domino harvey wrote:
Lee Marvin is another great element that gets underused as the plot keeps trying to horn in. His entrance in this movie is phenomenal. But he gets forgotten as Ford focuses on the bratty B, to the film's detriment. It's funny you say it comes off as too loose, because I do feel it should've been looser-- drop the stuck up Bostonian and social commentary and make it about the colorful characters who inhabit the island. That aside, there are some beautiful images beyond the obvious island elements you'd expect, such as the rainstorm in the church, when everyone in unison pulls out their umbrellas!
To be clear, I don't think it's too loose, it's just my perception that many others do, and that this is the primary reason why it isn't considered a major Ford.
I do agree with you that the first several scenes are the best in the film, but if it had continued in that vein for the entire runtime, the novelty may have worn thin as the film went on. It's a flawed film, but it's also a beautiful one, and to me it does have the feeling of a "filmed vacation," which you were yearning for but didn't find. This is probably enhanced for me by it's position in Ford's career. His work in the preceding years consisted of Cheyenne Autumn
, the Civil War segment in How the West Was Won
, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
, Two Rode Together
, and Sergeant Rutledge
-- I think this is unquestionably the darkest, most humorless stretch of his career. So Donovan's Reef
's lightness is enormously impacting in that context, and it does feel like a vacation of sorts. A great artist at the close of his career who is happily making a picture for himself and his friends. I don't really have a quarrel with any of your misgivings with the film, they just don't seem to bother me as much.