iPlayer Review: The Agony of “Sweet Charity” – A Movie Musical Catastrophe


Gather around the last crumbs of the Christmas leftovers for a tale of sheer cinematic calamity – a musical misstep so egregious that one wonders if it was all just an elaborate prank gone terribly awry. I present to you Sweet Charity (1969), a movie musical that takes the concept of “uneven” and gives it a run for its disheveled money.

Let’s start with the plot, or lack thereof. Picture this: Shirley MacLaine’s character floats through a sea of ill-conceived romances like a leaf caught in an erratic wind. Her first two boyfriends appear and then vanish into the abyss, leaving us to wonder if they had more pressing engagements or perhaps got lost on their way to a better movie set. The first one doesn’t even grace us with a line of dialogue. He just pushes Shirley off a bridge in the first 10 minutes. Her second suitor gives her a top hat, locks her in a cupboard, and then shoves her out of his apartment.

And the songs, ah, the supposed heart and soul of any musical venture. Out of twelve numbers, a mere three manage to lift themselves from the mediocrity pit: Namely, “If They Could See Me Now” and “Big Spender”. It’s like ordering a dozen oysters and finding only three haven’t turned into a grotesque culinary tragedy. The highlight, or should I say lowlight, is the bewildering “Rhythm of Life” featuring Sammy Davis Jr., a performance so detached from the rest of the narrative that it makes you question whether you accidentally stumbled into a different film altogether. Sammy, alas, is a fleeting apparition, vanishing into the Hollywood mist, leaving us to ponder if he was a mirage or a victim of a contractual obligation.

Now, let’s discuss the grand finale. Shirley finally snags the man of her dreams, only to be jilted at the altar like a protagonist in a tragic opera. Where is the Hollywood magic that promises a sunshine-filled resolution? Apparently, “Sweet Charity” missed the memo. Shirley strolls off into the Central Park sunset, presumably to wallow in a future life filled with further heartbreak. A Hollywood musical without a happy ending? The nerve!

In the realm of “Sweet Charity,” logic takes a backseat, and coherence is a distant memory. As if the filmmakers tossed a handful of disjointed ideas into the air and filmed whatever landed first. Perhaps it’s a clever commentary on the chaos of life, or maybe it’s just an unintentional masterclass in how not to make a movie.

“Sweet Charity” leaves you questioning the very fabric of reality and wondering if you accidentally wandered into a parallel universe where plotlines make no sense and musicals are composed in an alternate dimension. If you seek a cinematic adventure akin to navigating a labyrinth with a blindfold, “Sweet Charity” might just be the worst/best (we’ll let you decide) choice you’ll ever make.

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