Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Brave One

Brent and I went to a movie Saturday night, thanks to Maria's offer to hang out with a not-yet-sleeping Clare. It's been a while since Brent and I went to a movie--the last was a doubledate to Harry Potter with Sarah & Andrew. I'd forgotten how much nicer it is to see a movie in your pj's on your own couch. The snacks are better, the bathroom's cleaner, the seat's comfier, and the comments from the peanut gallery are generally much more intelligent.

Since the point was just to get out while the gettin' was good, there wasn't anything in particular we wanted to see. It ended up a toss-up between The Brave One and The Kingdom. I like a good no-brainer action movie as much as anyone, but I can't say I was real excited about either. Jodie Foster's pretty good, but brutalized-woman-seeks-revenge-then-realizes-she-has-become-her-own-worst-enemy just sounded ho-hum. But, who cares...we're out and we're Clare-free!

So off we went. I must say that going to a movie in NYC was different from going to a movie anywhere else I've ever been. I now understand so much better why Law & Order is so packed with those god-awful cheesy one-liners. New Yorkers eat it up. Nicky Katt's whole function in the movie was to deliver Law & Order style dialogue (which, I have to say, he did with enough comedic flourish that it was on occasion funny). But the movie as a whole was disturbing, and even more so because we saw in a theatre in NYC. Jodie Foster's character, Erica Bain (despite the alternative orthography, certainly a symbolic nomenclature at work there), understandably traumatized, begins carrying a gun--and repeatedly experiencing situations in which she uses it fatally to protect herself and/or others from violent harm. There's an issue of plausibility throughout the movie, but passing over the need to suspend one's disbelief beyond the level ever required by an SF tale, the real issue I have with this movie is the frank and unnuanced sanction of Erica's action. Erica's counterpart, the good cop who befriends her, the steady symbol of respect for the law and restrained ("moral") use of force, at the crucial moment departs inexplicably from his convictions, hands her his gun (with the inevitably unfunny one-liner) and not only makes it possible for Erica to execute one of the men who had assaulted her, but also devises her escape. Erica is ready to be arrested, even after his complicity in the execution, but he tells her to run. The most disturbing thing of all: when she shoots the guy in the face, the audience whooped and hollered and applauded.

The movie ends with Erica climbing the steps in Central Park, the site of her assault, with a voiceover that makes clear that she has been irrevocably changed and damaged by the incident and its aftermath, and that there is no going back to the person she had been and wished she still was. In the last, say, ten seconds of the movie, it seems that the violence has been futile and pointless and has not changed anything--except Erica, who is less than she was. But the possible message of total lack of redemption in the violence she's perpetrated was probably lost on the audience that cheered her on as she blew the dude's head off.


James Hooten said...

Jen, I had the same experience seeing this film in a theater in my neighborhood in Chicago. People (more than once) cheered her violent exploits. I was completely disturbed by the film. The implausibility aside, the wanton violence in search of vengence left me so exhausted by the end. And the officer who let's her off with one final act of violence is the closest it ever comes to redemptive. But barely.

JTB said...

but what's so disturbing about that is that it sanctions violence as redemptive; I think the voiceover at the end is meant to subvert that, but it's not strong enough or clear enough to do it well.