“You don’t think I can do all the ordinary little things that any idiot can do, do you?”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
I’m actually more a fan of Ring Lardner, Jr. and Michael Kanin’s Oscar-winning script than Peary is. While there are certainly some “silly… plot contrivances” — as when Hepburn “adopts a Greek orphan without consulting Tracy and then hasn’t the time to be a mother” — this is par for the course in a screwball romantic comedy like WOTY, which is never anything less than delightfully zany in its portrayal of Hepburn’s over-the-topness (after all, her “Tess” is shown speaking no less than half a dozen languages fluently!). Meanwhile, as Peary argues, “what’s most fascinating about the film is Hepburn’s uninhibitedly sexual performance”, with her “sexiness com[ing] from how she uses her eyes, voice, body, and, more significantly, her mind prior to lovemaking”. Indeed, Hepburn’s intelligence is a major turn-on — not just for Tracy (who secretly seems to love his wife’s genius), but for audience members, who can easily embrace Hepburn’s Tess Harding as a feminist icon for the ages. (Now this is the pioneering female journalist we wanted to see more of in A Woman Rebels!)
The enduring question about Woman of the Year is whether its views on gender roles and marital responsibilities have dated terribly (as Peary argues is the case with all the Tracy-and-Hepburn films). It’s true that the final scene — showcasing Hepburn’s disastrous attempts to make breakfast for her husband, a la Buster Keaton in The Navigator (1924) — would seem to hint that the characters have finally caved to sexist mid-century mores; but listen carefully, and you’ll find that this really isn’t the case. Indeed, while Hepburn is clearly made out to be the “villain” throughout the film — with poor, put-upon Tracy simply enduring her hectic lifestyle until he finally puts his foot down — the moral of the story isn’t that Hepburn should give up her phenomenal success for the sake of being a housewife. Rather, the lesson being taught is a remarkably modern one: the need for compromise and balance in any relationship.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: