Outstreched arm

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Being there, and nothing doing

Hey, you know what's a good slow-person movie? Rain Man. You know why? Because that asshole played by the asshole Tom Cruise is such a dick to his poor, messed-up brother. There's no geeting around it: Raymond is slow, child-like in all the worst ways, and lost in the world. He is maddeningly un-human-like much of the time; Charlie is used to dealing with crooks, liars, and other insincere people, but in his brother's case, he can't accept that behind the cold facade, there is just very little he could ever touch in any way. But Raymond is a person, so he can't be undealt with - and because this is difficult, unavoidable, and not obviously rewarding, it's real.

Raymond's condition is not exactly medically accurate, but it's multidimensional. True, of the dimensions, the savant is way out there, but it's a movie that attempts to be entertaining, so it needs some oomph.

Being There also attempts to entertain, I suppose. I mean, one can only assume that was an intention somewhere in the process. And I know many people who really like it. I'd always had a recollection of seeing it, but I proved myself wrong tonight - I must have been thinking of something else the whole time, like Raising Arizona or Kissing jessica Stein.

Friends, readers, I'm sorry; I didn't like the movie at all. What is this a satire of, exactly - the phoney Washington circles? But no one here is all that phoney - these are the most down-to-earth, sympathetic politicans I've ever seen. How is Chauncey's lame-ass garden metaphor more sincere and direct, and why does anyone buy it? What the heck is the point of the TV motiff anyway? Is the one-joke of the criminally sheltered man (in need of therapy, unless you really get sucked into the movie's paperhouse reality) replying to serious questions with a complete lack of comprehension really ever funny? I could go on and on, but I won't - I hate myself when I'm this bitter about something. But I am.

Here's a very risky and hastily arrived-at proposition: satire of serious, dramatic aspirations needs to be at least a little bit 'meta'. Two obvious examples: Network and ...And Justice For All. Whenever probability, believability, and degree get warped, there's a moment of reflection: wait, is this really happening? To me it says, "viewer, we're with you; this is insane. Let's ride it out together." Not that this is the only thing these two films have over Being There - they both feature fantastic performances, twist-the-knife-in-the-wound scripts, and the human experience exploded to heights of divine power and depths of immoral, alien darkness.

This really should have been a wacky, surreal, or stylish comedy - the few moments offering opportunity for that are all overdone: the maid's anti-WASP rant, the embarrassing masturbation scene - and if you don't think it's embarrassing, grant me that it's insanely unplausible, at least - and the very last, "whoa" scene. Make sure you dip that umbrella in the lake so we really get it, Chauncey - as if 130 minutes of hearing about how brilliant you are wasn't enough. My own guess was that you'd be crowned King of The Americas. Har! What a silly society we are!

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