This powerhouse film dramatizes relationship-building to cathartic effect. Over the course of seemingly less than a week, we exhibit the full cycle of most of The Philadelphia Story‘s main characters’ synapses realigning as they come to realize their past mistakes, present unhappiness and future malaise simultaneously and work effortlessly to redefine themselves as modern people in the modernist sense: that self-consciousness is the righteous path and function, in their case, life, follows form. The Philadelphia Story huffs through almost two hours and the audience is better for it, almost, in the most modern way: that there exists a strived-for completeness, when in fact the audience must know that this is the question. In a way, whether intentional or not, through a modern lens The Philadelphia Story defines modernism through postmodern means.
Because through hyperrelapse behavior and infinite loops of information, the modern (in a contemporary sense) man and woman knows that the ultimate goal is to strive for completeness with the full intention of achieving a sliver of happiness completes his or her journey. Ever the pessimist, he or she is honest, which is the key component to the argument against The Philadelphia Story. At its core the film is art and the sped-up premise is meant as a plot device, eschewing reality for core competency; after two hours, the audience must leave with an impression – good or bad – that the film did not flounder. It is reasonable that the film is somewhat dishonest because I think that the writing and acting is compelling enough, and through seasoned performances from Cary Grant (C.K. Dexter Haven), Katherine Hepburn (Tracy Lord) and Jimmy Stewart (Mike Connor), it is slightly obvious that the production team was in on this joke. Continue reading