Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Critiques of Modern Life: What I'm Watching and Reading

Last night, we watched the movie The Kids Are Alright. I'd been looking forward to this movie for a long time; is that why I was so disappointed?

I just didn't believe the character's motivation for having an affair, so perhaps that was the basis of my disappointment. It was a lovely movie at first, but I ended up with more questions than the movie answered.

I said to my spouse, "Why are we supposed to believe that Jules would have this affair? Their marriage didn't seem that bad to me."

My spouse said, "We're supposed to believe it because she's the ditzy one."

Hmm. I'd have had far less trouble believing that Nic would have the affair, Nic who is bearing the whole financial load of the family, Nic who has a stressful work life, Nic who can't have good sex, Nic who can't drink an extra glass of wine without commentary, Nic who already seems detached from the family. But no, it's Jules.

And what, exactly, makes Paul so irresistable? Is it just that he's there? I don't get any sparks between the characters.

I said to my spouse, "You know, if it wasn't for the fact that we've got a lesbian couple and the sperm donor angle, this movie wouldn't seem so groundbreaking."

He said, "It's a pretty tired plot."

One of the oldest, in fact: a stranger comes into people's lives and watch what happens.

I should have just stuck with my reading. I'm reading some of the most wonderful poetry lately. In my quest to get ready for my academic paper on female poets' use of the fairy tale, I picked up Lana Hechtman Ayers' A New Red: a fairly tale for grown ups. What a treat. It modernizes the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, while not turning all the characters into humans. At least, that's not how I'm reading it on the first read through. Interspecies relationships, the possibility of sex with a real wolf--now that's revolutionary! (and yes, I do remember that scene with the 2 teenage boys and the dog in The Kids Are Alright--again, not groundbreaking, but a tired, old trope).

I'm also reading Tony Hoagland's Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, a much more devastating critique, in poem form no less, of modern life than The Kids Are Alright. I find myself returning again and again to "Sentimental Education," with the father who tells his children that the ones who survive are the ones who will do anything, even eat bugs: it's The Green Beret Book of Childrearing.

A bit humorous, and then you get to this ending:

"Oh, if he were alive, I would tell him, 'Dad,
you were right! I ate a lot of stuff
far worse than bugs.'

And I was eaten, I was eaten,
I was picked up
and chewed
and swallowed

down into the belly of the world."

Almost every poem delights and stuns simultaneously like that one: a far more rewarding evening than most of the stuff that pop culture will give us.


Kells said...

I so agree with you about the movie. My husband & I were disappointed too. I also thought it would be funnier-- I think the previews did that. But yes, why would she cheat with someone who I agree, didn't offer much at all. And personally, I can't imagine any of my friends that are lesbians cheating on their spouse with a guy. If they were going to cheat, it would be with a woman.

Chum said...

Ditto. I was really disappointed--the movie had possibilities but never ventured far from the old script. Cap was underwhelmed too, although Annette Bening in anything is usually a treat.