Like everyone else reading an obscure movie blog late at night or early in the morning, you have been rejected by the opposite sex (or same-sex) like I have before. It feels like someone socked you in the stomach when a person rejects you simply based on your looks or maybe even your simple remarks as a way of introduction. Although being single does have its advantages, it also has some devastating drawbacks for more normal looking people like myself. Paddy Chayefsky no doubt experienced these emotional problems and put his experience into one of the best Hollywood dramas ever produced in this era.
Marty, played wonderfully by Ernest Borgnine, is a thirty something bachelor butcher. Pressured by all sides to get married, he no doubt wants to find someone he can spend the rest of his life with. So he goes out every Saturday night with his single friend to look for a date. He is perpetually disappointed or rejected. One Saturday night, after being pulled out by his friend, he is propositioned by an arrogant bachelor to take his “dog” of a date. He rejects the other man at first, but watches as she is rejected by the man the bachelor ultimate gets. He goes to comfort her and they end up dancing, eating and talking. They spend a wonderful Saturday night together and make plans to get together the next day. The only problem is that both his friends and his mother reject her as a possible mate for him. Despite his feelings, he is convinced he could do better than her. It isn’t until the last scene of the picture does he realize that everyone he knows is wrong. She is perfect for him.
I cannot believe how great this movie was. It was so simple and yet so beautiful in its simplicity. The film felt lived in and earnest. Chayefsky felt for his characters and treated them as fully formed adults. He did this by giving some really great dialogue. The strengths really do lie there. Through a series of scenes, Marty reveals a lot about himself to this woman he just met that night. Normally it would be unbelievable to have a character reveal so much at the tip of a hat, but Chayefsky makes it seem inevitable. The bursts in which he reveals his feelings, his ideas about life and his history feel exactly what this lonely man would do after having spent so many years alone. They are a result of having found your soul mate and realizing it over a long night spent together. I was so happy when Marty found someone who he could relate to. I felt for him like he was my older brother or something. This result was probably a product of Ernest Borgnine’s performance. Borgnine was a character actor before he scored this starring role. You can tell that he comes from the world of being looked over for the star by his demeanor. But his experience as a character actor gives him a believability that makes the character stronger.
In the year this film was made, it garnered a lot of praise and awards. It is the most underrated movie to ever get both the Palme d’Or and Best Picture Oscar. It doesn’t have any over the top performances, spectacle stars and a famous director behind it. At this time, Chayefesky isn’t even that well known. The same story was even shown, with a different cast, on television a couple of years before. It seems perfect to think that a movie starring an underdog man would become an underdog and sweep all of the awards. It is the perfect result for a movie so beautiful.