Thursday, February 12, 2015

Movie review: Meet John Doe

I watched Meet John Doe because it's one of AFI's 100 Years, 100 Cheers movies, which is part of my 3rd 101 Things in 1001 Days.

I've seen it before, and it's okay, but not my favorite of the Capra films. Gary Cooper is appropriately stoic, and Barbara Stanwyck appropriately tough-as-nails Noir dame in the beginning.

After losing her job at a newspaper, Ann Mitchell (Stanwyck) pens a "the world's going to hell" note, including a threat to jump off the top of the city hall building at midnight on Christmas Eve. She signs it, "John Doe," and dumps it on the editors desk.

The letter causes a sensation, and Ann convinces the editor to hire someone (Cooper) to be that John Doe, and take a payoff to disappear right after Christmas Eve.

John Doe becomes a rallying point for a "help and love your neighbor" movement that catches the eyes of local politicians.

Of course all ends well. It's a Capra movie. I like Capra movies for that very reason. But I don't like the blithering puddle of desperation that Ann becomes at the end. She started out as strong, independent but loving, and a bit cynical. As soon as that cynicism breaks down, so does Ann.

I think John Doe's message resonates today, and we could take a lesson from it. We need more Frank Capras and John Does in the world. But we don't need any post-cynical Anns.