Criterion Prediction #171: Meet Me in St. Louis, by Alexander Miller
Title: Meet Me in St. Louis
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Judy Garland, Mary Astor, Margaret O’Brien, Marjorie Main, Lucille Bremer, Leon Ames
Synopsis: In the year leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair, the four daughters of the upper-middle-class Smith family experience a series of highs-and-lows growing up in an idyllic St. Louis. Their coming of age comes to a head when the family learns they might have to disturb their idealized lives by uprooting and moving to New York.
Critique: If you need a dose of that classic studio magic, watch something like Meet Me in St. Louis. It’s a time capsule within a time capsule. It’s the 1940s looking at the turn of the century with all the sumptuous artifice that could have only been created by the MGM studio during their heyday of making definitive musicals.
What could be described as retrogressive escapism is elevated by Minelli’s deft handling of sentiment and positively angled nostalgia. Meet Me in St. Louis maintains an elegant poise while exploring the dynamics of the Smith family. Though their economic and racial privilege might put them at a critical disadvantage (both in hindsight and filmic context), Minelli’s versatile dexterity molds the narrative in a way that is universal and timeless, bypassing mawkish emotional turns and exploring coming of age touchstones both large and small.
This is one of those brilliant unions where studio machinations, star power, bustling songs and choreography with stalwart direction yield an enduring classic.
Why It Belongs in the Collection: There’s been an influx of MGM titles getting the Criterion treatment (Sunday Bloody Sunday, Red River, Satyricon, Roma, etc.). With the growing dissolution of the home video market, it seems like bigger ticket classics from major studios feel like exclusive titles that would be out of cost for Criterion to acquire. But films with broader appeal have been introduced or reintroduced; The Breakfast Club, Silence of the Lambs, (if we’re counting Laserdisc titles and early spine numbers thought to be OOP forever) along with Tom Jones or even The Virgin Suicides. It seems like the issue of movies being off-limits to the collection might be a problem of yesteryear.