Reviewed on 2007 March 5
This is a movie about a man with a pooka. A big, hairy pooka. A giant, genial pooka that likes to go to bars and buy people martinis. Who thinks of this stuff? Where are they now? We need them!
Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart) is the world’s most genteel barfly. He’s apparently an alcoholic, but we only see him enjoying one martini in the movie (though he seems to live in bars) and I don’t recall him being drunk. He’s convivial, has a kind word for everyone, and his best friend happens to be a huge invisible (to all but him) rabbit named Harvey. Harvey is Elwood’s pooka. (Here’s a link to pooka information. I’m Celtic but we don’t have any in our family, unless you count our spoiled, overfed cats.) Elwood is a source of great distress to his sister, Veta (Josephine Hull). Veta is trying her best to get her daughter Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne) married into a “good” family, and she doubts they’ll be forgiving of her eccentric brother. She coaxes him out of the house to throw an incident-free party so Myrtle can meet some society matrons with suitable sons, but Elwood comes home and ruins it. That’s the last straw for Veta, and as much as she loves Elwood she resolves to commit him to a mental hospital. The problem is, Elwood is so convinced of Harvey’s existence, that other people begin to question themselves.
The movie works because of the wonderful acting — can you imagine how hard it was for Stewart to act opposite something that’s not there? — and it is funny. There’s also a message, though we’re not beaten over the head with it. Elwood may be certifiable, but he’s a gentleman. Would you rather be at Myrtle Mae’s dull party in the parlor, or sipping a martini with Elwood and Harvey? And the big oil painting of Elwood and his friend is hilarious, even if it is a little disturbing.
Three chocolate morsels and… oh, what else? A martini.