For Reel

It’s a Gift (1934)
September 7, 2015, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Norman Z. McLeod
3.5 Stars
It's a GiftShedding his persona as a cynical, brash eccentric, W.C. Fields takes on a sort of everyman role in It’s a Gift. In the very first gag, Fields tries desperately to shave as his daughter blocks his view in the mirror. It’s almost sweet that he does so little to get in her way–he thinks of every possible way to circumvent the inconvenience except simply asking her to move aside. Similarly, the film’s best sequence involves Fields cast out to sleep on the porch and being interrupted by a series of noises. In exploring the perils of sharing a bathroom and the frustration caused by insomnia, each scenario characterizes Fields as not only an underdog but as a man castrated by a stifling, unrewarding domestic life. It’s a Gift is one of Fields’ most remembered pictures, perhaps a faint praise that suggests that many viewers aren’t quite taken to the comedian (films like The Bank Dick and Million Dollar Legs are better representations of what it is that makes Fields unique). Even if it goes on too long, however, the porch scene is beautifully handled. The long shots that show the entirety of his housing complex (including the noisy neighbors) have a dollhouse quality, where people become cogs in a machine that exists solely to annoy the suffering Fields. In reveling in these moving parts and positioning Fields as one small part of a chaotic universe, the sequence recalls Buster Keaton’s mastery of the frame.

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