Film Review: Meet Me in St. Louis

Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis is perfect viewing for the holiday season. The film is warm, bright and amusing, with memorable songs.

In the year preceding the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, Esther Smith falls for her new next door neighbour. Her older sister Rose waits patiently for a long-distance proposal, while youngest Tootie gets in a whole heap of trouble. As the Smith family look forward to the World Fair, Mr Smith has some news that may change the course of events…

Meet Me in St. Louis is regarded as a classic for good reason. The film is well constructed, with a narrative that unfolds at a good pace. Although Esther is the central character, there is enough focus on other family members to ensure the minor strands are sufficiently developed.

Minnelli’s film features a wonderful balance of drama, romance and comedy. The film appears quite old fashioned in the sense of having the stock humorous characters complimenting the main players. Far from being a bad thing, this gives Meet Me in St. Louis a nostalgic quality. The script is also great, with the interactions between family members appearing both natural and amusing.

Meet Me in St Louis is of course a musical. Although the songs are great, action in the film thankfully does not feel like a bridge between one song and the next. The film has more depth than this, providing a fairly simple tale, but one with feeling. Judy Garland’s seminal ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is acutely emotional, because of its cinematic context, as well as the fact that it is a beautiful rendition.

Performances in Minnelli’s film are good overall. Judy Garland is convincing as the teenage Esther, despite being in her early twenties. Lucille Bremer and Margaret O’Brien provide good support as sisters Rose and Tootie, while Majorie Main offers comic relief as the maid Katie.

Meet Me in St. Louis‘ re-release is in perfect time for pre-Christmas viewing. First time audience members are in for a treat.

Meet Me in St. Louis is being screened at the British Film Institute from 16th December 2011, as well as selected venues throughout the UK.