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Room at the Top

Room at the Top (Jack Clayton 1959)

This movie was very good. It starred Simone Signoret as Alice Aisgill and Laurence Harvey as Joe Lampton.Joe is a man from the wrong side of the tracks that moves into the city with dreams of having a better life. He meets Alice and Susan at a theater production. He determines that Susan is his meal ticket to a better life if he can finagle a way into hers, but he's attracted to the older, sexier Alice. And who wouldn't be? This is my first movie with Simone Signoret, but she's a stunner, and she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Alice in this film.

Now we get to the part where I'm always afraid I'm going to tell too much, so I don't tell much at all...So, I'm gonna go for it! Joe finally manages to get Susan's attention, but he's been having an affair with the married Alice. He is looking out for his interests, so he breaks it off with Alice even though he has true feelings for her. It gets ugly, as it does with most break-ups, and Joe later realizes that he can't live without her. He tries to develop feelings for Susan, but he's just going through the motions. It doesn't keep him from stringing Susan along, though, and they take their relationship to the next level.

He realizes that his life is empty without Alice and he talks her into going away with him. Things are resolved as Joe tells Alice that he doesn't want to live without her. She says she'll divorce the vile man, and they can be together. But she keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop onto her happiness. And it does in a tragic way.

Joe has a meeting with Susan's father and decides to marry her after his chat. He breaks it off with Alice once again, and this time, there's no anger, just sadness from them both.

I thought this movie was complex and very raw. It evidently got an 'x' certification in Great Britain for its content. The director used many devices to underscore the plot. I liked the scene where Joe walks into a very uppity club and although you could see people eating etc., as he was walking toward Mr. Brown, it was silent, and it remained so until he was asked to be seated, then the background noise of the club was heard. Later on, when Joe is trying to recover from an incident, a young boy shoves a wind-up car toward him and its a very poignant scene.

Laurence Harvey was all broody and complicated as Joe, he really made Joe likeable and despicable at the same time and even pitiable. Signoret was wise and vulnerable as the older woman.