Bette Davis, plus a cruise ship, plus some of the Casablanca cast? On the surface, Now, Voyager (Disc/Download) seems like a slam dunk for me. But as I would soon find out, there is such a thing as too much melodrama, and this movie crosses the invisible line.
Based on the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, Now, Voyager opens with a classic “spinster aunt” character who has existed under her tyrannical mother’s thumb for far too long. Although Charlotte Vale (Davis) once had a scandalous tryst at sea with a lowly staff member (Titanic fans will probably enjoy the shared plot points here, even down to the backseat canoodling in a fancy car!), her mother made sure any happiness was short-lived. It isn’t until Charlotte’s sister-in-law steps in with the help of a psychiatrist that she finally manages to claw her way out from her mother’s talons and get back on the horse. Or the cruise ship, in this case. While on this voyage, she meets a lonely man trapped in a loveless marriage (Paul Henreid, still as dull as he was in Casablanca), and after their car crashes on a port excursion to Rio, they spend a few days ashore falling in love. After, he heads back to his terrible wife and very troubled daughter, while Charlotte brings her new glowed-up self back to Boston. From there, the script gets… messy. I won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say, she makes some truly weird decisions involving her lover’s daughter, and the whole thing gives me the impression this woman still doesn’t understand how to extricate herself from codependent relationships. The cruise scenes? Fantastic! Everything else? Cringe.
Although the characters in this movie choose to drink Old Fashioneds on their cruise, I prefer to mix a favorite Brazilian cocktail, the Caipirinha. I like to think this is a drink Charlotte Vale would have enjoyed while trysting in Rio. Also, she probably would have loved picturing her mother while pulverizing the lime.
2 oz Cachaça
2 tsp Sugar
1 Lime, cut into wedges
In a rocks glass, muddle lime wedges with sugar. Fill the glass with ice and add the cachaça. Stir gently to combine.
Ultimately, Now, Voyager is an exhausting movie. However, maybe with enough Caipirinhas, you’ll laugh (as I did) at the collection of dead minks hanging from Bette’s shoulder. Doris Day sported something similar in Romance on the High Seas, and this makes me wonder—should I be visiting a furrier before my cruise? I think I’d rather just stick with jaunty sun hats. Cheers!