Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
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The Story (continued)

Totally soused, Honey joins George in his singing and he swings her around in circles: "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf..." But then she rushes toward the bathroom in the hall, nauseated by the movement, dizzy from inebriation, and upset by Martha's crude behavior: "I'm going to be sick, I'm going to be sick."

While Martha makes coffee for Honey, Nick joins George in the front yard for more drinks. There, he shares confidences with George about his own 'shotgun marriage' to Honey:

Nick: ...I married her because she was pregnant...It was a hysterical pregnancy. She blew up and then she went down.
George: And when she was up, you married her.
Nick: And then she went down. (They share a laugh together.)

Both couples are childless - incapable of having children, although George and Martha have invented a son. He admits to the great, private joke of his own marriage: "Martha doesn't have pregnancies at all," but we do have "just boy...our son...Yeah, well, he's a...comfort, he's a bean bag...You wouldn't understand." George describes his own "messy" marriage as one of "accommodation" and "adjustment." Nick responds that his marriage was motivated in part by Honey's money and family pressure rather than by passionate romance. His father-in-law was a corrupt evangelical preacher ("man of the Lord") who left his daughter financially rich and secure.

After their drunken banter has progressed and they appear male-bonded, George shifts alliances with Nick and states that he is a potential threat:

George: You realize that I've been drawing you on this stuff because you represent a direct threat to me and I want to get the goods on you...I mean I've warned you, you stand warned...
Nick: I stand warned. It's you sneaky types worry me the most, you know. You ineffectual sons of bitches. You're the worst.
George: Well, I'm glad you don't believe me. After all, you've got history on your side.
Nick: You've got history on your side. I've got biology on mine.

The lessons of history have taught George that the younger generation, represented by Nick, may potentially subvert future history with self-serving aggrandizement, including the possibility of seducing George's wife:

Nick: What I thought I'd do is, I'd sort of insinuate myself generally, you know, find all the weak spots...become sort of a fact and then turn into a, a what? (gesturing toward George)
George: An inevitability.
Nick: Exactly, an inevitability. Take over a few courses from the older men, plow a few pertinent wives.
George: Now that's it. I mean, you can shove aside all the older men you can find, but until you start plowing pertinent wives, you're really not working. That's the way to power. Plow 'em all!...The way to a man's heart, the wide inviting avenue to his job is through his wife, and don't you forget it.
Nick: And I'll bet your wife's got the widest, most inviting avenue on the whole damn campus. (He laughs) I mean, her father being president and all.
George: You bet your historical inevitability.
Nick: Yessiree. I'd just better get her off into the bushes right away.

George offers his unwilling guest "good advice": "There's quicksand here and you'll be dragged down before you know it...sucked down...You disgust me on principle and you're a smug son of a bitch personally but I'm trying to give you a survival kit.." Nick responds vehemently as they both move toward the house: "UP YOURS!" George delivers a long monologue in response:

You take the trouble to construct a build a society based on the principles make government and art, and realize that they are, must be, both the bring things to the saddest of all the point where there is something to lose...then all at once, through all the music, through all the sensible sounds of men building, attempting, comes the Dies Irae. And what is it? What does the trumpet sound? Up yours.

When their guests insist on leaving, George retrieves the car to take them home. On their short drive in the car, the subject shifts from Honey's retching to the reason for their son's constant throwing up - Martha is described as a destructive child abuser:

George: ...the real reason why our son used to throw up all the time, wife and lover, was because he couldn't stand you fiddling at him all the time, breaking into his bedroom with your kimono flying, fiddling...
Martha: Yeah, and I suppose that's why he ran away from home twice in one month. Twice in one month! Six times in one year.
George: Our son ran away from home all the time because Martha here used to corner him.
George: He used to run up to me when I'd get home, and he'd say: 'Mama's always coming at me.' That's what he'd say.
Martha: Liar!

When the subject of dancing is raised, Honey sees a roadhouse sign for a restaurant: "Red Basket Cocktails - Dancing" and expresses her interest: "I'd love some dancing...I want some! I want some dancing!..I just love dancing. Don't you?...I dance like the wind." George suddenly obliges Martha's order to stop the car and they go inside. In an overhead shot, Honey spins around dancing by herself "like the wind" (an "interpretive dance" she later calls it) to the music of the jukebox, but Nick tries to tell her to stop acting foolish. She lashes back at him: "You're always at me when I'm having a good time...Just leave me alone. I like to dance and you don't want me to."

While Honey and George watch, Nick dances with Martha, somewhat enjoying sharing Martha's humiliation and castration of her husband. As their bodies undulate closely together, Honey thinks: "They're dancing like they've danced before." Using rhymed speech while she dances, Martha is 'encouraged' to mock George and tell more ugly details about his past, replaying a story which George had earlier told Nick out on the yard in greater detail:

Well, Georgie-boy had lots of big ambitions
In spite of something funny in his past...
Which Georgie-boy here turned into a novel...
His first attempt and also his last...
But Daddy took a look at Georgie's novel...
And he was very shocked by what he read...
A novel all about a naughty boy-child...
Who...killed his mother and his father dead.
And Daddy said, 'Look here, I will not let you publish such a thing...'

George rises, yells: "STOP IT, MARTHA," and unplugs the jukebox. This ends the dancing abruptly. After being insulted even more, George declares: "THE GAME IS OVER," but Martha overextends herself by implying that George's past directly corresponds to the horrifying events of his unpublished, non-fiction novel - maybe George deliberately murdered his parents:

Just imagine a book all about a boy who murders his mother and kills his father, and pretends it's all an accident...And do you want to know the clincher? Do you want to know what big brave Georgie said to Daddy?...Georgie said...'But Daddy, I mean...but Sir, this isn't a novel at all...this is the truth...this really happened...TO ME!'

As Honey ludicrously applauds the violent outburst, George's emotionally-charged intellectual warfare soon turns to physical assault. As he strangles Martha, calling her a demonic "SATANIC BITCH!" Nick struggles to drag George's hands from Martha's throat and tear him away. George is finally thrown to the floor. When a restaurant worker asks them about all the noise and announces closing time, George excuses everything as one big game: "We're just playing a game...Ah, one more round...Just give us one more round and we'll be on our merry way." While they are served a last round of drinks, George gleefully lists the types of entertaining mind-games that they can still choose from:

Well that's one game. What shall we do now? Come on, I mean, let's think of something else. We've played Humiliate the Host - we can't do that one. What should we do now?...Let's see, there are other games, how about uh, how about Hump the Hostess huh?...OK, I know what we do. Now that we're through with Humiliate the Host...and we don't want to play Hump the Hostess about a little round of Get the Guests?

George calls his wife by two invectives: a "book dropper" and a "child mentioner."

With authority over everyone, George brings up more statements which concern the nature of truth and illusion. He uses ammunition from his earlier outdoor conversation with Nick to "Get the Guests", telling a story within a story:

Well now Martha, in her own discreet way, told you all about my first novel. True or False? I mean, true or false that there ever was such a thing. Anyway, she told you about it, my first novel, my memory book which I'd sort of preferred she hadn't, but hell, that's blood under the bridge. BUT what Martha didn't do - what Martha didn't tell you, what Martha didn't tell us all about was my second novel. (Martha looks up puzzled) No, Martha, you didn't know about that, did you? My second novel, true or false. True or false?...Well, it's an allegory really, probably, and it's all about this nice young couple who comes out of the Middle West. It's a bucolic you see. And, this nice young couple comes out of the Middle West, and he's blonde and he's about thirty, and he's a scientist, a teacher, a scientist...and his mouse is a wifey little thing who gargles brandy all the time...and Mousie's father was a holy man, see, and he ran sort of a traveling clip joint, and he took the faithful...that's all, just took 'em...Anyway, Blondie and his frau out of the plain states came...and they settled in a town just like nouveau Carthage here...But Blondie was all in disguise really, all got up as a teacher, because his baggage ticket had bigger things writ on it. H.I. HI! Historical inevitability...And he had this baggage, and part of his baggage was in the form of his mouse...But what nobody could figure out about Blondie was his baggage - his mouse, I mean, here he was, pan-Kansas swimming champeen, or something, and he had this mouse, of whom he was solicitous to a point that faileth human understanding given that she was something of a simp, in the long run...she tooted brandy immodestly and spent half her time in the upchuck...But she was a money baggage amongst other things. Godly money ripped from the golden teeth of the unfaithful and she was put up with...Oh, and now we get a flashback to HOW THEY GOT MARRIED...The Mouse got all puffed up one day, and she went over to Blondie's house, and she stuck out her puff and she said, look at me...I'm all puffed up. Oh my goodness, said Blondie...and so they were married...and then the puff went away again like magic - pouf!

Though Honey encouraged George to proceed with his "Get the Guests" story, she is thoroughly embarrassed when she becomes aware of Nick's indiscretion, sharing with George their barrenness and violating their agreement to keep their secret private: "Oh no...You couldn't have told them, oh nooo!" She runs out of the room, hysterical and sick to her stomach again. George will not apologize to Nick for telling his "damaging" story:

By God, you gotta have a swine to show you where the truffles are. You just rearrange your alliances, boy. You look around and make the best of things.

As Nick and Honey stumble away from the roadhouse, George tells his loving but vicious wife mockingly that he meant to entertain her: "And how you play 'Get the Guests'...You bring out the best in me, baby."

Why baby, I did it all for you. I thought you'd like it, sweetheart, it's to your taste, blood, carnage and all. I thought you'd sort of get excited, sort of heave and pant and come running at me, your melons bobbling.

In the parking lot, the sparks fly again - it is a sickening, harrowing battle lacking all inhibition and restraint in a marriage that has lasted too long:

George: ...You can sit around with the gin running out of your mouth, and you can humiliate me, you can tear me to pieces all night, and that's perfectly OK, that's all right...

For decades in their shell-shocked marriage, each of them bring up weapons of destruction that they wield against each other in a "total war." Martha domineeringly questions his ability to "wear the pants in the house," ruining him by her continual excessive demands:

Martha: I'm gonna finish you before I'm through with you...
George: You and the quarterback, you're both gonna finish me.
Martha: Before I'm through with you, you'll wish you'd died in that automobile, you bastard.
George: And you'll wish you'd never mentioned our son...I said 'I warned you.'
Martha: I'm impressed.
George: I warned you not to go too far.
Martha: I'm just beginning.

George: You're a monster - You are.
Martha: I'm loud and I'm vulgar, and I wear the pants in the house because somebody's got to, but I am not a monster. I'm not.
George: You're a spoiled, self-indulgent, willful, dirty-minded, liquor-ridden...
Martha: SNAP! It went SNAP! I'm not gonna try to get through to you any more. There was a second back there, yeah, there was a second, just a second when I could have gotten through to you, when maybe we could have cut through all this, this CRAP. But it's past, and I'm not gonna try.

Martha: I looked at you tonight and you weren't there...And I'm gonna howl it out, and I'm not gonna give a damn what I do and I'm gonna make the biggest god-damn explosion you've ever heard.
George: Try and I'll beat you at your own game.
Martha: Is that a threat George, huh?
George: It's a threat, Martha.
Martha: You're gonna get it, baby.
George: Be careful Martha. I'll rip you to pieces.
Martha: You're not man enough. You haven't the guts.
George: Total war?
Martha: Total.

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