I am this man, in more ways than I can count I am this man!
Screenplay By: Paddy Chayefsky
Directed By: Delbert Mann
Marty is not a complex film, either in narrative or structure. What Marty is however is a very powerful film, both in narrative and structure. As I watched Marty I was consistently struck with the fact that it is very much the antithesis to Annie Hall. That movie was the story of a man who has it all, can get the girl, but loses it all because of his inability to overcome his insecurities. Marty is the story of a man who has nothing, wants for everything, can’t get the girl, finally does and then overcomes his insecurities to make sure he keeps the girl and remains happy. Both are great movies, but both tackle similar subject matter in far different fashion, and at the end of the day I prefer Marty just a tad more because of its frankness and its innate ability to connect with me.
I am not what would be defined as a good looking man, either in the looks or physique department. I am decidedly plain, and am a bit of a plugger, someone who gets the job done but doesn’t necessarily do so in the most flourishing of fashions. As I said, in more ways than I can count I am Marty, and that is why this movie is able to resonate with me to my very center. I’ve dealt with the years of heartbreak, the failures, the rejections, the dream woman that I know I’ll never get because I’m not good looking enough, or worst of all the girl you grow to love who will inevitably pick someone else over you. I am a man who has many insecurities, but I believe that when the curtain closes I am, just like Marty, a good man. A movie like Marty fills me with hope because it allows me to believe that there is someone out there for me, that one day I will find that other person. Admittedly it is much harder today in a world where communication is as low as it has ever been and there are more social barriers than in the past. But, I watch Marty and I think that if one plain butcher can find happiness then maybe one plain writer/fighter/many other things can find happiness as well.
Going beyond emotional resonance, Marty was a well crafted film full of a bluntness in storytelling that isn’t often found in Hollywood. Movies frequently love to dance around the issue, but not Marty, it lays every issue out for all to see in the clear of day. The direction helps in this, because it stays confined and plain, so that the plain nature of Marty the person and of the settings he lives in are on full display for the audience. The same is true of the music, it is highly unremarkable, but that is the tone that Marty must have because that sense of plainness is what Marty the person carries around with him at all times.
Ernest Borgnine is an actor that has never at any point in his career stood out, but in Marty he stands out by not standing out. He doesn’t inject Marty with any unnecessary attributes or try to spruce up the character, he allows him to be normal, to be the plain loser and the man who never gets the girl. Betsy Blair is also quiet as his love interest, Clara, you see the same plainness, the same dreams destroyed and desires never taken shape in her as you do in Marty. The moment the two meet you know they are meant to be together, but the question is whether they will overcome their own handicaps or succumb to the insecurities that have plagued them all their lives.
The ending of Marty is a bit abrupt, and it does seem as if the storyline with mother and sister is never finalized. However, I felt that the storyline with mother and sister wasn’t finalized for a reason, because they are entrenched in those feelings, they aren’t going to go away. Marty’s mother and her sister will be old maids because they can’t let go of their children, they don’t want to change their roles in life, so going further with that story would have been dishonest to the characters. The ending couldn’t have come at a better time, because for the issues presented and faced that phone call was as far as the Marty and Clara relationship needed to go at that point. Maybe Marty and Clara will live happily ever after, or maybe they will succumb to the new set of problems that a relationship presents, but those problems and issues were not the ones being addressed in this film.
Maybe one day I will find the woman for me, get married, be happy. Who knows, anything is possible and a movie like Marty allows people to see that it is possible. It’s amazing how a movie that does everything it can to try and hide in the crowd and not stand out ends up standing out more than the rest. Marty is a fantastic gem of a movie and an overlooked classic, if you are looking for a different look at love and relationships then I’d certainly recommend giving Marty a look.