Picnic (1955)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Americana, Rural Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 1, 1955 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Based on a highly acclaimed play and awarded numerous Oscar nominations, Picnic has not aged as well as many other films from the same period. What in 1955 seemed daring and erotic now comes across as overly obvious and frightfully tame, a great deal of much ado about nothing. Worse, the film belies its stage origins, always feeling like a play instead of a movie, despite logical attempts to open it up. Speeches which had a significant impact onstage come across as mannered and artificial, and director Joshua Logan has a difficult time setting up shots and sequences involving more than two or three characters. Still, there's an undercurrent of deeper meaning underneath the surface that still manages to make its presence felt in a powerful way, and the famous dance segment still packs a punch. Although too old for the part, William Holden conveys the hidden desperation and fear of his character well and has the right physical presence the role requires. Kim Novak gives one of her better performances; the somewhat disconnected feeling she brings to her roles works well for a young girl who is disconnected from her surroundings and her future. Many may feel that Rosalind Russell goes too far over the top, but it's a brave attempt that mostly works and that creates some touching and deeply painful moments. As her love interest, Arthur O'Connell has a quiet strength that plays very nicely off of Russell. Picnic also benefits from its rich cinematography, capturing the golden tones of a summer day with beauty and precision, and from its sinuous score. Logan would direct the film version of another Inge play, Bus Stop, the following year.