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Archive for the ‘Addiction’ Category

Reason watched: Andy Garcia, Ellen Burstyn, Philip Seymour Hoffman. But mostly Andy Garcia (sigh.)

Michael (Andy Garcia) is an airline pilot, Alice (Meg Ryan) works for the school system, and they have two little girls. They’re both basically very nice people. Alice is a helper, a counselor to teenagers. It’s no wonder she’s burned out and flirting with trouble. For somebody in a position of trust, she lets herself say some indiscreet things. A girl is looking for an excuse to accuse a boy of sexual harassment, and Alice sarcastically suggests that she entice the boy into trying to lift up her skirt. Definitely not cool. But she basically cares, that’s why she got into this line of work. She suffers from the frustration of realizing that some of these kids are beyond help.

When Alice stays out late drinking with a colleague, the excuse to go drinking isn’t the only reason. The friend needs to talk, and Alice wants to help. But she also causes Michael to miss a flying assignment, which is a serious mark against him. Things are starting to come apart.

Sometimes Michael is drawn into Alice’s wild spontaneity, and probably on some level convinces himself that he’s too buttoned-up and conventional, and it’s good for him to have a partner who’s a bit crazy. Their anniversary seems to bring Alice’s discontent to a crisis point. She leads Michael into helping her vandalize a neighbor’s car. This is some over-the-top behavior.

They go on vacation to de-stress. It’s night, and the most gorgeous man in the world, her very own husband, is rowing Alice around on a lake surrounded by sparkly lights. When drunk, Alice is not only bubbly and wildly cute, she can also be a real asshole. She’s standing up in the boat, taking a pugilistic stance, and of course falls in the water and of course he has to dive in and rescue her. Some romantic evening! Consequently, Alice promises to stop drinking so much. Hah.

Michael is such a cool guy. He says ALL the right things. It’s just that he doesn’t know when to stop. The part about responding beautifully when called upon, helping when help is needed and requested, he’s got that right. But he can’t stop there, and is always jumping in to help in situations where the very thing that pisses her off so much is the presumption that he knows better.

I understand Alice’s exasperation, because of an incident that happened. I was in a public place once with a supremely nice guy – very much like Michael in the movie. A stranger did something incredibly rude, behavior I had encountered in the past, and had made myself a vow never to tolerate again. And here it was. The jerk needed to be told what was what, and I was destined to be the one to tell him. If it was just me, I’d have cussed the stranger up one side and down the other.

But the nice guy asked me to let it go, so I did. We walked away. But my sense of mission was thwarted. I wanted a confrontation, wanted to be Woman Hear Me Roar. Of course, on some level, I also really didn’t want the nice guy to see me transmogrify into a raging harpy. But all this anger was still boiling around in me. I didn’t want somebody else to step in and decide what my response to a grievous provocation should be. I didn’t want to be protected by being gently led away. I understand Alice not wanting to be calmed down.

By the way, with such a horrible mother, how did Michael grow up to be so nice? That was surely a triumph of reincarnation over current-life family. If environmental influence were all, Michael would be even more of a mess than his wife Alice. And toward Alice, his mom is the classic poisonous mother-in-law. A quietly persistent bitch is worse than an occasionally flaring-up bitch any day of the week.

Michael arranges for the best alcoholic rehab money can buy. When Alice gets out, she doesn’t want to make love, and doesn’t want anything to do with him outside of bed, either. It’s not fair. That’s one of the horrible things that relatives of addicts need to face. You tried your best, and it still wasn’t enough. The unfairness can kill. He’s an enabler, but only in the most gentle, loving, best-intentioned way. He wants so badly to help, and winds up helping badly. Their troubles are not over. In fact, it gets so bad he has to move out. His good-byes to the children are heart-rending.

Michael comes to hear Alice’s six-month sober speech at AA, and they wind up snogging in the middle of the coffee break. You can tell that they will reconcile.

Loose end – But doesn’t he still have to move to Denver anyway to keep his job? So, does this imply that the family will move to Denver? It would certainly be great to get away from the toxic mother-in-law. Or are we to assume he’s going to take the other career alternative they had discussed, where he stays based in San Francisco and goes to work for a different airline, starting over at the bottom of the seniority ladder? Inquiring minds want to know.

The script was co-written by Al Franken, who had some experience with Al-Anon. He told Entertainment Weekly, ”I really began to understand about people’s pain and suffering and about how families that look normal aren’t.”

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Bully

Well, I watched this thing because Michael Pitt is in it. But it’s a movie that really didn’t need to be made. Apparently the whole story is in a book by investigative reporter Jim Schutze. Why anybody thought it belonged on the screen, except as a vehicle for some crude camera angles featuring crotches and butts, is a puzzling question. It’s based on a real event, the murder of Bobby Kent by what came to be called the Broward County Seven, with an amount of verisimilitude that is debated by critics. (Actually, the most unbelievable thing about this film is that it won a couple of awards.)

Basically, it’s the story of two friends, Marty the surfer and Bobby the bully, who has kept Marty in sado-masochistic crypto-homosexual thrall, brutalizing and humiliating him, since they were kids. The director said in a print interview, “Bobby and Marty were such a couple of knuckleheads, they had all these things going on. They posed as a gay couple and they would go to a gay club and hustle gays.”

There’s no doubt that kids do this kind of stuff. I once knew a Vietnam vet, from a typical middle-class “good” family, who as a teenager used to hang out at the Alamo and charge grown men $100 for the privilege of sucking him off. One of his johns even bought him a motorbike. (My friend, of course, denied being anything other than a genuine heterosexual who just needed some walking-around money.) And it wasn’t only the boys who were up to no good. Another of the numerous articles about the film says that the real Ali and Heather, in their first year of high school, were hookers working for a pimp/cop.

A reviewer named Wesley says, “…the parents of these teens were completely non-responsive to all the warning signs of their children’s behavior. This murder could have been completely avoided if just one of them acted but most of them were completely blind to how bad things were getting with their children.” Bullshit. Spoken by a non-parent, for sure. These kids all have Eddie Haskell syndrome, showing saccharine mildness toward the grownups. Having been both a teenager and a parent, I know how easy it is for kids to keep their families clueless. The bully Bobby, especially, is a lamb around his father, who is so supportive he wants to buy his son a stereo equipment business. This kid has everything, and he’s an evil psychopath.

Some small attempt is made to explain how the kids in this crowd got so screwed up. Heather relates how her grandpa killed her grandma and locked himself in the bedroom for two days, drinking and performing necrophiliac acts. That messed up Heather’s mother, and thus, Heather and her brother. But by and large, what we see is kids with an enormous sense of entitlement and plenty of all the allegedly right stuff, including intact families with caring parents who try to do the right thing.

In the most violent scenes, rap music always plays on the sound track. But it would never occur to me to blame or illegalize the ugliest music in the world, just because these assholes love it. What really pisses me off is that these kids are shown constantly smoking pot and dropping acid, as if those are the causative factors that turn them into moral imbeciles. But the film doesn’t mention the steroids that the real Bobby and Marty are both said to have used, and which probably had a much greater effect on their warped personalities. It’s a true insult to the thousands and thousands of marijuana smokers who never did a violent deed in their lives, and to the seekers of spiritual enlightenment through entheogens. Taking LSD isn’t the problem; taking LSD to do stupid stuff like play Mortal Kombat is the problem. Therein lies the true drug abuse.

The trouble starts when Marty acquires a girlfriend, Lisa, who immediately gets pregnant and threatens to break the Marty/Bobby bond. Feeling ornery, Bobby hooks up with Lisa’s best friend Ali. They start off all sweet and nice, but he makes her watch gay porn and punches her, insisting that she say he’s the best she ever had. Lisa later remarks, “He’s too weird even for Ali, and she’s into everything.” Next thing we know, Lisa recruits a whole cabal into her plan to kill Bobby. Two of the kids have never even met him, but hey, whatever.

Michael Pitt shows up as Donny, who likes to have hot wax dripped onto his chest while in flagrante delicto. He also French-kisses a dog. Donny has one of the few comic lines. He’s been sitting around watching TV with clothespins attached to his nipples. When the others start talking about the planned murder he leaves the room saying, “You people need professional help.” Donny gets to vomit, too. In fact, just about everybody gets to vomit in this masterpiece. Marty gets to cry and drool copiously while confessing to Lisa his abject servitude to Bobby. Then she kisses him passionately. Let’s hear it for true love.

The stunningly attractive Kelli Garner, who plays Heather, has crooked teeth and I like it that she hasn’t gotten them fixed. There’s kind of an interesting bit where Marty suggests to his parents that they relocate, not telling them it’s because he badly needs to escape Bobby. But they aren’t interested in moving. Ironically, Bobby’s father thinks Marty is the bad influence on his precious son, and he threatens to move his family to a different neighborhood.

So anyway, the plan to kill Bobby gets underway, and one of the girls has another funny line: “The hit man needs a ride.” The hit man is a supposedly super-tough kid who they bring in as a consultant and backup. Haranguing the little group of deadly clowns, he tells them, “You gotta understand some shit,” and it sounds so bogus. Real, authentic swearers don’t emphasize the swear word itself, they just slip it into the sentence. A real, authentic swearer would say, “You gotta understand some shit.”

Lisa is a total flake, first the cheerleader and chief instigator of the murder, then she immediately falls apart, has olfactory hallucinations, thinking she smells blood; gets all hysterical; and goes around compulsively confessing. Although confessing isn’t the right word, since it’s not remorse she feels, but anxiety lest the body was not adequately hidden. What she’s trying to do is drag yet another girlfriend into it, asking her for a ride to the murder scene to check on things.

Reviewers vary widely in their opinions about how much “exploitation” is involved in Bully. The answer is: lots. For these kids, life is one big orgy. They’re always lying around, minimally clothed or naked, entwined with each other like a nest of rattlesnakes. Some viewers object because Lisa conducts a long telephone conversation, gratuitously topless. It’s hard to understand what the problem is, since her bosom is virtually nonexistent. The guy who plays her cousin has bigger tits, and nobody complains about him being topless in one scene.

For some reason, and I rarely do this, I checked out some of the extra stuff piled onto the DVD. I’d read somewhere that director Larry Clark is a former heroin addict who has done time for shooting someone, so figured I’d see what he had to say, in the attached interview. Forget it! Clark is one of those excruciatingly boring talkers who can’t enunciate two words in a row without interjecting “uh” in between. To hell with that.

Also, there’s a collection of the mug shots or prison photos of the real Broward County Seven. Ho-hum. But here it is, finally, the best thing on the whole disk, a little feature called “How the Actors Landed Their Roles.” Each one of them in turn explains deadpan and matter-of-factly that he or she got the part by sleeping with Larry. Now, that’s funny.

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