I'm pretty sure that when this film was released, it too caused some controversy because of the subject it deals with. But the way it tackles the subject and the ongoing reactions that occur all around it make it one of the best films of its kind. Produced and directed by the legendary Stanley Kramer, the film never looses its impact due to the years, and thanks to dynamic performances and a solid script, it makes it still a great film to watch.As said before, the film tackles a difficult subject, but the storyline is simple: Joey Drayton (Katharine Houghton) has found new love on Dr. John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), and has recently returned to San Francisco with him to tell his parents, who are Matt (Spencer Tracy in his last role) and Christine Drayton (Katharine Hepburn) that she's intending to marry John, and they need to know the answer by dinner tonight (hence the title), since John has to depart towards Europe later in the night.
"An Important Classic"
The twist: He's black.
Heh, I mean, it's so simple, yet so complicated in our society. Tillie (Isabel Sanford), the housemaid sums the situation up by saying: "All hell has broken loose." Then things would get complicated even more when John's parents (Roy Glenn and Beah Richards in her career performance) arrive, and soon both families have to overcome their feelings and their race differences to come up with an agreement and to terms.
In the lapses of all the arguments and stuff that comes out in the movie are all based on the feelings that one experiences all due to the implements that society puts us on our heads. There has always been discussions about blacks and whites, that one is better than the other one, that one can do this and one can do that...which for the rational person, its all bullshit of course, and everyone is the same, they are both men. Sure, everyone knows that racism is wrong and we support that, but what would happen if your son or daughter suddenly comes into the door telling you that he/she wants your blessing over his/her intentions to marry someone thatís from the opposite color? Then you're challenged, you have to prove of what you have always supported, and for the ordinary average family, like the Draytonís and the Prentices, it is difficult, especially in those times, where racism was pretty much boiling all over the country. The script does a wonderful job depicting those issues, plus the challenges that both families have to face to solve this "racial" problem. One of the best scenes of the movie is when finally John argues with his dad about this problem, and also teaches us an important lesson about traditions, that some donít last forever and we at times will have to break traditions and move on, and place new ideas on how to run the world. We have to see ourselves as a whole, not as blacks and whites and not blame an entire race for the mistakes of a few.
The script, written by William Rose is top notch, with some fine comedic and some moral defining moments and really deserved that Oscar. The direction was superb, and the performances from the actors were magnificent, especially from the last appearance of the dynamic duo of Tracy and Hepburn, the last one winning an Oscar for her portrayal of Christine. Sidney Poitier was also great, and so was the rest of the supporting cast. This was to be Tracyís last film before he passed away; he was such a great actor. RIP Mr. Tracy.In the end, what else can I say, I loved this film and I recommend it to everyone. It's a great comedy/drama to watch, and it certainly deserves its place on the AFI's 100 greatest films list, since its truly worth seeing due to the importance of the message that it delivers. And now, in the last words of Matt Drayton, err Tracy: "Well Tillie, when the hell are we going to get some dinner?" (4.5-5)
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originally posted: 05/09/01 00:04:08