Arthur. Orion Pictures 1981.

Before watching the movie:

This is the movie anyone thinks of when they hear Dudley Moore’s name. Arthur is the playboyest of playboys, and has to choose between love and money.

This is one of those famous movies that everyone cites without discussing, so I don’t know very much about it, except there was a remake with Russell Brand nobody asked for a few years ago.

After watching the movie:

Arthur Bach carouses around New York, the spoiled, drunken manchild heir of a $750M fortune. His father and grandmother have gotten tired of waiting for him to grow up, and inform him that if he doesn’t marry Susan Johnson, herself an heiress, but a responsible one who can make something of Arthur, they’ll cut him off from the money. Arthur has no interest in Susan, but does want to continue being rich. Then, while shopping in Manhattan, Arthur sees Linda stealing a necktie, and is so taken with her that he covers for her with the store detective. The two go on a date and have a wonderful time, but he has to cancel future plans because he’s still going to propose to Susan. Arthur’s always been taken care of by the people around him, but he’d very much like to have Linda to take care of.

This is a lot more understated than I expected. I know Dudley Moore for doing wild eccentrics, and Arthur is that, but he’s not wild all that often in the course of the movie. Nobody is a cartoon here. This is a quiet dramedy about a manchild growing up.

I didn’t even have time in my synopsis to mention Arthur’s valet Hobson, who’s very important to the plot. When we first meet Hobson, he’s sharp-tongued, curt, and fundamentally disrespectful, and he comes off incredibly unlikable. But we come to find that Hobson really does care very deeply for Arthur, and I guess his behavior comes from a resentment that it’s not his place to make a man out of his charge. Hobson is quickly developed as a father figure for Arthur, which isn’t something I thought possible of the man we meet showing open contempt for Arthur’s one-off companions and mocking Arthur behind his back.

I expected this to be a classic because of the romp, but it’s melancholic and soulful throughout. We only see as much of Arthur being screwed up by growing up rich as we need to tell the story of him being screwed up by growing up rich. This isn’t the story of a man who’s never known consequences and responsibilities, it’s the story of a man who’s never known consequences facing consequences and responsibilities for the first time. And then it seems that when he actually puts in the effort, he’s fine at it. I thought this was going to be fun, but I didn’t expect it to be great.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.