Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
There’s a sense of goofiness in Tashlin’s style that truly separates his films from his great 50’s contemporaries—a blatant cartoonishness that is both serious and self-effacing at the same time, almost acting as an anti-Hitchcock. Rock Hunter is especially so, with a ‘man unwittingly thrust into plot’ premise ripped straight from Hitchcock’s book o’ ideas and twisted into Tashlin’s own recognizably different style. He breaks the fourth wall, he points out obvious unrealities, he never hesitates to accentuate a scene with something ridiculous. Tashlin fully controls his stars even as they aspire to control their scenes—Jayne Mansfield does especially well under this guise, being some sort of a meta-superblond character that is both an extension and a distortion of her public persona. Not to mention excellent performances all around, especially the titular Rock Hunter, whose inobstrusive performance as a bland everyman truly crawls into the film’s supposed ethos of being successful at being happy. The gags are rich, the cinematography’s sophisticated, and the acting is great; Rock Hunter may seem a little bit like an anachronism, being rooted in 50’s culture, but strip away that chewy morality and you have one of the strongest stylistic triumphs of that age.
Ratings: (36/40, 10/10)