Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Gig Young
Director: Walter Lang
Running Time: 103 mins
Desk Set is an American film about a group of women working in a TV station’s research department who clash with a man planning to computerise their department.
This is a nice little film. Although it’s far from history’s greatest romantic comedy, and doesn’t really provide the story for legends Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy to work their on-screen magic to the full, it’s a fluffy, simple and interesting little window into the past, with a light-hearted vibe throughout and a quirky story that makes for an enjoyable watch throughout.
Let’s start off with the best part of the film, which is definitely the two lead performances from Hepburn and Tracy. The dynamic duo are legendary in numerous films, and while this definitely isn’t their best together, it still proves how naturally strong their on-screen chemistry can be, adding hugely to the entertainment value of almost any film.
So, while it may not show the pair in the same enthralling light as the likes of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, they both work fantastically in the context of a light and fluffy romantic comedy, and with the effortless energy of Hepburn contrasted with Tracy’s entertainingly squarish performance throughout, they’re really fun to watch nonetheless.
However, it’s not just Hepburn and Tracy that make the film an enjoyable watch, because it’s also got a fairly good sense of humour. Although it’s not laugh-a-minute, the film’s very lightweight atmosphere keeps you smiling throughout, something that makes the simplest and fluffiest of jokes appear all the more enjoyable. They’re not spectacularly written, but are still silly little jokes that fit in perfectly with the film’s atmosphere, which makes it all a lot funnier at times than you may expect at first.
Now, when it comes to the film’s story, it’s a tale of two sides. On the one hand, the film is an entertaining watch simply because it gives a now quirky look into the past, and the brith of the computer.
The story revolves around a TV station’s researchers, who are basically a group of employees that learn facts or look them up as and when certain people need to know something. However, the company wants to introduce a huge, stone-age computer to replace them, and effectively do the job of Google.
Now, it may sound a little condescending, but it’s still pretty fun to see a story that’s set right in the middle of the birth of the digital age, and although some of the humour that comes from that may be inadvertent, it’s an extra bonus that means the film has aged surprisingly well. It’s light-hearted enough that the computer doesn’t need to be taken too seriously as a big threat to their jobs, and that means you can have some fun laughing at how primitive the technology appears to be.
However, the one part of the story that really doesn’t work is the romance. This isn’t one of Hepburn and Tracy’s most lauded on screen pairings, and for good reason. Although they do work well together, that’s in the capacity of Hepburn and Tracy themselves, and not quite the story’s characters. They’re good performances, but the screenplay doesn’t do enough to provide a genuinely engaging or often even convincing reason for romance to blossom between the two, and it makes the film’s story at times feel superficial and poorly structured.
Overall, however, I had fun with Desk Set. It’s a strange little film, but it’s a cute, lightweight and very easy-going romantic comedy with two great central performances and a nice sense of humour, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.1.