Sunday, March 1, 2009
"Laura" tells the story of the investigation into the murder of Laura Hunt, a lovely young advertising executive with a long list of suitors, played by Gene Tierney. Dana Andrews is the police detective assigned to the case. Through interviews with Laura's loves (coincidentally, the main suspects) Andrews' character begins to fall in love with Laura himself, for reasons which are unclear (Tierney's beauty notwithstanding.) Andrews' transition from tough-talking hard-boiled cop to hopeless romantic is handled poorly, rushed and only introduced through another character's observation. Nothing Andrews does lets us see him falling in love with a dead woman.
SPOILERS: Except, she's not really dead, which is supposed to be shocking, but really isn't when you consider that the film couldn't really go anywhere with the love angle if she remained dead. Laura shows up to catch Detective Macpherson asleep in her apartment, and explains that she's been in the country without a radio. Turns out it's her model friend and look-alike that got shot, and now Macpherson must figure out whether Laura was the intended target or whether Laura herself is the murderer.
Unfortunately, this isn't one of those tightly written movies where everything is explained by the ending and the loose ends tie together. The story falls apart during the remainder of Macpherson's investigation, and it feels like the writers and director pulled the solution to the mystery out of a hat.
The best part of Laura is the two suspects in Laura's murder, ne'er do well Shelby Carpenter, played by Vincent Price in a very atypical role, and radio personality Waldo Lydecker, played by Clifton Webb. Webb was nominated for an Oscar for the performance, which is truly wonderful. Webb's Lydecker is an arrogant snob with a caustic wit and a keen sense of style. He's also clearly in love with Laura, whereas Price's Carpenter is inherently suspicious and unlikeable. The hatred between these two rivals feels authentic, and makes up for some of the story's flaws.
Laura, like it's title character, is deeply flawed buy lovable all the same. The films features strong acting in some parts but weak acting in others, the script features wonderful dialogue and yet inexplicable plot-holes and curious gaps in logic, and the film's much-ballyhooed surprise is both utterly predictable and occurs very close to half-way through the picture. I must admit to being surprised by the ending, but only because I had been expecting the end of the movie to make sense. Silly me. However, it kept my interest throughout and was fairly entertaining, so it gets 6.5 out of 10.