"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" Throwback Review
Yes, it's a bit too neat and simple for today's standards. Hell, even Roger Ebert noted that this film has glaring faults in the first line of his review back in 1968. But, what makes Stanley Kramer's film so great is the simplicity of the story and acting.
Basically a stage play, Kramer careens and maneuvers his camera around the glitzy San Franciso home of the Draytons, who have always stood on the liberal side of things and denounced racism. Now their principles are being put to the test when their daughter brings home a black man that she intends to marry. The black man is played by Sidney Poitier, who double-billed that year by playing the "noble negro" role twice in both this film and the Best Picture-winning In the Heat of the Night.
By what we're told, Poitier's character is the most decorated doctor in the world and is more saintly than Jesus himself. His perfection is a bit too on the nose and inauthentic. How could anyone say to no this man marrying their daughter? That contrived question is how the film delves into its race problem, as the daughter's parents must confront the fact that their son-in-law will be black. And yes, the timeline element of this movie is artificial and can easily be circumvented.
The script by William Rose contains many moments of silence. These moments are where everything hangs in the balance, such as an answer to a question or the ramifications of new information. Its arguments for racial equality are surface-level, but still convincing and truthful in merit.
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn together as the Drayton parents are magnificent. Hepburn seems to always been on the verge of tears and Tracy must have been the model for Carl Fredricksen in Up. Katharine Houghton overacts her part and Poitier is great, especially during the more nervous parts that have him cracking ill-timed jokes.
Also, what the hell was with that scene with the dancing delivery boy!?