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Overall Rating
4.25

Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look58.33%
Average: 8.33%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 6 user ratings


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Sweet Smell of Success
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Natasha Theobald

"You can get what you want, but it'll cost you."
4 stars

There was a time when a columnist was king, when writers were celebrities who could wield their power as they chose, for good or for evil. Press agents were expected to bend and scrape before them, because they had what the agents wanted, access to the public. This movie is set in that environment and stands as a cautionary tale about the hands one may have to step on while climbing the ladder.

Burt Lancaster plays J.J. Hunsecker, a powerful man whose words reach an audience of 60 million people. He is rich and famous, but he is not happy. His sister is in love with a jazz musician, and he is unwilling to lose her to anyone. So, he calls on press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) to do a bit of dirty work for him in exchange for a few words for Falco's famous clients in his column. Falco is having trouble convincing his clients that he is worth what they pay him and desperately needs to prove himself. It is when desire meets desperation that alliances are built and lives become the toys of those with power and reach.

Falco seems willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to the good of his personal cause. He uses people to get what he wants, from blackmailing one man for his indiscreet personal behavior to buying a spot in another man's column with the affections of his own girlfriend. It is with that purchase that he is able to help Hunsecker by insinuating that the jazz musician is a pot smoker and a Communist. The trail leads back to Hunsecker, but no one can prove it. What Falco can't know, though, is how the response of others may affect him in the end.

The talented actors make the most of a wonderful script by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets. Although many of the lines are marked with 50's flair, they still crackle with energy and wit. The one-liners are so plentiful that you may want to watch with a finger on the pause button to take notes. Lancaster is bold and brazen. He helps the audience understand the character's goals and flaws and why they make him willing to be the bad guy. Tony Curtis plays the weasel Falco with such charm that you almost forget how slimy and despicable he is. When things turn dark, we see in him the choices that Falco must make and how they will change him as a man.

If there were not another reason to watch, this film would be worth the rental simply for the cinematography of James Wong Howe. A multiple Oscar-winner who worked in film from its earliest beginnings, Howe makes fools of people who think black and white films are too dark or hard to watch. It is a real joy to see New York in the 50's through his eyes. The pictures are crisp and clear, truly something special to behold.

For people who don't always see ethical choices in terms of black and white, this movie shows the consequences, personal and otherwise, of being guided by fear, ambition, and greed. You can get what you want, but it'll cost you.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6607&reviewer=317
originally posted: 01/02/03 05:35:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/30/17 Anne Selby overdone, melodromatic, at times stilted dialogue yet good expose 3 stars
4/14/15 stanley welles intelligent hollywood cinema at its best 5 stars
1/19/11 fartvenugen brilliant story, acting of highest quality 5 stars
2/26/09 PAUL SHORTT ONE OF THE SHARPEST AND CORROSIVELY PERCEPTIVE FILMS TO EMERGE FROM HOLLYWOOD 5 stars
12/19/05 kim such a good movie! 4 stars
12/07/05 harriet a dark, brooding piece of cinemographic genius, synical and unrelenting to the end 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  27-Jun-1957 (NR)
  DVD: 22-Feb-2011

UK
  N/A

Australia
  27-Jun-1957




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