles.
In addition to this, I also cared more about the angles and special shots of the movie than I did about the characters but to be fair they were AMAZING. There was a shot in particular that caught my eye where it smoothly transitioned from a ground view to an aerial view of a cathedral and it was fluid and simply genius. Some shots were so good that I had to shake my friend who watched with me and point at the screen whispering woah did you see that????!!!!???
Artistically, the movie was a ride but the themes and the characters helped along the emotional reaction of the viewer. Although my initial view of Blanche Tyler (Barbara Harris) was that she was very annoying and high maintenance, she began to grow on me. One could argue that her acting was a bit over-the-top at times but she helped create a light hearted mood. Her silly actions, although dangerous at times, allowed the audience to take a break from the plan that was formulated and simply laugh in the moment. This in itself allowed the film to take away the viewer from the stresses of daily life and just laugh at the screen.
One could argue that there is always a lesson to be learned from films but this time I’m going to let it slide. Not because it lacked morals—it was very adamant about the results of lying and the fact that things of the church should not be trifled with—but that was not the point of the movie. Hitchcock often makes very moralistic films that leave audiences breathless with anticipation and anxiety but this one was humorous which gave toned down versions of those emotions which were washed over by snorts and giggles.
Through the ups and downs of the two couples followed, it is very obvious that the main point of this story is to be a conflict by man vs. man. One could argue that the characters had fights between themselves and society but the bulk of the movie held a spy vs. spy quality to it that would be welcome after a long week at school, work, or what have you.
In conclusion, this movie was very fun to watch. Sure there were certain scenes I didn’t like (mostly because of acting) like the scene at the gasoline station and the one in the car with Barbara’s little performance but other than that the film was very solid. The best parts were definitely any scene that involved Fran (Karen Black). Her dynamic with Arthur Adamson (William Devane) was interesting, particularly the power play between the two as the film grew in intensity. As mentioned before: I giggled, snorted, and found many shots aesthetically pleasing. I enjoyed myself way more than I expected to and that in itself is awesome. Out of 10 strawberries I would give it a solid 7, and I should add–this type of film isn’t really my style so that in itself proves it’s a good film.