Filmsite Movie Review
Lolita (1962)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

With the sound of the birds, she is the first to awaken in their hotel room, where they have bedded down as step-father and daughter. She looks down on him and his collapsed cot from the head of his bed and plays an impish, teenage joke on an exhausted Humbert. She shouts in his ear: "Wake up, Humbert, the hotel's on fire! The hotel's on fire, quick!...Yeah, get out of bed real quick! Quick - it's burning right down to the ground." After she checks out his watch and then compares the tan color of her skin to his, he touches her hand and she demonstrates how flexible her fingers are. And she has a special talent: "Well, this little thumb can go all the way back to my wrist. See?" She strokes his stubbly face and inquires about the growth of his hairy beard:

Humbert: Of course I need a shave, because I've not shaved since yesterday morning and I'm a man who (needs) two shaves a day.
Lolita: Hmm. Do you always have to shave twice a day?
Humbert: Yes, of course. All the best people shave twice a day.

Rather than ordering breakfast through room service - something that Humbert recommends, she coquettishly suggests playing a game that she learned at camp, while seductively twirling the hair on his head with her finger. [The sexual game she 'played' with Charlie at camp symbolizes her own readiness to initiate sex with him]:

Lolita: ...I-I learned some real good games in camp. One in particular-ly was fun.
Humbert: Well, why don't you describe this one in particular-ly - good game?
Lolita: Well, I played it with Charlie...Charlie? He's that guy that you met in the office.
Humbert: (protectively) You mean that boy...?
Lolita: Hmm, mm.
Humbert: You and he?
Lolita: Yeah. You sure you can't guess what game I'm talking about?
Humbert: (playing dumb) No, I'm not a very good guesser. (She coyly whispers the details of the game into his ear and then giggles. A look of concern crosses his face.) I don't know what game you played. (She whispers a few more words.)
Lolita: You mean you never played that game when you were a kid?
Humbert: Oh, no.
Lolita: (smiling guilelessly in a full-frame closeup) All righty then...

Lolita moves around from the headboard to his level to show him how the game is played...The screen discreetly fades to black. She is the child-woman, the one to seduce him.

They drive on in the station wagon - Lolita sips on a straw poking out of a glass Coke bottle and munches on a bag full of potato chips. She wishes she could kiss the Blarney stone, and then teasingly announces that they should share their intimate secret with Charlotte:

Lolita: Hey, let's tell mother.
Humbert: Tell mother what?
Lolita: (she smiles knowingly) You know what.
Humbert: No, I don't think that would be very funny.
Lolita: (laughing) I wonder what she'd do? Hmm?

To accentuate the wide cultural gap between their two generations, Lolita feels sympathy for a "squashed" dead cat along the road, yearns for french fries and a malt, and hopes to see a non-foreign film in the evening. Anticipating a stop at the next gas station, Lolita suggests calling her mother "at that hospital," but Humbert is reluctant to tell her that her mother is dead:

Lolita: Why? What difference does it make? I want to call her.
Humbert: I just don't think it would be a very good idea. That's all.
Lolita: Why can't I call my mother if I want to?
Humbert: Because you can't!
Lolita: Why?
Humbert: Because - (he hesitates for a long pause) your mother is dead.
Lolita: (thinking that he's kidding, she breaks out into laughter) Come on, now, cut it out! Why can't I call her?
Humbert: (accentuating the words) Your - mother - is - dead.

In a motel room that evening, Lolita is still sobbing uncontrollably in one bed while Humbert agonizes while in another bed. At last, she comes to Humbert and he comforts her:

Humbert: Try to stop crying. Everything's going to be all right.
Lolita: Nothing will ever be all right.
Humbert: I'm sure that we're gonna be very happy - you and I.
Lolita: But everything is changed all of a sudden. Everything was so, oh, I don't know, normal [she unconsciously uses one of Quilty's well-worn words].
Humbert: Lolita, please, please stop crying. We'll do things, we'll go places.
Lolita: But there's no place to go back to.
Humbert: We'll find a new home.
Lolita: Where?
Humbert: Beardsley. My lectureship. It starts in September. It's in Ohio, you'll like it there.
Lolita: I'll hate it, I know I will.
Humbert: No you won't. It's a wonderful place.
Lolita: But what about all my things back in Ramsdale? And our house?
Humbert: We'll take care of all those things.

With a desperate, needy tone in her voice, a sniffling Lolita asks Humbert to promise her something, and she curls up in his lap as he hugs and rocks her gently:

Promise you'll never leave me. I don't want to ever be in one of those horrible places for juvenile delinquents...And anyway, I'd rather be with you. You're a lot better than one of those places. You will promise, won't you?

The scene ends with his thrice-repeated assurance: "Cross my heart and hope to die."

In voice-over, Humbert describes the new circumstances of their lives in Ohio - six months later:

You must now forget Ramsdale and push our lot and poor Lolita and poor Humbert, and accompany us to Beardsley College where my lectureship in French poetry is in its second semester. Six months have passed and Lolita is attending an excellent school where it is my hope that she will be persuaded to read other things than comic books and movie romances.

As he daintly paints her toenails with polish [the background for the film's opening credits] and she sips from a Coke bottle with a straw, he quizzes her about arriving home three hours late from school the previous day. Her excuse: she was with a girlfriend watching football practice, and stopped afterwards for a malt at the drive-in, the Frigid Queen. She explains that two boys, Roy and Rex, the two co-captains of the football team, happened to sit down with them. Humbert's insane jealousy of her teenage male friends have, in part, caused the disintegration of their 'affair' and relationship, and he restricts her social activities and dating:

Humbert: I thought we understood. No dates!
Lolita: What do you mean, no dates?...
Humbert: I don't want you around them. They're nasty-minded boys.
Lolita: Oh, you're a fine one to talk about someone else's mind.
Humbert: Don't avoid the issue. I told you, 'No dates.'
Lolita: It wasn't a date.
Humbert: It was a date.
Lolita: It wasn't a date.
Humbert: It was a date, Lolita.
Lolita: It was not a date.
Humbert: IT WAS A DATE!
Lolita: It wasn't a date.
Humbert: Well, whatever it was that you had yesterday afternoon, I don't want you to have again.

Lolita makes an "idiotic joke" (according to Humbert) which he must "ignore" about his preference for young girls. He is unable to 'have' her young girlfriend Michelle because "she belongs to a Marine."

Humbert: Why does she [Michelle] give me these searching looks whenever she comes to the house?
Lolita: How should I know?
Humbert: Have you told her anything about us?
Lolita: No. Have you?
Humbert: You've told her nothing -
Lolita: You think I'm crazy?

Lolita denies any wrong-doing but isn't fully believed. Sounding a bit like Charlotte herself, Humbert defends his jealous possession of her with a pledge of protective and devout loyalty, support and love. She manipulatively counters with a shrewd request to engage in more school activities - including a part in the school play:

Lolita: You never let me have any fun.
Humbert: No fun? You have all the fun in the world. We have fun together, don't we? Ay, whenever you want something, I buy it for you automatically. I take you to concerts, to museums, to movies. I do all the housework. Who does the-the tidying up? I do. Who does the cooking? I do. You and I have lots of fun - don't we Lolita?
Lolita: (she smiles sweetly at him and purrs) Come here. (He moves from her feet and kneels in front of her) Still love me?
Humbert: Completely. You know that.
Lolita: You know what I want more than anything else in the world?
Humbert: What do you want?
Lolita: I want you to be proud of me.
Humbert: I am proud of you, Lolita.
Lolita: No, I mean really proud of me. You see, they want me for the lead in the school play. Isn't that fantastic? And I have to have a letter from you, giving your permission.
Humbert: Who wants you?
Lolita: Well, ...the drama teacher, Clare Quilty, and Vivian Darkbloom.
Humbert: And who might they be?
Lolita: They're the authors. They're here to supervise the production.
Humbert: But you've never acted before.
Lolita: Oh, they say I have a unique and rare talent.
Humbert: And how do they know that?
Lolita: Well, we had readings. I was chosen over thirty other girls.
Humbert: That's the first I've heard about it.
Lolita: I know. I wanted to surprise you.

Suspicious of any extra-curricular, after-school activities which may take her away from him, Humbert steadfastly refuses:

Humbert: And you suddenly are, overnight, an actress. Well, it's out of the question.
Lolita: (rising up) Out of the question?
Humbert: I don't want you in that atmosphere.
Lolita: (raising her voice) What atmosphere? It's just a school play.
Humbert: I've told you over and over again. I don't want you mixing with those boys. It's just another excuse to make dates with them, and to get together close with them.
Lolita: You don't love me.
Humbert: I do love you.
Lolita: You don't love me.
Humbert: I do love you, Lolita.
Lolita: You're driving me crazy. You won't let me do anything. You just want to keep me locked up with you in this filthy house!...Someday you're going to regret this. You'll be sorry...

Late that evening after returning from the college, Humbert enters his darkened living room where he finds a shadow-shrouded figure - a Quilty masquerade and impersonation. The strange, uninvited guest speaks with a smooth, German-like accent [similar to Sellers' voice and the chair-bound pose of Dr. Strangelove in Kubrick's future film, Dr. Strangelove Or:... (1964)]:

Good evening, Dr. Hombards.

The light clicks on, and there sits a man with thick, heavy glasses, a dark suit, mustache, and slicked-back hair. He introduces himself as Dr. Zempf (Peter Sellers), the Beardsley High School psychologist, who was let into the house, he explains, by Lolita as she went off to her piano lesson. Zempf is sitting in the dark to save on the cost of electricity. A hint of Lolita's connivance with Zempf sits on the table - an empty Coke bottle with a straw in it.

As an observer, the doctor describes how Humbert must be a naive father. His daughter, with her developing pubescent physical sexuality, has made quite an impact on her classmates:

Dr. Hombards, would you mind if I am putting to you a blunt qvestion?...We are vundering if anybody instructed Lolita in the vacts of life?...You zee, Lolita is a sweet little child, but the onset of maturity seems to be giving her a certain amount of trouble...Dr. Hombards, to you she's still za liddle girl what is cradled in zee arms. But to dose boys over dare at Beardsley High (he growls and rolls his eyes) she is a lovely girl (his hand gestures demonstrate the size of Lolita's chest), you know, mit mit mit mit mit de sving, you know, und zat jazz. She has got a curvature zat zat they take a lot of notice of. You and I - vat are we? Vee are the symbols of power sitting in our offices there. We are making za signatures, writing za contracts, the decisions all za time. What if we cast our minds back? Just zink, what were we only yesterday?...I have some other details which I should like to put to you.

He removes index cards from his coat with notes scribbled on them and recites Lolita's typical teenage behaviors and characteristics, while an unnerved Humbert sits stunned and flabbergasted by the analysis:

Dr. Hombards - here, she is defiant...she sighs a gud deal in the class. She sighs, makes the zounds of 'uh-UHHHH!' Chews gum vehemently, alls the time is chewing dis gum, handles books gracefully, that's all right, doesn't really matter. Voice is pleasant. Giggles rathzer often and iz excitable. She giggles at things. A little dreamy. Conzentration is poor. She-she looks at a book for a while and then getza fed up with it. Has private jokes of her own which noone understands so they can't enjoy them mit her. She either has exceptional control or she has no control at all. We cannot decide which. Added to that - just yesterday, uh, Dr. Hombards, wrote a most obscene vord with her lipstick, if you please, on the health pamphlets. And so, in our opinion, she's suffering from acute repression of the libido of zee natural instincts.

Failing to see the significance of these findings on her record as a student, Humbert politely dismisses Dr. Zempf's suspicious and illogical findings. So the doctor threatens a larger psychological investigation in the home setting that would bring greater exposure:

Vee Amerikans, vee are progressive and modern. Vee believe that it is equally important to prepare the pupils for the mutually satisfactory mating and the successful child rearing - that is vhat we believe...I am suggesting that Dr. Cutler, who is the district psychologist vith the board of education should visit you in the home mit his three-member board of psychologists. And vonce they're in the home, they can investigate thoroughly in the home situation, with all four of them...So they can get straight at the sourze of the repression...I'm afraid that, uh, you may have no choice. Cigarette?

As Zempf lights his cigarette, he gives away his disguise. He raises up his thick, bottle-cap eyeglasses to see what he is doing. There is another alternative - he proposes - to get Humbert off the hook. Lolita's appearance in the school play (with private rehearsals thrown in) is a solution to all of her problems:

...Look, Dr. Hombards, I don't wish to take this to a higher level of authority if I can possibly help it - you understand?...So you must help me...Perhaps, I don't know, but perhaps dere is anoder approach dat we can take - something new altogether. Something new. Some new approach. Vat would you say? Do you like that? Some? Yah! Some new era of adjustment zat Lolita could find perhaps partake in the larger share of the extra-curricular school activities...You, Dr. Hombard, zhould devinitely unveto that girl's non-partizipazion in the school play!

Humbert realizes that he must assent to the psychologist's suggestion to prevent any further meddling into his home affairs by other psychologists:

Humbert: All right, perhaps I was wrong in the attitude that I took about the school play.
Zempf: Zat's very big of you to admit that. And whilst you're admitting zat, why don't you alzo loozen up a little bit more in the other two 'd's' yah? The dating and the dance?
Humbert: You think that those are equally important?
Zempf: Dr. Hombards, I'll tell you about the two things. I feel that you and I should do all in our power to stop that old Dr. Cutler and his quartet of psychologists from fiddling around in the home situation. Zat's what I feel. Don't you agree with me?

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