Monday, April 03, 2017

OVP: Teresa (1951)

Film: Teresa (1951)
Stars: Pier Angeli, John Ericson, Patricia Collinge, Richard Bishop, Peggy Ann Garner, Rod Steiger
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Motion Picture Story)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

One of the truly great mysteries of the Oscar Viewing Project that I'm going to have to figure out at some point is what the precise difference between Best Motion Picture Story and Original Screenplay was.  It's not a case of semantics here-the categories existed concurrently so it's not a Best Art Direction/Production Design situation.  They seem to have roughly the same goal, so I genuinely don't know how to judge them.  We've got a few years before I start to investigate the 1950's in the Oscar Viewing Project (we aren't close to finishing any of those years in the near future), but it's still a puzzling situation.  If you know the difference, please illuminate me below in the comments.  Until then, let's get into one of the Best Motion Picture Story nominees: Teresa.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film centers on Phillip Cass (Ericson, who is weirdly good-looking by modern standards in this movie, to the point where he'd likely have been a bigger star today than he was then), a young man dealing with PTSD and a lack of purpose after coming back from the war in Italy.  While he was away in Italy, he fell in love with a young Italian woman named Teresa (Angeli), who is shy and a little unsure, but genuinely steadfastly in love with him, even if she wants a traditional life with him and can't understand the stress he's dealing with after the war.  The two struggle to find a place for themselves, particularly in the shadow of his lazy father (Bishop) and domineering, critical mother (Collinge).

The film runs the gamut from being quite good to being, well, quite bad on a regular basis.  As this is Fred Zinnemann, the love stories may be the best part.  Watching Phillip and Teresa fall in love, it's a beautiful thing; we don't get one upper-hand situation, as both are learning about themselves in addition to falling in love with the other.  The writers are smart enough to keep Phillip from being the "all-knowing" man compared to Teresa, and it's fun to watch the naïveté play out onscreen, as that's something that rarely happens as writers need someone to be the expositional eye for the audience.

The film tries, in vain, to make the PTSD work, but it feels like (considering the length of the picture) there's one too many cooks in the kitchen here and perhaps it should have been left on the side in favor of the strange relationship that Phillip has with his mother.  Patricia Collinge doesn't overplay her domineering mother (this isn't a Lelia Goldoni in Bloodbrothers situation), but it's not clear at first that that's what is holding Phillip back, and quite frankly it's a more interesting commentary.  Yes, people struggle with multiple problems at once, but movies don't always have time to sort through all of those things, and it feels like the PTSD and his toxic family life are cured in the same full swoop by Teresa giving birth.  All-in-all, the second half of the film suffers even though there's mountains of potential in this particular tale.

Those are my thoughts-how about yours?  Has anyone seen Teresa, and if so, what are your thoughts on it?  If not, anyone have any opinions on Ericson (an actor I'd never heard of before this picture) or the tragic Pier Angeli?  And again-what is Best Motion Picture Story?!?

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