"Personally, I think I have too much bloom"
One of the opening scenes of Meet Me in St. Louis introduces us to the members of the Smith family, residents of that fair city, by having them wander throug the kitchen as the maid is making ketchup. To me, there's something classic about this - partly the irony that people once upon a time went through such effort for what is considered so ordinary today (perhaps this points at the meaning of "fancy ketchup" so often printed on our ever-so-disposable plastic packets of the stuff). It's also a great way to introduce the family as they chime in on what's wrong with the batch and what needs to be done to fix it - there's a bit of personality there, and also a hint of how people relate to each other.
As a musical, there's a fair amount of singing, and even some dancing. To me, these numbers come off a bit saccharine, but maybe that comes from years of exposure to years of post-modern irony. But what does appeal to that part of me is the youngest member of the family, Tootie, a fairly deranged little girl whose dolls get fatal diseases then she buries them in her backyard.
Alas, the story does not center on Tootie - she gets some good time on screen as comic relief, but this is really her older sister Esther's story, and to a lesser extent, that of the oldest sister, Rose. They both want to get hitched, Esther to the cute boy next door, Rose to a fairly clueless guy in New York City. The title ends up not only referring to the song popularizing the upcoming world's fair in 1904, but also the fact when the Smith patriarch announces they're all moving to New York, Esther must find a way back to St. Louis to keep the momentum going with her new beau.
Meet Me in St. Louis is certainly a well balanced film, equal parts comic, dramatic, and spectacle. None of the pieces speaks out that strongly to me, though, and it simply must be that it's a bit outdated now. People (aside from Tootie) don't really act that way anymore. Yes, a suspension of disbelief is a useful thing for watching movies, but I'm not relating as well as I could to what's supposed to be ordinary people (aside from Tootie). I'm splitting the rating on this between my modern view and what the film probably deserved when it was released back in 1944.
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