Room at the Top

Director: Jack Clayton
Year Released: 1959
Rating: 2.5

What prevents this somewhat simple but effective story about making a decision between love and success from greatness is its meandering pace, which is a severe liability until half the picture passes by and Simone Signoret - who won an Oscar for her performance - adds a potent dose of sympathy to the film. In fact, she's the movie's fulcrum: lead character Laurence Harvey - despite his cold, ruthless performance - is something of an anti-hero, and you can't help but be simultaneously interested in and repelled by. The girl he claims to be in love with, a rich man's daughter (played by an irritating Heather Sears) is too shallow to capture much interest. Signoret is her foil - whereas the daughter is young, spoiled, wide-eyed and innocent, Signoret has seen it all (she's an "ex" prostitute) and is hardly new to the game: her eyes carry with them the weight of many encounters and experiences, most of them unpleasant. Harvey is in love with the Signoret, but you can figure out how it's going to end up. The third act (especially the last twenty minutes) slips into too much melodrama than I felt was necessary for the picture, with lots of "big events" placed in a film of intense conversations and hidden motives.