Having seen films like Cavalcade and Cimarron there is one thing I have come to accept about the Best Picture list. These films are very much of their time and so not all with have aged the same way. With You Can’t Take It With You there two things that really show its age.
Firstly, it is a screwball comedy – which is not a genre that has been popular since the mid-1940s. In many ways, that can make films like this (and Oscar winner It Happened One Night) feel rather quaint since we now expect acclaimed comedies to have a tinge of darkness to it. I mean, just look at likes of The Grand Budapest Hotel, there is so much underneath that. I rather like screwball comedies until they rely too heavily on nonsensical farce. You Can’t Take It With You does lean heavily on the farcical elements, but since this is meant to be a rich family of eccentrics the film is able to get away with a lot – including a man jumping out wearing a walrus mask.
Most interesting of all (when viewed in the modern age) is Grandpa – the hero of the film. The main crux of the conflict (aside from the screwball staple of love and class warfare) is that Grandpa is a rich man who refuses to pay income tax. He refuses to pay for it, and has not done so for 22 years, because he doesn’t believe in it. In the current climate this is a character that we would end up vilifying, but here he is a sweet old man with many friends and a daughter who only writes plays because a typewriter was accidentally left at their doorstep.
In the end, You Can’t Take It With You is fun. That’s about it really. It’s pure slighty-dated saccharin fun. It is not Capra’s best film (see: Mr Smith Goes To Washington), but it’s worth a watch on a dreary afternoon.