The music is good but the film has an explicit advocacy of domestic violence against women -- the Shirley Jones character tells the daughter that when she gets hit(by the Gordon MacRae character) that it doesn't hurt... and there are other instances of encourage men to hit or beat women. Just appalling.
Billy Bigelow, former carnival gigolo now deceased and working in a heavenly sweatshop polishing stars, is granted a request to return to earth for one day to help sort things out with his widow, Julie, and the daughter who was born after he died. In flashback we see how the gruff and virile Billy swept Julie off her naive young feet one evening, married her in haste, then turned into a lazy abusive lout while she strove to be the most lovable doormat 1870s Maine had ever seen. But once he found out she was pregnant he decided to become a responsible breadwinner; starting with an ill-fated armed robbery. Returning to earth fifteen years later he sees that Julie has gotten along well without him, his adolescent daughter however is not only having boy trouble but has had to endure years of merciless taunting on account of her late father being a thief and wife-beater. How can Billy instill a sense of pride in his daughter and comfort Julie’s broken heart in the short time allotted him? Whisper yet another sappy song into their ears of course! God knows there’s no shortage of those floating around in this facile and sickeningly sentimental cinemascope weeper, along with some featherweight drama, ham-fisted performances and ridiculously affected New England accents. With the exception of a nicely fluid ballet sequence towards the end the dance routines are clunky and dull (despite the obvious physical prowess of all those twirling gay boys); a choreographed clambake is particularly painful especially when the overzealous cast of extras belt out an impassioned ditty about splitting lobsters in half and sending clams “galloping down their gullets”. Unfortunately the film’s only standout anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has been hijacked by so many telethons and schmaltzy Vegas acts in the intervening years that it now sounds even more trite than when it first debuted. Not even a feigned sense of nostalgia can excuse Carousel’s syrupy excesses; once around and you’ll be begging to get off.
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