It was nice to start a film and see John Ford’s name come up in the opening titles under the director’s credit. Well, that goodwill towards this film was washed away fairly quickly once I actually started it. Arrowsmith proudly stars Ronald Colman, a name I did not recognize, and thus became slightly concerned with having to watch this picture that so loudly touts the name of an actor I don’t recognize on the poster up there. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that flashbacks of Alibi rang through my head as I started the film up. Thankfully, Arrowsmith is no Alibi; it’s well made, that I can say at the very least. Too bad that the film has virtually zero selling points to convince anyone to actually sit through the whole thing.
The film is the story of Martin Arrowsmith, a young lad with gumption and brains and the knowhow to become a medical scientist, who ends up becoming exactly the man he aims to become; a research assistant to his college mentor, Dr. Gottlieb. Then, he meets Leora, a nurse, and falls in love, which complicates his aims when he must become a practicing doctor in order to bring in a salary to support them both. It is during his trials as a ‘country doctor’ that he comes up with an improved serum to combat a cattle disease, and through this becomes reacquainted with Dr. Gottlieb, who promptly puts him to work in his lab, where he toils and researches, finding a strange serum with such bacteria-killing properties that Arrowsmith’s colleagues send him to the Caribbean to try and use it to fight bubonic plague. More happens after this, but I’ll leave the plot where it is; if it all sounds very boring and stuffy and official, trust me, the film very much is all these things. So, what did I like about Arrowsmith? Weirdly enough, I enjoyed Ronald Colman in the title role, and I say weirdly enough because he overacted in just about every scene he was in, but despite this flaw, he was endearing in an odd way, mostly through his voice and diction. I also thought the production value of the film was on point, though it may not have been serviced very well by the film itself. Now, what I didn’t care for; besides the overacting from Colman, the film seemed to move at an extremely deliberate pace, barreling forward with its plot and characters without any regard as to whether we the audience should even really be caring about who’s doing what or why things are happening. Everyone involved was doing everything so much by rote that there was no passion invested in the project at all, from the actors to the script, to the direction and the editing, to just about everything else. There was no feeling like there was any conflict or drive to anything in the film, because there wasn’t any feeling at all; the film just went through the motions to deliver the script to the audience in moving picture form and expected that to be enough of a payoff for the viewers. Well, as it turns out, it’s not. There’s no real reason to sit down and watch this film, and I was actually surprised that I’m able to say that about a John Ford picture.
I’ve tried to sum up my feelings about Arrowsmith as concisely and officially as I could, but regardless of whether or not I’ve succeeded, I’d like to get real with how Arrowsmith the film made me feel: this film was blah. Blah pudding with blah-flavored cream on top in a blah-colored dish. I really wanted to give it a slightly higher rating, but this film was so blah that I decided to be a little mean toward it, and my justification for doing so was that, to repeat what I said in the middle, there is virtually no reason whatsoever to actually watch this film, unless of course you’re going through a list of films like I am. I’d try and continue, but I’d really rather not; instead, I think I’m going to watch some other film, that I’ve seen or otherwise, just to wash the feeling of blah off me. I hope I’m not blamed too harshly for my doing so.
Arbitrary Rating: 5/10