Reviews: Casablanca

A film tragically ruined by the lead character holding it together.

The main problem with the film is Rick. A grown man who’s obviously still very favourable towards La Résistance, to say the least (he has games rigged to ensure Germans lose repeatedly—his neutrality borders on Informed Attribute), he acts like a petulant idiot when Ilsa comes into the bar, and, instead of talking to her like a grown man and resolving their issues, he lashes out like no man believably would at 37, and refuses to give her a letter that is extremely valuable for the movement for his own petty nonsense (seriously, her "The Reason You Suck" Speech was spot on, yet barely given attention—she actually apologises for it!). All in all his attitude towards her—recklessly entering an affair with a ‘no questions policy’, clinging to her memory (or rather the idea of her memory—again, he knew next to nothing about her) for a year—would be more believable coming from a young adult, if not a teenager.

Which brings me to my next point: the age gap between Rick and Ilsa is very disturbing. The Lampshade Hanging they put on their May-December Romance (‘Ten years ago? [...] I was having a brace put on my teeth. Where were you?’ ‘Looking for a job’) made me cringe. It was even worse whenever he said, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’ I found it hard to believe she was so into him, a man she knew so little about, who was not even particularly attractive—honestly, I am utterly bewildered by the idea that people thought he was attractive and charismatic, especially in that film. Of course, Renault’s liberal use of Scarpia Ultimatum (and implied habitual rape of young women at the beginning of the film) is revolting as well, and it’s hard to believe he could be portrayed positively (or at least have his flaws mostly overlooked), but at least he’s not as idealised as Bogey and his character.

The problem with the film is that had Rick actually acted his age, the film would have been much, much shorter and very dull. And that’s what’s so tragic: everything enjoyable about the film relied on the one character who ruined huge parts of it.


Something for everyone

Casablanca is considered one of the greatest films of all time for a reason. While old, it is not dated, and I doubt it will ever become so. This is helped by the fact that it is meant to be rooted in a very specific time and place, rather than a generic "now" at the time of filming. And, unless your taste runs exclusively to explosions and special effects, it appeals to a variety of tastes. It has action, intrigue, romance and comedy. The characters are vivid and three-dimensional, and the acting is excellent. How can anyone not like it?