Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Running Time: 112 mins
Meet Me In St. Louis is an American film about a family living in St. Louis in the year leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair, and the four daughters who begin to learn lessons about life and love as they navigate a difficult period while their father threatens to move the family away to New York.
Simply put, this isn’t a film that’s going to set the word alight, but that’s not what it’s all about. Sure, there are some issues with it, but Meet Me In St. Louis is right up there with the best sort of classic musical to watch on a Sunday afternoon and let all your troubles subside. With a handful of wonderful songs, bright colours and entertaining performances, this is a film that will definitely make you smile, even if it doesn’t do everything to engross you in its story.
But before we get into that, let’s start on the bright side, with the film’s soundtrack. In the first ten minutes or so, the music is a little intrusive and unnecessary to the plot development, but as the story progresses, and you get more into the film’s light vibes, the songs become a lot more jolly and enjoyable to hear.
Sometimes extremely catchy (Skip To My Lou, The Trolley Song), sometimes not so much, the music here is always happy and extremely therapeutic to listen to. As there aren’t any big song-and-dance numbers, most of the musical sequences are simply watching a few people singing alone on screen. At times, that doesn’t work, but when it really does, the music feels all the more engrossing, and as a result, enjoyable.
Along with the soundtrack, the performances here are pretty good too. Again, as the story doesn’t give too much, the actors can’t do much to make their characters any more interesting, but they do a fantastic job at making them as likable as possible. Judy Garland is excellent in the lead role, and always a bright sparkle on screen, whilst supporting players like Margaret O’Brien and Tom Drake are just as much fun on screen from start to finish.
The final big positive to draw from Meet Me In St. Louis is Vincente Minnelli’s directing. It would have been easy to get too bogged down in creating a big-budget musical production (although wartime film budgets did play a part), but Minnelli always keeps the focus of this film the light, happy vibes that make it so wonderful to watch. At times, its bright colours and ensemble cast reminded me a lot of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, but only with even more style and glee to go around.
On the whole, this film is a wonderfully happy watch, but there is one part that means it not quite amongst the best movie musicals of all, and that’s the story. For the most part, it doesn’t feel like there’s all that much going on in this movie beyond the singing. We have the various romantic relationships cropping up now and again, as well as some focus on the youngest daughter of the family, and their reluctance to move from St. Louis to New York, but it feels like that’s always secondary to the music, and there’s very little story to get your teeth into.
Despite that, it’s hard to deny what an upbeat and pleasant film this is, and even if its story doesn’t provide the most engrossing watch, when the music, performances and directing all comes together at the film’s best moments, it’s impossible not to have a big smile on your face, and that’s why I’m giving Meet Me In St. Louis a 7.3.