Looking through the genre index in the back of the Book, I only have two musicals left on the list. I guess that means my expectations for the two remaining couldn’t be higher, even though they’re only the last two out of pure chance. Still, if the last one for me is even a modicum better than Carmen Jones ended up being, then I suppose I can say that I ended the genre on a high note. Carmen Jones is an adaptation of the famous opera, Carmen, which I haven’t seen, so I can’t pass judgment on whether this is a good adaptation or not. But one thing’s for sure: I can pass judgment on whether this is a good film or not, so here you go: it’s not.
Carmen Jones is a sassy, fiery young woman working on an army base, when she catches sight of Joe, a rugged build of an army man and would-be pilot, who’s currently awaiting his leave so he can marry his sweetheart, Cindy Lou. Carmen, being the type of woman she is (more on this later), decides to go after Joe, and ends up getting into a bunch of trouble for herself and for him, and their lives together descend into chaos thanks to their mutual influence on each other. I went into the film not sure what to expect out of it, so it seemed to be somewhat unfortunate that I ended up figuring out what kind of film it was going to be so soon into the running time. Specifically, it was during the number “You Talk Just Like My Ma” that I knew this was going to be a musical that I would not care for. As soon as Joe started singing, in that airy and flighty voice that was entirely disconnected from his look and build, I knew every number was going to be similarly disconnected from the proceedings, and I was right on the money. Most of it was the fact that the actors didn’t sing the songs, but were dubbed over by actual singers, and the film was bleedingly obvious about it. Still, it was incidental compared to the actual characters themselves; the plot I could understand if not condone, but the characters were just horrendous. The character of Carmen was by far the most infuriating aspect of the whole film. That air, that attitude of “I’m right all of the time, and I’m just going to do whatever I want and get whatever I want because everything revolves around me”; it was 15-20 minutes into the film that I didn’t think I could take any more of her. Unfortunately, there was still well over an hour left, and aside from the ending, which wasn’t nearly as satisfying as it should have been for me, the whole film was an exercise in Carmen either getting what she wanted, or ending up destroying everything around her in her efforts to get what she wanted. And this is supposed to be our protagonist, the person we cheer for? Even if the film were a window into the soul of such a conceited character, which it is very much not, there was nothing about it that I could condone as pleasurable viewing.
I can see why Dorothy Dandridge became the first African-American woman to be Oscar nominated for Best Actress, but that would literally be the only good thing that I could find to say about this film. Everything else was par at best, and rage-inducing at worst. History aside, I can see no good, real reason for this to have made the list. It’s not even a good musical, so even genre fans won’t be too thrilled to give this one a try. I feel like there should be worse musicals that I have seen in the history of film, and there probably are, but I can’t think of too many. This was bad, plain and simple, and the only thing I need still say is to avoid this one, again, even if you’re a fan of musicals.
Arbitrary Rating: 5/10