A Year with Hitchcock: Champagne, by Reed Lackey

4 Feb

Sometimes films aren’t trying to be anything complex or deep or rich or thought-provoking. But they at least need to not be boring. Champagne isn’t trying to be anything but a silly farce. But when the director of said farce is Alfred Hitchcock (albeit while his legacy was still in its infancy) it’s nearly impossible to divorce the expectations from the end result.

Ultimately, Champagne doesn’t amount to much of anything. It’s silly. At times, it’s even chuckle-worthy. But mostly, from both a narrative and thematic standpoint, it’s little more than a hollow waste of time.

The premise is essentially that an impetuous heiress stubbornly seeks to elope with her lover, but her father orchestrates a rather elaborate sequence of encounters and predicaments to try to teach her a few life lessons. Said predicaments do result in a handful of funny, perhaps even charming moments, but where the film falls flat is that the situations don’t really teach the daughter anything (let alone say anything substantial for the audience). Champagne is sequence after sequence of an impulsive woman scheming her way to manipulate her environment and the people in it, eventually landing in a place where her ordeals are revealed to be a ruse and she winds up obtaining everything she wanted anyway.

I felt bored. Worse, I felt insulted. It’s wholly benign, undeserving of even a technical exploration.

One interesting note I took, however, is that part of her father’s scheme involved the crash of the stock market, sending their wealthy family into financial ruin. Ironically, this film was made in 1928. The stock market indeed crashed the next year, devastating the economy and thrusting America into the Great Depression, which gives this narrative an eerily prophetic quality that might ultimately justify its examination…

On second thought, forget it. The film isn’t worth it. Even Hitchcock called this his least favorite of all his films. It may not be the very worst, but it’s a strong contender.

Accessibility – Available on several low-budget DVD collections
Themes – Societal Inequality, Youthful Folly
Category – For Completists Only

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