Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier
Director: Stanley Kramer
Running Time: 108 mins
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner is an American film about an old couple who face a surprise and find their supposedly liberal attitudes challenged after their daughter brings a black man to dinner in the hope of gaining their blessing for marriage.
This is a very well-acted and well-written account of contemporary racism in the late 1960s in the northern states of the USA. It’s full of tension and cringeworthy attitudes from some of the older characters, whilst it also holds up a surprisingly good sense of humour, making this a little less heavy than you’d expect, which makes for an overall thoroughly entertaining and intriguing watch.
The best thing about this film by far is how it introduces all of its characters. The premise would have you expect there to be very clear sides on the matter of this interracial marriage and that would be that, but the fact that, upon introduction, you’re never quite sure how someone is really reacting to the matter makes it massively interesting, and the fact that opinions do change constantly as the story develops makes it all the more dramatic.
That’s all helped by the brilliant performances here from everyone. Sidney Poitier is as suave as ever, but still puts in a very meaningful and powerful performance, whilst his fiancée, played by Katharine Houghton, despite being slightly naive and optimistic about the whole affair, is a bright light among the racist tension in this film that helps to make it so much more inspiring.
Furthermore, the classic couple, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, do a fantastic job at playing this older couple who, despite being so proud of their liberal attitudes towards black people amidst the largely racist climate, find themselves shocked that their own daughter would be engaged to a black man. However, you do feel yourself sympathising with them despite the racist beliefs, due to their conservative nature, and because the two don’t necessarily play villains, rather older people who find this sort of change difficult, they’re perfectly intriguing enough to want to know more about them, rather than just dismiss them as old racists.
Finally, the writing here is excellent. Not only does it utilise brilliant dialogue to create the tension in some of the more dramatic scenes, as well as taking the story in many unexpected directions, keeping up the intrigue, but it also uses subtle humour in order to make this a little bit of a lighter watch, and whilst it does become a lot more entertaining because of that, it definitely does not cheapen the central story of this film.
Overall, this gets an 8.1, because it’s a meaningful and powerful story helped by great performances and brilliant writing, as well as an appropriate degree of light-heartedness to make this as entertaining as it is fascinating.