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Lewis R. Foster

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Title: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Directed by:
Frank Capra
Written by:
Lewis R. Foster, Sidney Buchman
Year: 1939

In my review of Rear Window, I began by discussing films that, when explained, sound very boring. If somebody would have told me what Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is about, I would not feel very enticed to watch it. Basically, it is the story of, surprise, Mr. Smith going to Washington. He is declared junior senator of his state when his predecessor dies unexpectedly. Arriving in Washington, Mr. Smith, a young leader of the Boy Rangers, is cast headlong into a political game he neither likes nor understands. He soon realises that his superiors have not sent him there to do his best or to fight for freedom and democracy, but merely as a stooge acting on the whim of a mighty tycoon. The interesting bit starts when Mr. Smith rebells and tries to defy the tycoon and his network of influential friends.

This strive for political rights, democracy and freedom seems like it has been repeated indefinitely, and I feel that I ought to be rather bored by now. This is why Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a good film, it manages to engage me emotionally regardless of the deck stacked against it. Please do not ask me why I feel like I do, because I cannot explain it. Every bit of logic says that I should not like this film, that my liking should be harder to earn than this, but still, I do like it.

However, I can think of one thing which contributes to the greater whole, and that is the acting. All roles are either good or really good. Mr. Smith himself (James Stewart) and his senior senator (Guy Kibbee) are prime examples of this. I have decided to give this film four snails, but why not more if I like it so much? One problem is that it takes a while before the story has gained enough momentum. True, the directing is excellent in the beginning, creating an intriguing situation with just the right amount of unknown factors, but still, it took quite a while before I was convinced of the film’s quality. Once the stage is set and things begin moving, however, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is so much more than can be explained in words.

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