Posts Tagged ‘spoilers’

*****Full Spoilers******

The Girl In The Park (Auburn, 2007. US)

This is a recurring phenomena and a recent viewing of The Girl In The Park set me trying to define it. I’ll outline my understanding of the characters and their relationship, to try and replicate the effect the dénouement had for me.

From the moment Louise (Kate Bosworth) breezes into Julia’s (Sigourney Weaver) life, we know Julia is being set up for a fall. The ambiguity over whether Louise really could be the long lost Maggie doesn’t make us hopeful, it just means the cataclysm, when it comes, could just be even more painful. To lose the same daughter twice would be more than Julia could withstand.

A sense of foreboding shoots through the scenes of domestic harmony, not from the moment Julia takes Louise in, nor when Julia casually deposits a key and leaves her home and possessions to the disposal of a self-confessed conwoman. No, these events are ostentatiously disquieting, it is the joyful equilibrium that is riddled with jangling apprehension. We wait with baited breath for it all to come crashing down, for a great confrontation; perhaps most anxiously for poor, stoic, Chris’s reaction. Of course at the family wedding, this is the classic setting for simmering familial tension to come to a head. An uninvited guest, estranged parents, alcohol, a stranger apparently more privy to a mother’s affections than her own son: all the strings are taut on Chris’s bow and as Julia stands to make her speech there is an almost audible clanging of The Bell of Doom. Then she says some heartfelt things and sits back down. For a couple of seconds we reel with the sense of narrowly averted catastrophe the, without warning or preamble, the other shoe drops.

The final scene, after familial reconciliation, after Chris finally says the dreadful words that Julia had perhaps never heard aloud, Maggie/Louise reappears begging sanctuary and offering (again), finally the truth and what does Julia say? ‘I don’t care.’ Such a loaded statement. Louise hears it as rejection, until she sees the open door [*ahem* METAPHOR] and suddenly they become words that surely we all want to hear. To offer up our past sins and failings, to be told ‘no matter, I accept you as you are, without judgement, censure or condition.’

Before, in the park, Julia had stared at Louise’s bare legs, then forced herself to look away before she could see whether the feted birthmark was there or not. She didn’t want to know, she wanted to leave herself with hope. Hope is an infinitely better feeling than Certainty. If this truly was her Maggie then that would create as much pain as it cured. Her next attempt at verifying her speculation ends in both women fully subscribing to the fantasy, each using the other to fill a void in her own life.

At the last though, when she and we both know for certain that this is not, and could never really have been, her Maggie, that revelation isn’t crushing. Julia realises that the relationship she has forged with this lost young woman is mutually beneficial and that she leads to let little Maggie go, to let her rest. In an instant, she makes her peace and the two sit down to dinner, entirely at ease. The end. There is reconciliation with Chris and Celeste, joy at the new baby, the prospect of a loving and uncomplicated relationship with boss man. No great cataclysm, but no great resolution either. It almost doesn’t matter that the core question- what happened to Maggie?- was never answered. It was almost a MacGuffin to get us to this point. I was surprised that the whole precarious zephyr didn’t go down in a ball of flames, but glad that Julia found some peace, even that lonely, amoral Louise found some rest. Not what I was anticipating, but this fragile equilibrium is as much as we could ask for.

So this set me to thinking about other acceptably ambiguous endings, with no great or final resolution. Thus far my list comprises:

My Summer of Love (Pawlikowski, 2004. UK)

Plenty of people were frustrated by this ending, but I think I get it. Dissenting voices said ‘why didn’t Mona just kill Tamsin?’ But 16/17 year olds fall in and out of love all the time, teenagers betray each other and get their hearts broken and, crucially, get over it. Your average adolescent girl does not commit murder with her bare hands every time she gets dumped.

The thing is, it was all a game for Tamsin; she’s spoilt, lonely and deprived of emotionally valid relationships, especially with people her own age. Plus, potentially she is actually gay, which could well be worse in a boarding school than it is at a normal school I suspect. All of this compounds into an irrepressible desire to fabricate a world to inhabit and a lack of social and emotional empathy. She’s not evil.

Mona, however, is a practical girl. She was seduced by Tamsin, her self-assurance, her knowledge and exoticism; so different from the salty, working class Yorkshire villagers she’s used to, but she has her head on her shoulders really. She’s hurt, more deeply than she could have imagined, by the betrayals of first her brother, then her manipulative lover, but she will roll up her sleeves and carry on. This is a girl who bought a moped with no engine because it was going cheap. ‘Drowning’ Tamsin was the end of the game, the line underneath their sundrenched fantasy. It couldn’t really end any other way, there was no happy ever after that could be attained here, and murder-suicide-tabloid frenzy? Too Hollywood, too dramatic. Here things just fizzle out, that fire and drive of youth just fades away and we settle into nothing. So I didn’t mind this ending.

I think most people’s displeasure at this conclusion, or absence thereof, stems from the lack of catharsis, the dearth of dramatic resolution. Much like unsatisfactory old life- it just keeps on, with nothing much of anything to draw a line under each phase as it passes.

Julia (Erick Zonca, 2008. UK)

Well this film just kept surprising me. For the first hour I just hated this character, I could not abide her; even the way she breathed grated on me. Then, as the situation escalated way beyond her control, I inexorably found myself rooting for her to succeed. I kept hoping each double blind and bluff would pay off, whilst constantly bracing myself for a bloody, tragic dénouement or ignominious capture. The little boy was bestowed with so little character that I didn’t really care whether he ended up with his authoritarian grandfather or loco addict mother, as long as he didn’t die at the hands of Mexican gangsters.

As each machination unfolded I found myself thinking ‘do it, do it!’ So when Julia ends up with no money, no car, escalating debts, wanted by the FBI, stood on the central reservation of a foreign motorway clutching another woman’s child and sobbing with relief, it wasn’t what I thought was going to happen, and it isn’t really the outcome I’d hoped for, but it was okay. She had, in some oblique way, found redemption. The boy was safe (as safe as he could be in the circumstances) and no one had, at that moment, been shot or arrested. Apart from people earlier in the film. An uneasy equilibrium is reached and it’s alright. The palpable relief as the child is released, the genuine human emotion that oases between the two at their reunion, despite the circumstances of their acquaintance, those are valuable emotions; this is a stirring moment, though we may be left unsure what it means.

There should be a word for this type of ending. Is there? Tell me. Feel free to pitch in with other films that end in an unexpected but ultimately acceptable, if not entirely satisfactory fashion.

TELL NO ONE (Ne le dis à personne): Canet, 2006. Fr.

I recently saw an old post on the best surprise lesbians in mainstream films and TNO cropped up.  They were referring to Kristin Scott Thomas’ Hélène and her relationship with the protagonist’s sister Anne. The writer was celebrating the fact that the women’s marriage is utterly unremarkable- it isn’t a plot point, none of the characters have to ‘deal’ with it, there is no great moment of exposition. After Ellen also had this to say.

So I got to thinking, why are they gay? Did the writers just think ‘meh, why not?’ But then it became increasingly obvious that, in order for the narrative to succeed as it does, they had to be that orientation.

Main man Alex is best friends with his sister-in-law ; they lunch together and have an easy rapport. True, he could easily have been great friends with a brother-in-law, but the dynamics are different in exclusively male relationships. Had there been two men meeting to covertly discuss online activity, it would have seemed exclusive and conspiratorial- a cabal of masculinity- to Anne’s detriment. Their exclusion of Anne would have taken on, whether inadvertent or not, a patina of chauvinism, of male superiority, which the characters and situation do not warrant. These are educated, sophisticated, middle class Francs; the gender war is not of their world.

So why not have him be best friends with his brother’s wife? Well that’s problematic on two fronts: If Alex is spending so much time alone with a straight woman then, whether intended or not, there will always be a suggestion of sex. We will question the pair’s motives, instead of focusing on their engagement with the central mystery. Knowing that both parties are assured in their mutual lack of attraction allays the anxiety of their alliance and prevents any shadow of doubt over Alex’s devotion to Margot.

Then there’s the matter of the conspiracy around which the film centres. ***SPOILERS below***

Would Margot have confided in a brother-in-law in the way she trusts Anne? I’d wager not, not least because a man most likely would not have reacted in the same way. Obviously this is a generalisation, but a more likely male response would be to lead with force in the first instance, rather than waiting to plot an elaborate entrapment. Anne’s lack of action, and years of silence I cannot explain in terms of gender behaviour though. It is significant that Alex never comes to Anne during the film, though he trusts Hélène implicitly. He also knows Hélène can keep this information from Anne easily, and without guilt.

So, by logical deduction, Alex’s confidante must be the wife of his gay sister. (Well technically, he could ally himself with the husband of his gay brother, but that would preclude that casting of the estimable Kristen Scott Thomas and again, would bring a machismo to the film that would not benefit the characters or the story.)

Here it is folks. I haven’t even read back what I’ve written, but this is the first Liveblogging attempt. It’s pretty long, so I’m going to trial using  exerpts intead of full posts on the home page. Hope you enjoy!

********Warning Full SPOILERS*********

Sugarhouse (Love, 2007. UK)

00:00:20

A not quite middle aged white man traverses real London, beyond the City and the tourists, and though he is almost certainly a native, he seems uncomfortable out here, maybe in the heart of the city, perhaps as far afield as Zone 3. The graffiti tag stylising of the opening credits set the genre quite distinctly. British, urban, almost certainly gritty, dealing with class and poverty. Your standard inner-city drama/thriller I’d say. Oh, and Gollum’s in it as someone called ‘Hoodwink’ who I’ll bet is a kingpin drug dealer or gang lord type. Three to One.

Just in case we hadn’t noticed this man’s out-of-placeness, the handheld DV flags it up for us. His eyes light on a series of grotesques and caricatures as his unease becomes ours. Directed by Gary Love. He is accosted in a market café by Ashley Walters out of So Solid who earned his stripes and showed his chops in Bullet Boy. Here he seems to be playing some demented delinquent version of himself again. Less world weary than his lead role in that film.

As the altercation ends we see our man did intend to meet this capering rood boy Caliban, so what is he up to? He’s clearly involved in something over his head, that much is clear from the office attire and the way he gazes up at the high rise tower block they come to. A visually striking crane shot presents the block as something more than poorly-planned social housing for a moment, it is Hockney or one of those great American print artists. Then we snap down to ground level and it’s just somewhere you hope you won’t have to live. Or visit. (more…)

Disco Pigs: (Sheridan, 2001. ROI)

****Some spoilers****

I saw DiscoElaine Cassidy and Cillian Murphy in Disco Pigs Pigs on video many years ago, sourced at great length from the depths of my county library service, and I liked it but I was a little bewildered by some of the actions and motivations of the characters.  After not thinking about it for eons I was recently making a list of British and Irish films to blog about and this little flick came to mind. I was wondering how to track it down  when utterly coincidentally I was staying over at a house blessed with Freeview [that’s digital/cable type channels not available on terrestrial television- for overseas readers] and chanced upon it on Film4 at some unsociable hour. With the wisdom and emotional maturity that come with great age, it made far more sense this time round and my intervening Film Studies training meant I could appreciate the form far more.  I think this is a film people should see in adolescence and again in early adulthood; it’ll probably tell you something about yourself, or at least about your evolving understanding of people and the great intensity of youthful emotion.

Disco Pigs was written by Enda Walsh, based on her play of the same name and is a two-hander featuring my two favourite Irish actors, Cillian Murphy and Elaine Cassidy, (two of the Emerald Isle’s most bankable big screen exports, both of whom have transcended the Republic since, for better or worse) in their fresh faced days. Last seen in The Dark Knight and US horror serial Harper’s Island respectively, Murphy gets a dress rehearsal for his schtick as the intense and introverted Irish rake here, at his leanest and most wired- full of adolescent energy, while Cassidy does that distant wistful-yet-mischievous thing she does best. (more…)

SONG OF SONGS (Appignanesi, 2005. UK)

I vaguely recall reading a good review of Song of Songs round about the time of release. I was paying attention to Natalie Press back then; after the critical success of Wasp and a respectable showing in My Summer of Love she was looking set to become something of a darling of the British indie crowd. It had a very limited release however and after finally catching it on iPlayer I can see why. Press is perfectly acceptable in her performance, all the actors do the best that could be expected with the source material, but the whole enterprise just begs the question ‘why?’

Billed as a domestic drama exploring the tensions between an Orthodox Jewish family when the matriarch falls ill, SOS is in fact nothing so routine.

While it was interesting to see the rituals and behaviours of Jewish orthodoxy (for example the stock character of the estranged son who rebels against his upbringing is recharged here in the articulate and complex David who, despite his rejection of the Orthodox creed, compulsively adheres to the proscribed ritual hand washing)- not often portrayed or described in popular media- this claustrophobic play is imbued with a sense of unease that had me squirming in my seat twenty minutes in.

Despite a lean running time of eighty-one minutes Song of Songs rapidly becomes infuriating. I’m no stranger to glacial development, but here we are endlessly subjected to two steps forward, one step back. The implied sexual tension which repeatedly builds between siblings David and Ruth is undermined by distracting, but presumably deliberate, loss of focus before being diffused yet again by a slow and baffling fade to white.

The film is riddled with odd behaviour and obscure, if not opaque motivations, including the brother moving back into his family home, ostensibly to tutor his sister, ‘deprogramme’ her of religious indoctrination if you will, but concealing his presence from their ailing mother who is crying out to see her alienated son before she dies. The course and purpose of David’s instruction is impossible to second guess and somewhat sadistic and Ruth’s submission to him symptomatic of her inability to place herself within the insular Orthodox community of London.

In all this film is deeply unsatisfying and fails to be either shocking or profound. The queasy denouement is a moment which should probably have come halfway through, if at all. The final scene was frankly incomprehensible. If you’ve got a flatmate with dubious personal hygiene whom you cannot entreat to shower under their own volition, perhaps showing them Song of Songs will do the trick. Otherwise, steer well clear.

WATERSHIP DOWN (Martin Rosen, 1978. UK)

***Full Spoilers***

(more…)

Jurassic Park: Unabashed Propaganda

(Spielberg, 1993. US)

***FULL SPOILERS***

 

You may be forgiven for incredulity, but there is a powerful irony at play in the inherent messages and values of Jurassic Park. Bear with me, I’ll prove it.

Let’s start with the figurative. Dinosaurs are, of course, a well-exercised and widely accepted metaphor for the past, for obsoletion, for the blundering remnants of bygone times and values. Now hold that thought.

 

Okay, to the meat of the issue. What, precisely, was this groundbreaking, blockbusting CGI and animatronic tubthumper trying to say?

 

We begin with a child-hating curmudgeon palaeontologist fellow (Dr. Alan Grant), his conscience: the blonde haired, blue eyed botanist assistant (read: latent love-interest), and the all-American moppet grandchildren of park creator and billionaire bampot John Hammond. That’s our core cast. Surrounding them, amongst others we have the brooding and cynical serial divorcee mathematician and chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm; Genarro, the token Soulless Lawyer who is endowed with all the character depth of Random Totty or Gay Best Friend; Nedry, the weaselly, thieving double agent and two named but expendable park employees.

 

These predictable and reliable stock characters duly carry out their duty thus:

 

In the beginning, Man was proud and arrogant and thought himself God. But he was Dickie Attenborough so he can be excused for the mistake. He is joined by a host of generics on his island of atrocity against nature. The woman out of the David Lynch films shows how compassionate and nurturing she is by forgoing the safari trail of godless wonder, in order to assist the vets with a sick triceratops. The remaining assortment of obvious victims and potential survivors continue upon their merry way. Almost immediately technology, on which the entire enterprise is woefully over reliant, fails them spectacularly. This is due in part to sabotage by the weaselly double agent. It’s okay though; he’s killed horribly- blinded by a venom-spitting dilophosaurus. How apt. Cos he couldn’t see the error of his ways. Couldn’t see…Moving on.

 

The Soulless Lawyer promptly abandons the children to a T-Rex attack in order to save himself and is duly despatched by the aforementioned beast. Sitting on an outdoor toilet, to the great amusement of my six year old classmates at the time of release. Oh the indignity. Master Chaos is gravely wounded in punishment for his serial defilement of the sanctity of marriage. He, however, heroically redeems himself by luring the T-Rex away from the hapless moppets and is thereby permitted to live. For the time being at least.

 

Meanwhile, back on the farm, Granddad God meets up with Mother Earth and they set out in a Jeep to rescue everyone. When they get there though, everyone has inconsiderately left. Eventually they find Master Chaos and bring him back to base. Oh, the island is being lashed by a fierce tropical storm too. This is in no way to be interpreted as a manifestation of the wrath of an omnipotent Judaeo-Christian deity. So the bone collector and the moppets are forced, by some convolution or other, to spend the night together up a big tree, where he (reluctantly) watches over them in a Protector fashion. They are awoken by gentle, giant, herbivore brontosauruses, which is nice. He then tells moppets Precocious and Pantwetter all about Brontos and encourages them not to be afraid of the creatures. This is carried out in a Nurturer type way. All of the above lead to inadvertent ‘bonding’ and other such Hollywoodisms.

 

As they wend their merry way back to ’safety’, Mother Earth and The Expendables are heading through ‘Raptor’ (which is Yankspeak for velociraptor) territory in order to restore power to the base, re-electrify the fences, seal the doors and generally restore man-made order to this inexplicable resurgence of animal anarchy. Daddy Bear and the cubs are going cross country, Pantwetter is up a fence. In painful slowmotion all the fences in the park are reactivated. His comes on and the current throws him to the ground several metres away. It’s okay, he’s fine. Doctor Grant comes over all concerned and comforts him. Aaw. Sadly, yet heroically, The Expendables sacrifice their lives for the preservation of the Main Characters.

 

 Eventually Daddy Bear, Mother Earth and the moppets are thrown together in the control room where they overcome peril through teamwork. Pantwetter is no help whatsoever, but they let him off.  Then Granddad God and Master Chaos rock up in a Jeep, Dickie having presumably patched old Jeff up en route. They drive to the waiting chopper and everyone lives happily ever after. Warms your cockles does it not?

 

So what have we learned?  The child-hating alpha male is forced to dredge up his repressed paternal instincts and protect his involuntarily adopted brood. He also notices that a very good woman, who happens to be rather younger and more attractive than he is, loves him, possibly against her better judgement. So he sensibly opts to love her back. As a result of this they all manage to survive a seemingly insurmountable threat against harsh odds. Hurrah for the nuclear family! It can bring civilisation out of the prehistoric [That would be those metaphor-riddled dinosaurs] and save society from its bleak, permissive future [reckless cloning practice*]. Those who threatened the stability or completeness of the unit, those who did not prioritise family values, were swept aside by the double edged sword that is the cruel indifference of nature and man’s undoing by his own design.

 

Therein lies the aforementioned irony. While dinosaurs are traditionally a metaphor for the past [Still holding that thought? You’ll need it now], for archaic values, their creation here- through genetic tomfoolery- means they actually represent perversion of nature and that traditionalism of which Republicans are so fond. Their existence is therefore anathema to good Americanism and the destruction they wreak, the threat they pose to Daddy and the moppets, an indictment of contemporary attempts to reimagine the family. It is only by uniting as a monogamous, heterosexual nuclear unit that our heroes are permitted to survive**. Learn this lesson heathens, learn it well!

*I’ll admit that is a weeny bit tenuous, but go with it, I do make good on the point I’m labouring towards- honest!
** What happens to their actual parents is anyone’s guess.