Imitation of Life (1959)

Movie about an actress who takes in a black woman as her housekeeper. Years later, the housekeeper’s mixed-race daughter has to deal with her identity – but at the cost of the relationship with her mother.

This has all the typical flounce of a Douglas Sirk movie. At around 2 hours long, it is rather stodgy. The melodramatic elements of the film are laid out thick and fast. In a very female-centric movie, the central male character seems too ‘perfect’. However, it was nice to see John Gavin portray something else apart from Marion Crane’s married lover!

When my film lecturer said this film was a ‘weepie’ I thought this very unlikely. Most of these films have squelchy drama by the bucketload and most of the time aren’t very moving films – just the sort of film you want to end as quickly as possible. But against all my expectations this film was actually very moving.

The whole issue of mother-daughter relationships was handled very well. Of course these sorts of relationships are the stuff which melodramas are made of. Juanita Moore’s portrayal of the housekeeper, Annie, was wonderful and the best element of the film. She was portrayed as a very unwavering, loving character whose love for her daughter was unconditional no matter what happened between them.

A great film over all. This is definitely one melodrama which has the ability to ‘speak’ to different people in so many different ways.

MY RATING: ****.5 / *****

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