To Have and Have Not ★★★½

Not exactly the poor man's Casablanca -- too beautifully written (William Faulkner contributed to the script!), and with an even better director at the helm -- but certainly a conscious variant on a formula that had done so well for Warner Bros. a couple of years earlier. Bogart is even more apathetic here, driven by often obscure personal motives and without even the pretense to small-business-owner respectability; and his relationship with Lauren Bacall is much more blatantly sexual and hedonistic. Their chemistry is astounding, as you'd expect, and completely overtakes the film, which Hawks said was intentional -- and the muddled, overly plotty third act demonstrates that, apart from pleasant echoes of the earlier film and some good characterizations sourced from Hemingway, there isn't a whole lot else here. Hawks isn't really built to capture the overwhelming romance and sadness of Curtiz's film, and the tale being told simply isn't remotely as compelling, but he finds some moments here that really ignite, mostly thanks to Bacall herself -- her sour mimickry of Dolores Moran's flirtatious plea for forgiveness from Bogart, eyelids wagging; her reading of "It's even better when you help" (I actually lost it laughing at this last night; and incidentally, that's one of the more obvious Actual Kisses in classic Hollywood -- they look like they need it); and most of all, her saunter toward the camera and the smile that follows in the final moments, which is one of the most defense-dropping, achingly real moments of perfection in any movie, and it's almost impossible to believe that she's acting.. because she almost certainly isn't.

As for the rest, who doesn't love hanging around with Bogart at peak-detached hipster persona? The atmosphere could sustain you for days if the hackneyed story didn't have to take over.