The average American life can be a real rat race. First, there’s school, which prepares you for work, which makes you money. How well you do in school determines the kind of work you do which then determines the amount of money you make. Money creates class and more money gives you a higher class. Yes, it is all so simple, but monotonous. What happens if one just forgoes all these rules and lives life not by money or class achievement but by a wide range of experiences and spiritual enlightenment?
In The Razor’s Edge, based on W. Somerset Maugham’s novel, Larry (Tyrone Power) has just returned from the war, with quite a load on his mind. He was saved by a comrade on the last day of the war and feels bad that he doesn’t know what to do with the life his friend gave for him. For that kind of sacrifice, the traditional working American life just doesn’t seem fulfilling to Larry. The problem in this story is that Larry is engaged to a self-centered, high class girl, Isabel (Gene Tierney). Her family even throws a swanky party in Larry’s honor, with her uncles offering him jobs. To their disappointment, he turns them down and decides to travel the world to find himself and make his life one of a kind.
After a year of letting Larry soul search in Paris, living on less than three grand a year, Isabel breaks off her engagement to him and marries Gray(John Payne). They live the life Isabel has dreamed of: high class, nice house with lots of money. That is happiness, right?
As Isabel lives her normal life, Larry is having all kinds of adventures. Rather than having a soft job, he decides to work as a coal miner for a while for the experience. Later, he follows a co-worker’s advice to go to India to find enlightenment. There he meets a wise old man, with that air of Indian mysticism, who helps Larry expand his knowledge. While Larry has been living on a mountain, meditating and seeking enlightenment, tragedy is unfolding back home. His old friend, Sophie (Anne Baxter) has just lost her husband and child in an auto accident. Suddenly, everything she has worked for in life is gone. She has to sell everything to survive and turns into an alcoholic at rock bottom. Her rich friends, like Isabel, take pity but look down on Sophie too much to offer any real help.
When Larry finally feels enlightened enough, he returns home with his newfound wisdom and becomes the only person who honestly wants to help Sophie. By now, everyone else has written poor Sophie off as low class lost cause. To top everything off, Isabel becomes jealous that Sophie’s life getting back on track.
There is a great scene where Isabel uses her wealth, husband, and children against Sophie. She dangles them in front of her face, knowing that those things that fate has taken from Sophie are what set them apart in class. Pardon my language, but it is such a bitchy move that simply enrages me. Even worse, we can see the same thing happening all the time in our lives today. People really do find comfort in their materialized good luck and find themselves looking down on those less fortunate.
While The Razor’s Edge tries to be an inspiring film about letting go of social and economic worries to find true happiness, it comes off as preachy and slightly cheesy. I do agree with Larry’s adventurous choice in lifestyle, but realize that not all of us can just fly off somewhere and live in the mountains. Unfortunately today, we associate this behavior with Eat, Pray, Love and replace ideas of enlightenment with Julia Roberts living it up. Nonetheless, travel is not required for one to find new experiences and have a spiritual journey. Let yourself have a day out of the monotonous rat race and just relax for a while. There is a spiritual need to slow down, be closer to nature and enjoy life.
“As long as men set their ideals on the wrong object, there will be no true happiness.”