Directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Miriam Hopkins, Herbert Marshall and Kay Francis, Trouble in Paradise is a 1932 screwball comedy that is regarded as one of the finest of the decade and a quintessential entry in the director’s filmography. While I cannot quite agree with that, I can see still see why critics feel that way.
It is a basic premise that of course gets convoluted as it progresses in a typical screwball comedy manner. It is about a thief and a lady pickpocket who team up in order to con a rich and beautiful woman. And of course hilarity and trouble ensues when he falls in love with the woman after spending more time with her. The story is probably the biggest reason why I was not particularly fond of this movie. It is good, very good indeed, but not a great genre movie mostly because the story never feels as believable or as fresh as some other iconic flicks of the type. And the running time is highly questionable because it clocks at just about 80 minutes which is certainly not enough for us to meet these characters properly. It should have been longer and it should have been much complex. However, the story is always engaging and very entertaining with some quite memorable scenes, mostly the great beginning and endearing finale.
As for the characters, they are very well developed despite the short running time. Lily is wonderful as this rich but passionate and kind woman while Gaston is the standout of course with evident charisma, good looks and charm in abundance. And although Colet simply pales in comparison to those two, she is still a realistic and solidly developed character. They are all beautifully portrayed by this very talented young actors who all give fantastic performances definitely helping the movie in the process a lot with their sophistication, good looks and professionalism.
Now, the humor. It is sweet naturally with its fair share of funny and memorable sequences that make you smile and feel at ease. But it is never hilarious and the movie needed much more humor to take it to the next level. What I found interesting about this movie is its sexy approach which was achieved due to pre-Code release date. It is done in the right and sophisticated manner with actors leaning in on each other, kissing, standing close and talking smoothly, but never going too far. It is suave, playful and energetic as is of course Lubitsch’s direction. He is great, no doubt about that. He achieves so much with this script and those actors, bringing a polished feel and authentic look to the picture.
The cinematography is absolutely stunning due to some impressive and original camera movements. And the editing is quick, the scenery beautiful. The tone is good with nice dramatic moments to accompany the comedic ones as well as fine romantic display and chemistry between the protagonists. And although the script is not as complex, polished or original, it is still never predictable which is great. And I have to add that the dialogue is splendid but that goes without saying because this genre is so good with it.