That Uncertain Feeling

Screening on Film
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
With Merle Oberon, Melvyn Douglas, Burgess Meredith.
US, 1941, 35mm, black & white, 84 min.
Print source: Filmmuseum Austria

Released between two of Lubitsch’s most politically loaded, arsenic-laced entertainments (Ninotchka and To Be or Not to Be), That Uncertain Feeling is distinguished by its unapologetic silliness. As a modest rehash of the comedy of remarriage genre, the film’s ludicrous plot hijinks point not to troubling global realities but to the timeless perplexities of the heart. The subject of study is Jill Baker (Merle Oberon), a married woman who begins attending therapy sessions to address her sleeping problems but recoils when her shrink chalks it up to marital woes. When Jill falls for an eccentric fellow patient, the painter Alexander Sebastian (Burgess Meredith), she impulsively files for divorce from husband Larry (Melvyn Douglas), and the story then charts the pair’s inevitable reunion. Featuring several inspired uses of offscreen space, a sustained send-up of the modern art scene, and a knockout bit in which Larry swigs several glasses of brandy in order to execute a phony altercation with Jill for legal purposes, That Uncertain Feeling is a riotous late-career softball from Lubitsch, though its largely unfavorable reviews kept it from enjoying the same widespread exhibition as the filmmaker’s more ambitious productions in the early 40s. 

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