Oh dear. It’s probably not good when you watch a film and then need to look up what genres it’s supposed to belong to, just to be sure. Adam’s Rib is allegedly a comedy, drama and romance. It’s not funny or romantic and the drama is awful.

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey are high-flying lawyers and happily married. A woman shoots her husband and Tracey (who is assistant district attorney) is tasked with prosecuting her. On hearing this, Hepburn is outraged and decides to defend the lady. She’s concerned about equal rights for women, and without knowing anything about the case decides to take it on. This doesn’t go down well with her husband.

Adam’s Rib is a mess as a drama. It makes little sense and it’s so terribly written that you rarely know just how the characters will react to a given situation. Nothing motivates them other than the script. So much of what happens is so preposterous that it could only be forgiven with a large measure of comedic licence. It isn’t funny. Like the earlier Hepburn-Tracy “comedy”, Woman of the Year (1942), it’s full of nonsensically multi-talented characters with so many PhDs that they’d have to be over a hundred years old. It’s one thing to want to promote a cause like equal rights for women and another to succeed. What we have here is a case where a woman did not conclusively want to murder her husband but did commit a crime. Tracey’s character relies only on the weak, lying testimony of the aggrieved husband and his mistress, while Hepburn repeatedly pulls stunts that would surely not be allowed in a court room. The narrative tells us that they’re top lawyers but there’s little proof of this. They don’t even get down to the nitty-gritty of discussing any real evidence. Essentially they’re both having an increasingly hostile and irrational marital row in the courtroom and this eventually spills out into their home life. There’s no clear rights issue addressed at all and such a clumsy, confused handling of the subject damages it.

I won’t comment much on the acting – why should I be bothered when they weren’t? Hepburn is self-righteous, overbearing and annoying while Tracy is grumpy, confused and annoying.

Romance? It’s surprising that there’s no real chemistry between Hepburn and Tracy on-screen given that they were in a long-term relationship in real life. Like everything else in the film, it’s so badly-written that plausibility goes out the window. The only thing that could rescue the film would be if its trite, superior, “perfect” characters suddenly stripped into leotards and did a flying trapeze routine. At least then it might be funny. It would make about as much sense as everything else, while poking a little fun at its own self-important, smug stupidity. I loathed this film and none of the other three people I watched it with liked it much, either. Avoid.

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