Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
A famous and successful winner of three Academy Awards, Darling wasn't exactly the
Room at the Top of its year, but it hasn't dated badly either. The fortunes of a modern
jetsetter for whom beauty is the ticket to fun and thrills, it dodges obvious morals but leaves
her in an existential limbo of her own making.
Model Diana Scott (Julie Christie) starts a relationship with married
television commentator Robert Gold (Dirk Bogarde) but eventually leaves him for playboy Miles
Brand (Laurence Harvey). After an aborted film career, she ends up rich and pampered with an
Italian nobleman, Cesare (José de Villalonga). But is she happy?
John Schlesinger confirmed his postition as one of England's more promising up-and-coming directors
with this critical look at the too-hip jet set, the beautiful people that seemed to be the engine
that made London the center of 60s cool.
The creative A Kind of Loving and
Billy Liar weren't widely shown, but
Darling got a major
release in the United States thanks to Schlesinger's star Christie. Her flighty good looks
are the center of the story - in an era that celebrates beauty, she climbs steadily up the ladder
of success from lingerie model to actress, and finally to trophy wife for an Italian millionaire.
Christie's Diana Scott has no specific ambition, but refuses to be limited. She's easily bored,
values her freedom, and finds it easy to cheat on her young husband ("he's so immature"). When she
meets the sober but loving Robert Gold, they play a deceitful phone game to make their spouses
think they are both staying out of town for an extra day. She does it because she can, and she
always places her momentary needs first. Later on, Gold realizes she's using the same shabby
trick against him, and there's nothing he can do about it. She runs off to
Paris with the utterly selfish Miles Brand, and when her feeble attempts to fool Robert don't work,
she pretends she doesn't care. The moment he's too occupied with work to devote himself to her, she's
off again getting into trouble.
Her biggest fling, after an Italian commercial shoot, is to take off to an island with a photographer
friend for a completely platonic holiday. I don't know if Darling is the first film to show
a gorgeous model who's capable of being honest with a man only when he's gay and sex isn't involved, but
it works here. She tells him things she wouldn't tell anyone else - like the fact that she doesn't
derive a lot of pleasure from sex.
There's also an abortion scene. Diana's at first excited, and then thinks of the inconvenience to her
lifestyle a baby would be, so it has to be gotten rid of. Schlesinger and Frederick Raphael (Two
for the Road, Eyes Wide Shut) don't condemn Diana for taking that route, but besides
the practical realization of how terrible a mother she'd be, they haven't anything positive to
say either. Diana is so busy taking, she never has to learn the lesson of what giving is. By the
time she realizes that she has an attachment to Robert, he's gotten over her cruel rejection and
has no further need of her. So it's back to a gilded cage with the Italian nobleman. He keeps
her at his villa with his children while presumably visiting girlfriends on the side. For Diana,
this doesn't exactly spell true love or happiness.
The movies that play up the glamour of the swingin' London scene aren't well remembered today, while
Darling, The Knack and other films
critical of it are. Darling is a bit long and selfconsciously commercial (there's even a
short nude scene, just to make sure we're watching) but it was original enough for its time.
Christie is eminently watchable. The film has the same odd equation as its theme - Christie
is so pretty that her flaky character remains interesting. Her
acting requires her to be petulant and jubilant, and she manages a good alienated stare once in a
while. Dirk Bogarde goes from happy to neurotic to vindictive, and Laurence Harvey maintains a
smug winner's superiority that's very off-putting. If there is any downside to Darling,
it's that there's ultimately nobody on screen worthy of our sympathy. Both Billy Liar and
Far From the Madding Crowd present Christie in much more likable circumstances.
MGM's DVD of Darling is a good transfer that could have been better with 16:9 enhancement.
The gray scale is well-represented; it looks just fine. John Dankworth's
music is a throwback to earlier jazz - by '65 London was rock, rock, rock - but suits the show
This disc's one extra is an original English trailer that includes a bit of the film's one nude scene.
Interestingly, the photo of Julie Christie on the DVD box barely looks like her.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Movie: Very Good
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: November 27, 2003
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson