The Marrying Kind is a bit of a variation on an old sitcom narrative staple: having various characters tell their version of events to slant the story in their favor. That’s how this movie begins, except that the slanted narration (he says, she says, via voice-over) plays over the images of what actually happened, so that the “true” events are presented visually over the audio “remembered” version. It’s comical at first, and while there are light moments throughout, the movie is not really a comedy. (In fact, it veers into Terms of Endearment territory with a story turn that flips the genre from dramedy into tragedy.)
It’s unique compared to today’s big-name Hollywood movies in that the characters are not wealthy and are not always likeable. Judy Holliday is like Penny Marshall’s Laverne Difazio, but more vulnerable and pensive. Aldo Ray is sort of like Tab Hunter, but with a blue-collar swagger and a hairy back. They’re both quite convincing as a working class couple fighting to stay together under the weight of post-WWII consumerism. (Also check out Peggy “To Tell the Truth” Cass in a minor role. Don’t blink and you’ll see Nancy “Miss Jane Hathaway” Kulp in the secretarial pool.)
Female characters come off very well in this film, indicative of a time when smart women like Ruth Gordon could write scripts that weren’t tinkered with by studio teams, and directors like George Cukor respected their audience’s intelligence.
My favorite parts: the wild, drunken rhumba that segues into a marital spat, and then into a funny and oddly pretty nightmare; and towards the end, when a butcher extols his perspective on life. I wish the roles of the children had been expanded (with the obnoxiousness toned down), and I found that the extra-nuclear family, aside from the butcher and his wife, didn’t really add much, but overall the film is fascinating as a non-glamourous depiction of marital/gender roles and working class life sixty years ago – surprisingly not so dated for a contemporary viewing.