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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Misfits (1961)



Reviews and Comments

"Nothin' can live unless somethin' dies."

The theme of The Misfits isn't that simple, but it does suggest the way Arthur Miller's beautifully written, somberly sad story of four people who can't or don't fit in the world works. These four characters are practically dead already, but because they each retain the imitation of life, they hold each other back from breaking free of their private prisons and genuinely living.

John Huston's direction strikes just the right tone for this material: the underlying tone is one of a great sadness, but with exceptions that's not the emotion we see on the surface. The characters express love, anger, and other passionate emotions, but it all feels hollow. And so it is. For one reason or another, each character finds himself unable to be honest about his own feelings and must therefore adopt the semblance of other feelings entirely. It's no way to live, argues Miller, and illustrates that in this story.

Famously, The Misfits was the last film either Clark Gable or Marilyn Monroe ever made, and Montgomery Clift wouldn't make many more. This knowledge only enhances the atmosphere the film builds of the twilight of life. The important difference between fact and fiction is that Gable, Monroe, and Clift accomplished huge things in their lives, while their characters here have beaten the odds and accomplished nothing of significance at all.