Time: 97 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Davis and De Havilland square off as two loving sisters fighting to find their places in life, as well the perfect man to share it with. Both seem to have their future happiness well in hand until Stanley (Davis) decides that she'd rather be married to her sister Roy's (de Havilland) husband instead of her own fiancé. I never could figure out why they have male names, which was more than a little distracting. In any case, Peter (Morgan) runs off with the decidedly livelier Stanley, leaving Roy bitter, yet resolved not to let her marital woes completely ruin her life. She passes on her newfound strength to Craig (Brent), Stanley's upstanding ex, who was initially devastated by his fiancée's defection, but quickly begins to realize he picked the wrong sister. Forced to live away from the family and cut off from her favorite uncle's cash, Stanley begins to make life a living hell for Peter by basically just being her spoiled, petty, frivolous self. It doesn't take long for her to break his spirit and destroy his will to live.
After seeing what Stanley's "love" drove Peter to, Craig is even more determined to make a future with Roy, who's more than a little reluctant to tie herself down yet again, especially with Stanley back in the house. It's not quite believable that Roy would forgive Stanley so easily for stealing her husband and continue to take her side when she proves time and again to be the most devious and selfish person to ever walk the Earth. And yet, there's a very clear bond between these two characters, which goes a long way to making this melodrama entertaining. The men are interchangeable, but there are few actresses who can hold a candle to Davis and de Havilland. Stanley's behavior only gets more vicious as boredom and a lack of love throw a cloud over her life. She's not used to being a loser and when you combine rage, disappointment and alcohol together the outcome is never pretty. There's a whole subplot in this picture which has Stanley trying to cover up a felonious misdeed that's somewhat out of left field, but at least it gives the sisters something to deliberate about besides men. That she blames a young black man who happens to work for her family for her crime is more that a little distasteful and quite out of character, even for a bitter floozy.
Her sudden change from selfish to psycho is a bit shocking, but Davis surprisingly pulls it off. She embraces her character's emotional crash and burn with complete abandon. Her wide-eyed, furious energy may be over-the-top, but nobody makes a villain as wicked or as likable as Bette. De Havilland may have the "boring" role of the righteous older sister, yet she imbues Roy with an honest, down-to-earth, sassy attitude that balances the film and gives you someone to connect with. She may be the good sister, but she' no doormat and her refusal to let blood be thicker than water forces Stanley to finally deal with her actions. While Stanley's not exactly allowed to get away with her backstabbing betrayals, the ending is quite a cop out considering the sheer awfulness of her behavior towards everyone she encounters in this film. She leaves quite a bit of emotional destruction in her wake and is not around to suffer the consequences. Oh well, this is not a film about crime and punishment, but a family drama about the rivalry between two sisters and their very opposite views regarding how to live one's life. The backbone of the story is dark and sleazy, but I found that quality a welcome change from the usual tepid tales told in a "woman's picture." This film is all about personality and these two ladies have that in spades. Ah, the days when women ruled the box office. IN THIS OUR LIFE shows you why.