Monday, January 2, 2017

"Personal Preferences"

Which I could probably entitle every one of my blog posts, except that there’s a mechanism on the system that says,

“You already used that one.” 

(Implication:  “How are you going to find anything if you label them all the same thing?”  My response to which is, like, “Thanks a lot, but I have my own way of messing myself up, giving my posts obscure titles which made sense to me when I came up with them but I now I have no idea whatsoever what they mean.

So “Too late.”

… is what I’m trying to say.

I am about to talk about a movie I liked.  But, not to be overly precious about the matter, I do not know if I liked it because of its qualitative attributes and I’m a reliable adjudicator of quality or because it is in harmonious sync with my personal sensibilities, making it “good” for me, but for others, maybe, boring, pedestrian and slow. 

Do you see what I’m getting at here?  Nobody’s going to say, “I liked that movie because it was boring, pedestrian and slow.”  Unless, perhaps, they had a short time to live and they wanted to make it feel longer.  And even then, wouldn’t you prefer to see a movie you actually enjoyed? 

Still – and may have you noticed I haven’t said the name of the film yet.  What a terrible film reviewer I would be.  And 850-word review and not a single mention of the film’s name.  That’s totally unacceptable!  Even to the perpetrator.

I saw Miss Sloane, which is not the movie I am referring to, I’m just throwing it in because I saw that too and I didn’t like it.  A film about an amoral Washington lobbyist – which may be redundant – or else I’m glib – or else it’s both – fighting an uphill battle to pass a “Universal Background Checks” guns bill, focusing on the sixty votes required to close down oppositional debate in the Senate but never once mentioning the House of Representatives which would not come close to passing such a bill and in fact they haven’t so why are you talking such nonsense?

Admittedly Miss Sloane was not boring, pedestrian or slow.  Multiple plot twists, internecine intrigue, a male “escort” with his shirt off, a relentlessly “Go! Go! Go!” sensibility with music to match, and a likely Oscar-nominating performance by Jessica Chastain playing a woman who “thinks like a man” – a really disreputable man – a film about manipulation that manipulates the audience which some people might like, but I thought it was stupid.

But then…

There is a movie so… the opposite of desperate for commercial attention it has a title I am able to forget while I am typing it.

Things To Come

Hardly “up there” as an audience-grabber with The Greatest Show On Earth.

Which virtually every studio wants you to believe their latest movie offering is.

Many people call Things To Come “The Isabelle Huppert movie”, because they can’t remember its actual name and Isabelle Huppert is the star of the movie and she’s sensational.  Seemingly without breaking a sweat.

If Miss Sloane is all “Go!  Go!  Go!”, Things To Come is a still a calmly-centered “Be.  Be. Be.”  (I originally had paralleling exclamation marks after each “Be”, but it is not that kind of a movie, so I changed them to a more relaxing three periods.  Hardly enough to distinguish the contrast but the alternative made no sense.)

A woman’s life.  Early forties.  Things happen.  Not small things either.  Her husband leaves her.  Her mother dies.  She inherits a cat.  Okay, that’s small, even though she has allergies.  Her books have lost her publisher’s support.

Did I mention she’s a philosophy teacher?  Not a gourmet chef whose driving dream is to open her own restaurant?

It’s a normal person’s life, with its full measure of challenging vicissitudes.  But the difficulties are handled with balance and believability.  There’s a hunky former philosophy protégée on board who invites her out to his commune.  But, defying American filmgoing conditioning, she shares her bed exclusively with her cat. 

Near the end, it’s Christmas and she’s having her kids and a grandkid over for a Cornish hen-served celebration, and her estranged husband drops by before they arrive.  Does she heartwarmingly invite him to join them for the upcoming festivities?  No.  She hustles him unceremoniously out the door.

My favorite moment?  She’s on a bus and she spots her former husband strolling along the boulevard with his conspicuously younger new girlfriend.  Does she lash out in connubial outrage?  Does she pound angrily against the window?  Does she shed one solitary, self-pitying tear?  Does she yank on the cord, exit the bus and knock the home-wrecking “New Girl” flat on her ass? 


She laughs.  Communicating, “What a ridiculously silly man I have been fortunate enough to have been liberated from!”  The laugh seems to also include a soupcon of sympathy, for a once-loved companion traveling the well-worn trail of “mid-life” malaise.  Ms. Huppert delivers both in a dazzling flicker of honesty.

Though there are private moments of revelatory sadness – I recall two spontaneous crying interludes – I don’t know, maybe because the lead character’s an habitually far-sighted philosopher, maybe because the actress evocatively portrays a blend of intelligence, strength, capability and acceptance, whatever the reason, the movie feels comfortably grounded, solidly sensible and eminently pleasing by not intentionally trying to please, its unarticulated message: 

“This is life.  And, handled with maturity, it’s fine.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Things To Come, retaining a warming enthusiasm for the experience two weeks after the fact.

Okay, so I liked a certain movie.

The residual question is,

What’s that to you?


FFS said...

Used to go to the movies every Friday night in the pre-cell phone era. It was also the don't-talk-during-the-movie era. When I go to a movie now I end up so pissed off I feel like I'm going to have a stroke. If I was younger, bigger and stronger I might say something to the offenders. And why do the neighbour's kids have to play on my lawn?

JED said...

Earl said, " Okay, so I liked a certain movie. The residual question is, What’s that to you?"

My answer is, "Since I respect your opinion, I will look for this movie and try to see it. Unfortunately, since I live on Cape Cod, it's not showing in theaters anymore. So, I will have to see it when it is available on Netflix or on TV."

To which I will add, "How about doing your reviews a little sooner, Earl?"