Hello, Dolly!

CW: gender, race

Complicated gender norms pervade this. It's clear "It Takes a Woman" is intended as characterization of Mathau's character's misguided notions on love, women, and marriage, but the film never establishes his better qualities--never explains why Dolly is set on marrying him--except to say she wants to redistribute his wealth for him (and good for her, that's good ass praxis). His consent in that endeavor seems almost irrelevant to the film and when it's revealed, watering down her (not really that) radical intentions. Furthermore, every black character in this save Louis Armstrong is a racial caricature, and Armstrong is relegated to a submissive cameo himself. To call this a product of its time suggests that this same sort of shit isn't still happening, so let's say it's just typical Hollywood bullshit.

If you ignore all that, though--and it might be easy because--you have excessive choreographical spectacle before you. Every song is an excuse for a dance sequence that somehow outlasts the song, that never overstays because it's pornographically delicious, a carefully structured riot of color, movement, and music that even makes the hokiest of songs feel extravagant. My mother lives for the title song, but for me, the highlight was definitely "Put on Your Sunday Best." If you could strip the film of its context and muddled at best and outright racist portrayals at worst, you could have musical perfection.

Sally Jane liked this review