Damn you, Film Four.
Heartbreak of my last Saturday on Reading week – Find ‘guess who’s coming to dinner’ on film four and think you’re about to get your Sidney Poitier Katherine Hepburn Spencer Tracy funk on only for the film to come back from an ad break and find that it’s the shitty 2006 ‘remake’ rom com with Ashton Kutcher.
*Sob* There’s go karting…
I don’t think it can even be called a remake, its only claim on the original is the same very loose premise- An inter racial couple dealing with the reactions of the woman’s family to their relationship. The original isn’t even a comedy, it’s tense and serious and raises some really interesting questions about race and HAS SIDNEY GODDAMN POITIER I MEAN COME ON GUYS
Has there even been a bigger gulf between a film and it’s alleged remake? Even the inversion of the characters doesn’t work- In the original a 22 year old upper class white woman and the 38 year old widowed black doctor are engaged and going to Paris to get married (Because it’s illegal for them to marry in the USA). There’s a tension between the father of the woman and her boyfriend not just because of his race but also his age and the usual father son in law clash. There’s a tension between the parents as their opinions about the match divide them. The question is raised that is the father really only concerned with the bad reaction other people will give the couple or is that an excuse. Their daughter has been raised in a sheltered upper class environment where she was taught that there was no difference between blacks and whites and her father’s discomfort unnerves her, there’s heated exchanges between he boyfriend and HIS dad about their perceptions of identity and the idea that all races carry some prejudice.
It’s an absolute joy of a film, containing some amazing performances (Spencer Tracy was dying during filming and he and Katherine Hepburn knew this was their last picture together) and a subject matter dealt with well before it’s time. That’s not to say it’s perfect about the issue of race- great pains are taken to ensure Sidney Poitier’s character is flawless and perhaps overly idealised. I suppose as a way to counter negative portrayals of Black characters until then they went to the the other extreme and created the perfect man with no overt sexuality, flaws or personal failings but the ‘It was 1967’ excuse in this case I think covers them. Guess who’s coming to Dinner was ground breaking, it was really the first major film in Hollywood to ‘go there’ as regards race relations. It manages to balance being engaging and entertaining with getting across a message. It manages to this while not getting preachy or over idealistic. It goes there, ladies and gents. It went there before anyone else had the balls to.
The remake… the remake had Go Karting. What can I say. It inverts the races of the main couple; now a young white man and his black fiance are returning to her home to meet her father. Somehow it manages to come across as more racist than the original. 40 years later. It’s really not even a remake rather it’s a poor man’s meet the parents. Man meets future father in law, father in law hates him for shagging his daughter, hijinks ensue. Only in this film we have the added dimension of ‘HA! Black People stuff! They can be racist too!’
There’s a cringe inducing running gag about the fiance’s sister asking what a white guy is like in bed. The fiance starts talking in a collective noun ‘Oh well they get all loud and start singing when they’re close and they get all…’ etc. As if ALL WHITE MEN are the same lover and sleeping with one white man means you’ve slept with them all. It’s just awkward and strange. There’s another awful moment where Bernie Mac, the father, is describing his daughter’s fiance to a co-worker and he begins to list all the accomplishments and traits of his future son in law… Meaning he lies and tries to hide the fact that he’s white by listing off some of the most annoying stereotyipical bullshit I’ve ever heard
‘Oh yeah, named uh.. Jamal! Yeah, Jamal…’ and he goes on to talk about how he was nearly a pro basketball player before he did medicine and how he’s an awseome, cool and importantly black suitor.
And then his pasty, wimpy white real future on in law walks in.
Wah wah waaaaaaaah.
I know it’s a loose farcical remake of the original but I beg to know- Why did it have to be a loose farcical remake? Would it not have been interesting to remake this as a serious drama about race relations, maybe see how far we’ve come and how far we still have left to travel? Hollywood is still a bit funny about portraying inter racial couples- To my mind I’ve only seen two that have an inter racial couple and don’t make any reference to it- Those are Love Actually (Which is British) and Rachel getting married. Those are two that come to mind and it’s been 40 years since Guess who’s coming to dinner! Wouldn’t it be fascinating to really examine what race relations are like now by writing an honest to god remake of the original- Sure, invert the races if you want but at least attempt to ask the same questions the original did.
Instead, 2005 got go karting.
Niamh ‘I want to marry Sidney Poitier’ Keoghan