Friday, April 17, 2015

Cinderella Liberty

Over on FXM Retro, they'll be running the interesting if flawed film Cinderella Liberty, tomorrow morning at 3:00 AM (or tonight at midnight Pacific Time).

The movie starts off with a navy ship coming into Seattle for everybody to get a modicum of shore leave before the ship and its crew go out on their next voyage. Everybody, that is, except for John Baggs (James Caan). He's got a medical condition, some sort of cyst in hiss rectal region, so he has to go into sick bay and get that fixed. It's more a nuisance than any serious medical problem, but getting it taken care of and all the paperwork means that he's not going to be able to get back on board before the ship he was on goes back out to sea. So he's going to have some time ashore while he's waiting for his next deployment.

On Baggs' first night ashore, he goes to some bar on what passes for Seattle's equivalent of a boardwalk, the sort of place that back in the day had Coney Island-style attractions both clean (carnival rides) and more adult. In that bar, Baggs meets Maggie (Marsha Mason), a woman who picks up a few extra dollars by being a pool shark, although as we're quickly going to learn, she earns the bulk of her money in another way. Baggs challenges Maggie to a couple of games of pool, which he loses, before challenging her to a much higher-stakes game. When he wins the high-stakes game, he wins a free night with her.

Maggie, if you haven't figured it out, is a hooker, sleeping with lots of sailors for the money. She's already got a son by one of them, an 11-year-old mixed-race child named Doug (Kirk Calloway) who is sharing in Maggie's hand-to-mouth existence. He doesn't have a good bed, keeping a switchblade close at hand to protect himself from sailors who get too close; he's got terrible teeth because Maggie can't afford proper dental care; and he spends his evenings at the carnival; and he seems to know too much about life.

The only way we'd have a movie is if Baggs takes a liking to Maggie, so that's what happens. It's not an easy relationship because she has no money and he's got all the difficulties that come with being in the navy. It doesn't help that the Navy has lost his records, so he's technically jobless and won't have any money coming in until the Navy can find his records, which is going to take some time since this was the days before computerization. Still, Baggs does what he can for Maggie.

That is, until Maggie has a surprise visitor. No, it's not Douglas' father; whoever knocked Maggie up with Douglas probably had no idea that he got this prostitute pregnant. Instead, it's her social worker. She's determined to see that Maggie and Doug are living properly, and when she sees that there's a man in the apartment, she naturally figures that Baggs is taking on the duties of a father, which means that he should be able to support the child financially. Or, rather, the children: Maggie is pregnant, althoguh it's not Baggs' baby.

Cinderella Liberty is a movie that has some interesting premises, but that ultimately comes off unevenly. There were extended periods where I found myself having difficulty caring for any of these people. It's natural for Baggs and Maggie to yell at each other because their relationship isn't an easy one, but I found the bickering to be less than convincing. I also found the whole loss of records to be a bit unbelievable too, while the ending is certainly one that strains credulity. Still, the acting is for the most part OK, and you do wind up caring about Douglas at least by the end of the movie. All in all, Cinderella Liberty is one of those movies that I'm glad to see FXM Retro pull out of its vaults, but not one that I'd go out of my way to watch a second time.

Amazon seems to suggest that Cinderella Liberty is out of print on DVD, but that you should be able to get it on instant download if you can do the streaming video thing.

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