Before getting into this post, I’d like to say that I enjoyed The Philadelphia Story and found the characters very charming and three dimensional. They were all flawed but learned to overcome those flaws, and their relationships with one another seemed real. But if we are considering that one of the messages of the film is that there is a natural hierarchy led by “exceptional individuals” and that it’s not all fun and games being rich, then I have to say that the movie fell short of its mark for me.
Consider Tracy’s family. The film certainly does a good job of breaking down the idea of the vapid aristocracy–the scene where Dinah and Tracy act like stereotypical snobs to mess with Mike and Liz was pretty funny. But just because they don’t actually spout French and walk around with their arms floating in front of them doesn’t make them naturally better than others. Tracy’s father had an affair and blamed his daughter for it; he may have some positive qualities but this is kind of a deal breaker as far as I’m concerned. Tracy proves her intelligence to Mike by reading his book, but of course she has some taste in books; she could get a better education because she was born rich. Without getting too political, of course I know there’s a lot of hard work involved with accumulating wealth, but there’s also a great deal of luck (especially in old money families). With that in mind, is there anything naturally better about Tracy and her family that makes them exceptional enough to be upper class? Or is their exceptionality a result of their wealth?
Another thing I was rather unimpressed with was the problems faced by the characters. One of Tracy’s dilemmas is that three handsome guys are in love with her. What a tragedy. A little more seriously, she also has to deal with lack of privacy and her own inability to deal with “human frailty,” as Dex said. But especially after watching films like The Grapes of Wrath, this sort of thing seems very trivial. I understand that rom coms aren’t really supposed to be about serious issues. People like to see stories about wealthy people because it’s an escape from regular life and it often involves more drama, more attractive people, more luxurious places, basically something to aspire to. In the end, I liked The Philadelphia Story for its humor and characters, but it didn’t leave a great impact.