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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Berra’

good-life2

The Good Life does not the good beginning have. There’s some voiceover narration employing the word “oftentimes,” and I’m thinking, “Oh, please.”

Miraculously, that teaser of a soliloquy, delivered by the protagonist, is the only false note. Once we’re past it, this quickly becomes a hella good movie. Plus, it incorporates the wonderful piece of oratory from Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.

Jason (Mark Webber) is grand – the character and the actor, both. A painfully responsible young man, he parents his giddy, flaky mother. As if that weren’t enough, Jason also looks out for Gus (Harry Dean Stanton), an aging movie projectionist who can’t get over the death of his wife, among other things. Jason visits the beautiful old theater daily for the increasingly unrealizable purpose of keeping Gus on the rails.

The conversational topic is heroic pilot Amelia Earhart.
Gus: “They say she wore men’s underwear.”
Jason: “Who’s they?”
Without copping any kind of attitude, he says it all in two words. “Who’s they?” Jason is truly cool. As we used to say in the Sixties, he has his shit together.

He also survives brutalization by a psycho football player, and turns out to have a shocking medical problem. I remember hearing about a boy whose parents gave him, for Christmas, the same gun used by their other son to commit suicide. That may have been the inspiration for this package left to Jason by his dead cop father. He keeps it in a drawer, unopened, for quite a while. I know the feeling. I’ve received letters that needed to sit around and mellow; that couldn’t be opened until the right psychological moment. It’s all pretty grim, actually.

Then beautiful, mysterious Frances (Zooey Deschanel) comes along. At first, she seems like a blessing. There’s a scene between her, Jason, and Gus that rings true for anybody who has taken care of someone with a deteriorating mind. But heaven never lasts. Though Frances claims Jason as her soulmate, it is, unfortunately, his soul upon which she makes several demands. Frances is like Henry Miller’s wife, the legendary June: a totally unreliable fabulist and a magically irresistible femme fatale. There are such people, and one who’s really good at it can captivate victims of either gender, at will.

Half of Jason’s monumental obligations vanish when his mother finds a man, who will now presumably bear the burden of her unstable ways. As soon as Jason formulates in his own mind the intention to leave town, Gus dies. I can relate to that, too. I had a cat once, a creature of already-proven weirdness, who heard me talking on the phone about finding him another place. He sickened and died within days.

The truth comes out, about Frances, and it’s bad. But I like the ending.
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Written and directed by Stephen Berra

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