Summer Moviethon 2016: Lolita (1962)

July 2: #19, Lolita (1962)

Or, Next on Jerry Springer: I Love My Stepdad, Or, Roman Polanski's Favorite Kubrick Film

Let's cut to the chase: Lolita is loooooonnnnng. Yes, a lot of Kubrick's films are long, but perhaps more than any of them, Lolita feels excessively long. That's just one of its flaws, along with an extremely annoying collection of performances by Peter Sellers (who was really good in Dr. Strangelove, which is also the name of the character he seemingly debuts when he appears as the mysterious psychologist here), and the fact that Kubrick was hamstrung by censorship that wouldn't allow him to tell the story in the way that the book apparently does.

Lolita, of course, is the story of a grown-ass man who falls in love with a very young teenage girl, despite being a 40-something college professor himself. After seeing the young Lolita in her bathing suit during a tour of a house where Lolita's mother is seeking to rent out a bedroom, Humbert decides to rent the room despite the Mom coming onto him quite aggressively.

The film contains some pretty amusing innuendos. Sure, Kubrick couldn't show Humbert and Lolita kiss (they probably shouldn't have cast an actual 14-year-old to play Lolita, even though Sue Lyon is pretty good throughout), but he tries to make up for it when Humbert says that he thinks it was Lolita's mother that it was “her cherry pies” that made him want to rent the room. There's also a strong insinuation that Lolita's mom is down for some wife-swapping.

The best line in the film comes when Humbert has insanely decided to marry Lolita's mother just so he can stick around and be in her life a little longer, only to be faced with the sad reality of having to fulfill his husbandly duties. Charlotte tells Humbert that she loves him so much that when he holds her, she goes “as limp as a noodle.” Humbert deadpans back, “I know the feeling.”

"Who you gonna call? Child Lusters!"
The film starts with the aftermath of the situation and goes from there, which is a good way to go. It leaves you with a mystery to piece together and the resolution is pretty good, too. The evil actor angle is really silly and everything probably could have played out without it.

I mentioned that Kubrick wasn't able to be very faithful to the book, which is apparently much more explicit, but in some ways, that works. I like that Lolita doesn't really do much to spur Humbert on early in the movie, because it places the blame squarely where it belongs – on Humbert for being a creeper. It's better than in films like The Crush, where a girl who looks like she could pass for 18 flirts non-stop with the male lead and ends up undermining the whole thing and making it a “evil seductive teen” story instead of a “weird 40-year-old creeper with an obsession” story.

In this salacious scene from Lolita, a 40-year-old man watches a teenager hula hoop. BAN THIS FILTH!
 However, there's a very abrupt shift when Humbert picks his new step-daughter up from Camp Climax (yes, really) and she talks to him like they're an item. It's the kind of scene that sticks out like a sore thumb becaue none of what came before led organically to it. It feels like an earlier scene where the two become closer was cut or changed and the car ride was left in, even though it no longer makes sense. Still, it's an entertaining film, there's a thought-provoking message here about the danger of getting what you want and it's cool to see Kubrick stretching his legs in the early stages of his career.

Grade: B

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