Sunday, December 31, 2006

Movie Reviews on a Cold, Rainy December Day

We rented three movies to see over the two holiday weekends. V for Vendetta is going back unseen. I was curious to see it, since I've noticed a pretty clear divide in opinions about it: people who haven't read the graphic novel like the movie, and people who know Alan Moore's work (including Alan Moore) feel the movie does not measure up. But we haven't been in the mood for a dark and violent movie.

Instead, we watched the second Pirates of the Carribean movie, which is dreadful. Johnny Depp wasn't even trying to act. He stole the first movie from everyone. In this one, he lost out to the tentacles in Davey Jones's beard, which are the only thing in the movie with charisma.

And we saw I Heart Huckabees. The copy on the DVD case described it as a laugh riot. No question it's funny, and Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin are wonderful; but the movie is also a serious and (to me) disturbing discussion of existential meaning.

The most disturbing thing to me was the way the two protagonists are presented. Albert is an enviromental activist. Tommy is a fireman who worries about global warming. As far as I'm concerned, they are both utterly correct in their analysis: we can't go on the way we have been; the world has to change. But they both come across as humorless and inept. They are not going to change the world. They are utterly outclassed by Brad Stand, the corporate running dog who is out to destroy Albert, because Albert and his tiny environmental group are trying to protect a site that Brad's employer, the Huckabee chain, wants for a new store.

I don't think the writers and director are trying to make Albert and Tommy trivial. I think they are trying to show what it feels like to care about issues like the environment in a society dominated by organizations like Huckabees. You do feel humorless and inept. If you were cool, you'd be like Brad, on top of the situation and getting ahead, taking care of personal business, not caring what happens to the planet.

The movie is about the meaning of existence. Why am I living the life I live? Is there any point to it? At the end, Brad falls apart, because he finally comes face to face with the question of meaning and has no answer. Albert and Tommy are going to keep trucking. There is a wonderful final conversation. Tommy asks, "What are you doing tomorrow?" Albert replies, "I'll probably chain myself a bulldozer." Tommy says, "Maybe I'll join you. Do I have to bring my own chain?"

But I am still left with the movie's big question. Is there any point to what I -- me, the viewer, the science fiction writer who worries about global warming -- am doing? Albert and Tommy get a sort of answer, and I will have to see the movie again to understand it. I think it's a Buddhist answer. I suspect the most important part is -- keep trucking, which is both a Buddhist and an Existentialist answer. "There is only hope in action," Jean Paul Sartre said.

17 Comments:

Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

If I may, just a plug for V for Vendetta, when you're more in the mood for it ... It's definitely been divisive, but I thought it was just a thoughtful and entertaining kick in the pants of complacency

3:51 AM  
Blogger delagar said...

I couldn't decide if I liked V or not. It's the sort of movie I think I should like; but it never felt like the gears fully engaged for me.

mr. delagar, OTOH, loved it to pieces.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't see V for Vendetta yet either.

Because of being of divided mind.

Also, because Netflix said there was a short wait to get it and I didn't want to hold my queue's progress. How dominated by my entertainment is that?

Love, C.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, I liked V for Vendetta, even though I had read the original series of comics. The changes seemed warranted given the fact that the comics were so clearly reacting to the Thatcher era in Britain and that time is long past.

I also liked I Heart Huckabees, and I agree with you, Eleanor -- the message is Buddhist. Don't attach youself to the results of your efforts, just "chop wood, carry water".

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