Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a Frank Capra picture starring James Stewart as a youthful Junior Senator forced to go up against the mightiest powers-that-be in Washington to clear his name and stop a dastardly political machine from getting what it wants. A more apropos title for a film there probably could never be, this is a film that presents itself up front to the audience, expects nothing in return, and gets a whole lot more than it bargained for.
The plot is basic enough, but where Mr. Smith really shines is its screenplay; not the dialogue as much as how the story is constructed from scene to scene. Jimmy Stewart plays his everyman role to a T, earning a Best Actor nomination in the process. Frank Capra’s direction was also award-worthy, and the camerawork is also very well done, if not the lighting aspect of cinematography. I haven’t mentioned the editing of a film in a long while, but Mr. Smith’s is quite notable for its montage sequences and rapid pacing.
This is a great slice of Americana and a taut expose of political corruption both for the time and for a modern age. It really speaks to the power of both cinema and of the political institutions that this film can still ring true so many years after its inception, though in many ways that may not necessarily be a good thing. Regardless, you’re missing out on a great film if you haven’t seen this one. Make the time to do so. It’s from Hollywood’s Golden Year of 1939, you can’t lose.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10