Oscar Bait – Mrs Miniver

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Progress: 459/1007Title: Mrs Miniver
Director: William Wyler
Year: 1942
Country: USA

Mrs Miniver has the rather odd distinction of being the only propaganda film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. In the two years of the films production a lot happened which caused the US to go from being a neutral observer to a post-Pearl Harbour combatant. This meant that the level and the type of propaganda had to change – which ended up with the film being rushed for release by the President of the United States himself.

Considering all that, how could this not win the Oscar? Especially when you throw in an excellent performance by Greer Garson as the titular Mrs Miniver.

The issue I have with this film is that it, at times, feels awfully disjointed. It is very much of the type where we spend the first act becoming acquainted with the central family as they were and then we see them in the throes of war. It is a tried and true formula that was expertly carried out by Gone With The Wind only three years earlier.  Mrs Miniver, however, takes way too long to set this scene.

The film also falls victim to the classic casting problem: children. The casting of all three Miniver children (including the adult son Vincent) just did not work. There was a part of me hoping that one of the two sons would be the member of the main family sacrificed to hammer home the horrors of war. No such luck.

There are a number of bright spots that made this a compelling film though. The scene in the bunker, for example, displayed something that actually felt real. It cut through the bullshit of the stiff upper-lipped village and their flower competition and showed the war from the perspective from bombed Brits.

It also pains me to say it, but I also got slightly taken in by the rousing propaganda-friendly speech made by the village priest as he stood in his bombed out church. Then again, Dresden.

Brass tacks though – I never really felt that this film engaged me. End of story.

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