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#101. It's A Gift - Review

It's a Gift film posterIf this is W. C. Fields’ idea of a gift then I hope he kept the receipt, because I need to exchange this film for something that fits me better. Like the ugly sweater that your grandma knitted you that was two sizes too small, It’s A Gift (1934) should have been donated to Goodwill and forgotten.

Somehow either based or inspired by his retired vaudeville acts, Fields’ strives for laughs but settles for sighs. The star plays Harold Bissonette, a small town New Jersey grocer with dreams of owning an orange ranch in sunny California. When a relative dies and bequeaths to Bissonette enough money to purchase a ranch, he does so without discussing the decision with his wife and two children. Once the film introduces the timid man’s family, his covertness becomes all too clear. This is a film that finds humor in frustration, like a 15-minute scene of watching a man be miserably thwarted from falling asleep by random nuisances amusing. The shallow plot would perhaps be better suited for the stage, where it makes sense to sacrifice progression and development for mindless pratfalls and gags.

Speaking of gag, Mrs. Bissonette, played by Kathleen Howard, is as unlikable a character that has ever been put on film. Her time on screen is ample and insufferable, somehow believing being repugnant and spiteful would be funny. Instead, her performance and subsequent interactions with her husband only serve to offer a small notion as to how the tortured victims in Salo, Or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) might have felt. There is no love, no life, and no spirit in It’s A Gift. If the jokes and set-ups in this film are reminiscent of the classic vaudeville style of the early 20th century, than I understand now why it so quickly disappeared. 

 If you find this funny, then you will love this film. I hated it, so let me know what you think of this clip.

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February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScraps

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