Stewart’s Harvey is not Dowd-y
Quite simply "Harvey" is a movie you are going to either love or loathe. It doesn't matter that it features brilliant performances from the likes of James Stewart and Josephine Hull or that the dialogue is beautifully crafted because quite simply "Harvey" is a rather strange movie featuring an invisible rabbit which never really seems to go anywhere. But none the less "Harvey" is a movie I love, the acting of James Stewart as Elliot P. Dowd with his invisible rabbit, the simplicity of the storyline and the message about human kindness wins me over every time I watch it.
"Harvey" is the tale of Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart - Broken Arrow) a congenial man who likes to frequent bars and make conversation with who ever he meets. Plus of course it's about Elwood's best friend "Harvey" who happens to be a six-foot, three-and-one-half-inch tall pooka or invisible rabbit to you and me. Most people see Elwood as slightly eccentric but kind hearted as he talks to his invisible rabbit. That is except for his sister Veta (Josephine Hull) who becomes more and more embarrassed by Elwood's eccentricities to the point that she tries to have him committed to a mental hospital.
"Harvey" the movie is actually an adaptation of the Pulitzer winning Broadway play by Mary Chase, and it's a play which James Stewart starred in both prior to making this movie version as well as later on his life. By all accounts the big screen adaptation was a huge success on its release and many fans of the play also loved "Harvey" the movie, which makes a change.
The thing is that to really enjoy "Harvey" you shouldn't try to over analyse the movie, the minute you start questioning whether "Harvey" the invisible rabbit actually exists or whether the movie is an examination of someone's eccentricities is the minute that "Harvey" loses all it's magic. It is quite simply an amusing look at the day in the life of Elwood P. Dowd, a good natured man and how the way he behaves affects those around him. It is basically a feel good movie which all though resides in the land of fantasy delivers a world where good nature and human kindness wins out.
There are three elements to "Harvey" which really make the movie so special. First of these is that nearly every scene will make you smile. Be it when Veta becomes more and more exasperated or when Elwood tries unsuccessfully to introduce "Harvey" to those around him you just can't help smiling. It is that sort of movie, a comedy which makes you smile and often laugh but not too the extent that the humour is in the least bit over the top. I have to say that a lot of this is down to the brilliant acting rather than the actual script as just a glint in Elwood's eye or Veta becoming more exasperated is enough to make you laugh and smile.
The second thing which for me makes "Harvey" special is the dialogue. There are a couple of brilliant scenes where Elwood is describing how he met "Harvey" or how "Harvey" has changed his life and in those moments everything makes sense. It is in fact the dialogue which makes you stop questioning whether or not "Harvey" actually exists and just allows you to immerse yourself in the heart warming tale. One of my favourite lines from "Harvey" and one which I feel sums up what the movie is about is "I wrestled with reality for thirty-five years, and I'm happy to say I won out over it.
The third thing that makes "Harvey" stand out for me is the performances from the stars. I've always been a fan of James Stewart and as Elliot P. Dowd in "Harvey" he returns to play the amiable nice guy who you just can't help liking. It is the charm with which Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd which makes the character such a pleasure to watch. You get a real sense that he doesn't have a bad bone in his body and a kind word for everyone. Whilst Stewart may be the focus of "Harvey" it is Josephine Hull as his sister Veta who is screen gold. Her performance as the exasperated sister is hysterical and injects a bout of frenetic energy and hilarity in every scene. It is little wonder that she won an Oscar for her performance in "Harvey".
What this all boils down to is that "Harvey" is a movie which will divide audiences. For those who long for simpler times where kindness wins out will undoubtedly enjoy this and it will no doubt please fans of "It's a Wonderful Life" as it sees James Stewart doing what he does best. But for some the simplistic and sentimental nature of "Harvey" will be off putting and probably won't win over those who like to over analyse movies.