“Marty” is one of the most simple yet easily relatable movies I’ve seen in a long time, all thanks to its main character and the heartwarming performance of Ernest Borgnine. The film follows the titular Marty, a 34-year old butcher who lives with his mother in New York. He has watched all of his other siblings, both older and younger than him, get married and start up a family of their own, but Marty has resigned himself to the life of a bachelor. Not because he likes the single life, but because he’s tried finding a woman who likes him for himself, and he has only known heartache.
This has given Marty some terrible self-esteem issues, even yelling at his own mother that the reason no woman wants him is because he’s “fat, old, and ugly.” Over the course of the film, we learn about his time with the Army and how he lost his purpose in life upon coming back. This is a normally quiet, kind man who normally keeps to himself, but wants the opportunity to do something with his life, even though no woman will give a chance. That is, until he meets Claire (Betsy Blair), a shy school teacher, at a dance and the two just listen to each others’ problems.
Borgnine’s performance is the highlight of this movie, giving us a vulnerable role that shows a man who has more than a few problems and a bit of a temper when it comes to those problems. I would describe his role as the flawed every-man. We sympathize with Marty, realizing how fragile he is, but he is relatable for that same reason. Unlike other every-man characters, especially those played by Jimmy Stewart, Borgnine’s character is so wrapped up in his weaknesses that he is blinded to his strengths.
I loved “Marty” for how different it was for the 1950s, at a time when other movies and television wanted to portray the perfect family. That every man should have a nice upper-class job and be the head of the house, while women worked on the house and kids, here’s a film about a damaged man with a job even he looks down on, and cannot find someone to love him. Yet, the film is ultimately an upbeat one about coming to terms with those flaws and loving someone anyway. I came for Ernest Borgnine’s performance, but I was transfixed by how understanding and accepting “Marty” truly was.
Final Grade: A-