In many ways, Marty is entirely different from On The Waterfront – a lack of star players, a seemingly more pedestrian plot and topic, and a general ‘down to earth’ feel, but, and this may sound like a stretch, Marty and On The Waterfront are artistically united, cousins if you will, in that each film is attempting to access ‘reality’ as closely as possible. Each is just using a different approach. Where On The Waterfront uses an extraordinary man (not to mention actor) to present the most realistic presentation of character it can manage, Marty presents the plight of a decidedly ordinary man, where reality is accessed through a complete understatement of plot and character.
Marty is remarkable in its unremarkableness. It strips away any pretence of Hollywood gloss, allowing us to look at these characters as though they are people rather than celebrities. Their personalities are fairly plain, their looks hardly head-turning and their wants and needs basic and simple. Yet while they are presented as totally average, the truthfulness of their desires is heartwarming beyond measure. Marty is closer in semblance to reality because there are no frills. It doesn’t need the intense Method acting of a huge star to connect to its audience, it shows us that it’s okay to be a normal person. It tells us that we matter regardless of our status. It makes us happy with just being.
Marty and On The Waterfront are much the same in artistic intent; they both want to show us people that are as real as possible. But Marty is focussed on dropping the Hollywood angle and bringing us back down to who we really are, not who we aspire to. And to me that makes Marty astoundingly more interesting, honest and meaningful.