Imaginary friends are such
That we don’t miss them very much
And so forget the joy that comes
From pals we cannot see or touch.
The fanciful are easy to mock.
We question sanity and gawk,
But everyone needs someone else
With whom to drink and laugh and talk.
And what the “sane” perhaps don’t see
In what we call imaginary
Is something we too often miss
In our mundane reality.
MPAA rating: Not Rated (easily G)
I watched Harvey for two main reasons: (1) It’s one of those universally liked classics that all fans of film should or feel like they should see, and (2) I love Jimmy Stewart, who earned an Oscar nomination for the kind of role that doesn’t initially seem worthy of an Oscar. As Elwood P. Dowd, he’s a genial, soft-spoken alcoholic happy to while away the hours visiting the bar and inviting strangers home for dinner. The trouble is that he’s utterly sincere in his friendship with a six-foot-plus invisible rabbit by the obvious name of Harvey.
While I have been familiar with the basic concept of Harvey for years, I didn’t know what to expect from the actual storyline. My VC had seen it long ago and remembered it as vaguely weird, and that was largely my opinion through the first half, or the first two-thirds really. Dowd obliviously walks around introducing acquaintances to his large unseen pal, while his sister Veta (Oscar-winning Josephine Hull) and his niece (Victoria Horne) bemoan the damage this does to their social reputation and vow to lock him away in a sanitarium. There are plenty of comical misadventures for secondary characters that drive the plot, most of which Dowd remains heedless of, and I found myself more annoyed than amused that much of the humor relied on misunderstandings that could easily be solved by a simple turn of the head or a more careful choice of words.
Yet, the latter third of the film places Dowd’s potential “mental illness” into a wider context of fantasy vs. reality and dull normalcy vs. eccentric kindness. Whereas what came before was simply Dowd’s peculiar routine, which seemed deranged to the outside eye, Stewart gives him more depth with some simple but keenly heartfelt conversations that make the prospect of an invisible pooka more enviable than pitiable. While Hull’s busybody panic and Stewart’s sincerity make the most of a rather uninvolving beginning/middle, the end helped me see Harvey’s classic appeal. It will never be among my favorites, but, like Dowd himself, it had a gentle charm and was, above all, “pleasant.”
Best line: (Aunt Veta, to her niece) “Myrtle Mae, you have a lot to learn, and I hope you never learn it.”
Rank: Honorable Mention
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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