“You and I, we have lots of fun — don’t we, Lolita?”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
In his description of the film’s narrative, Peary notes that after Winters (giving “a hilarious performance”) is “run over (conveniently), Humbert whisk[s] Lolita out of camp” (Camp Climax!) “and [takes] her on a lengthy trip, from one motel to the next”, becoming increasingly “possessive of Lolita and [forbidding] his young lover to date once they settle down and she [goes] to school.” However, Lolita has been “going out on the sly with the openly perverse Quilty [Sellers], the director of the school play in which she had the lead”, and eventually she runs “off with Quilty, whom she considered a genius.” Peary notes that “to this naive girl Humbert [is] normal” — though “of course, Humbert isn’t normal at all — and much humor comes from his difficult attempts to appear normal/moral to the people he comes across (so they won’t suspect him of improprieties with Lolita) only to discover that those who judge him are as wacko as he is.”
Peary writes that the “picture is at times screamingly funny,” that “the performances by Sellers… and Mason — talking smart yet acting like a five-year-old, displaying a sickly smile — are marvelous,” and that “pretty Sue Lyon, only 13… but looking sexy and 17, gives a very self-assured, naughty (notice that smile, indicating she knows what Humbert’s up to) Carroll Baker-like portrayal.” Indeed, Lyon’s performance is at the heart of this film’s success — she’s preternaturally able to embody this challenging role and convince us that events are playing out exactly as seen on screen. (It’s too bad Lyon had such a tough time with Hollywood, since her performance here indicates she was a natural.) Mason, of course, is stellar as always, and Sellers shows the genius for characterization he would demonstrate to greatest effect in Dr. Strangelove just two years later. While not for all tastes, Kubrick’s adaptation of Nabakov’s novel remains a provocative, well-made classic, worthy of at least one-time viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)