Bigmouth Reviews Again: Room

Bigmouth Reviews Again: Room

★★★★★ Political
★★★★☆    Visual
★★★★★        Plot

Room, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, takes a nuanced view of both motherhood and the idealistic viewpoint of children, effectively turning a kidnapping plot and turning it into something hopeful. The more disturbing elements of the film play against the idealistic narrative and lack of understanding of the five year old protagonist Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay.

Political

The focus of the film is directed on one woman, known mostly as “Ma” but with the given name Joy, pulling it together just enough to create a nurturing environment out of a hostage situation. She’s been trapped in a room for seven years, giving birth to a son and then raising him in one small shed for the next five years.

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Jack: Once upon a time, before I came, you cried and cried and watched TV all day, until you were a zombie. But then I zoomed down from heaven, through skylight, into Room. Whoosh-pshew! And I was kicking you from the inside. Boom, boom! And then I shot out onto Rug with my eyes wide open, and you cutt-ed the cord and said, “Hello, Jack!”

On comparisons to the Joseph Fritzl case the author of Room, Emma Donoghue, says this: “To say Room is based on the Fritzl case is too strong. I’d say it was triggered by it. The newspaper reports of Felix Fritzl, aged five, emerging into a world he didn’t know about, put the idea into my head. The notion of the wide-eyed child emerging into the world like a Martian coming to Earth: it seized me.”

The focus is placed on Jack’s emergence into the world, what he thinks of it all after believing for his entire life that “room” was all there was to the world. His mother’s experiences take a backseat, but her volatile responses once they have escaped are not at all avoided. Overall it managed to capture a realistic image of PTSD, something often avoided by filmmakers.

Visual

Truck, wiggle out, jump, run, somebody. These are the words repeated by Jack as a mantra his mother had taught him before his escape. One of the most visually arresting shots in the film takes place to these words, as Jack sees the world for the first time in the bed of a truck.Screenshot 2016-08-08 13.39.11

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In this scene, Jack’s eyes are wide and he’s watching the world whip past. Many of the scenes that feature Jack under stress, use a filming method that keeps the camera in constant motion and blurs the images. The filming method connects with the actors to propel the story along. Many close-up shots are used in order to further the plot without much action occurring, creating a personal connection between the viewer and the characters. The journey is an emotional one rather than physical.

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Room has a strong dividing point in terms of scenery. In the first half of the film, they are in a poorly lit and isolated space. This invokes an emotional response but doesn’t give the viewer much to look at, even with drawings posted all over the room and makeshift toys like an eggshell snake.

theroom

Plot

The film develops slowly, with a lot of time spent developing the characters before any plot driving action takes place. One of the first images we see is Jack waking up, gleeful on his fifth birthday, and wandering around room greeting each object. It starts off on a positive note, all birthday cakes and childish excitement, then the viewer is able to see some signs of distress within the characters. This comes via Jack screaming about not being allowed to have candles on his sad and small birthday cake, contrasting heavily with his early statements of “A real cake? Like on TV?”

The moments of happiness are balanced out with darker elements that have clearly been normalized for Jack, such as screaming for help at the skylight and sleeping in a cupboard when the kidnapper comes to visit his mother.We gradually learn that he believes room is the entire world, and what he sees on the television is actually other planets. He believes the kidnapper, “Old Nick,” to be a magician who gets supplies through teleportation.

Jack: There’s room, then outer space, with all the TV planets, then heaven. Plant is real, but not trees. Spiders are real, and one time the mosquito that was sucking my blood. But squirrels and dogs are just TV, except lucky. He’s my dog who might come some day. Monsters are too big to be real, and the sea. TV persons are flat and made of colors. But me and you are real.

When Joy learns that Nick has lost his job six months ago and is facing foreclosure, she begins to come up with plans to fake Jack’s illness, then death, in order to help them both escape. More about her past is revealed, such as the fact that Old Nick kidnapped her when she was seventeen by pretending he needed help because his dog was sick.

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Jack: Are we on another planet?
Ma: Same one, just a different spot.

The appearance of the world outside of Room will likely seem shocking even to the viewer, after a long time watching footage within this one set and seeing one failed attempt to escape. What follows is a period of readjustment more hectic than anything witnessed in room. After a friendly stranger sees Jack jump out of the back of a pickup truck, and escapes Old Nick. Hundreds of journalists amass outside their home like locusts. Old Nick has been arrested, a trial to be ongoing soon. Ma is placed in the room she kept as a teenager before she was kidnapped. In order to pay legal fees, she must undergo at least one interview with the press.

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Suddenly out in the world, no longer faced with the daily threat of surviving, Jack’s mother allows herself to be fully and unapologetically angry. She gets into intense arguments with her mother, she demands other people acknowledge what happened to her rather than ignoring it or making it about themselves.

Nancy: Do you honestly think that you were the only one whose life was destroyed?
Ma: Actually, that’s exactly what I think.
Nancy: Yeah? Well how would you feel if somebody took Jack away from you?
Ma: Oh, shut up!
Nancy: Look at him! You should be thinking about him!
Ma: Oh, don’t you tell me how to look after my son. I’m sorry that I’m not nice anymore, but you know what? Maybe if your voice saying “be nice” hadn’t been in my head, then maybe I wouldn’t have helped the guy with the fucking sick dog!

Bigmouth Reviews Again: Enemy

Bigmouth Reviews Again: Enemy

 ★☆☆☆☆ Political
★☆☆☆☆Visual 
★★★☆☆Plotline

 

 

Not much else could be expected from a film in which both of the leading roles are Jake Gyllenhaal. In Nightcrawler, the film’s commentary on the corrupt nature of today’s media worked well with Gyllenhaal’s lack of expression in the face of obvious moral misdeeds. Yet here, in a film about two men who become obsessed with their doppleganger, his frequent lack of expression reads as poor acting and his attempts to convey strong emotion makes him look a bit like a muppet. See below, in an argument about his frequent cheating on his six-month pregnant wife.

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Political

Saramago’s Nobel Prize winning work, Blindness, features both aspects of feminism and sexism as the hero of the novel is a woman, however she is continually referred to by the title “Doctor’s Wife.” There are no names assigned to anyone in the novel, but unlike other characters, who are described by physical attributes or role, she has no independent title, she is simply someone else’s  wife. These elements of sexism have carried into the storyline of The Double, and is magnified by the producers of Enemy.

The most problematic aspect of the film is its two clear depictions of rape. These are never called rape (in the movie or on the IMDB plot synopsis), never addressed as rape, and never mentioned in any way after the fact as all other characters in the film are just satellite characters tending to the needs of Jake Gyllenhaal. The first instance, Adam Bell attempts to initiate sex with his sleeping girlfriend. The second instance, Anthony Claire tries to trick Adam’s girlfriend Mary into sleeping with him by pretending to be his double. He is given away by the tan line of his wedding ring, at which point they begin arguing and he denies everything, heavily implying she’s being irrational. So rape and gas lighting.

When he dies in a car crash during their argument, it’s unfulfilling as she dies as well.

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Meet the only non-white character in the entire film, “Security Guard.” Out of the film’s 90-minute run time, he’s on screen for about thirty seconds.

 

Visual

Save four scenes, this entire film is shot in a sepia tint. This becomes most apparent in a dark scene, but is noticeable even in the bright daytime shots which makes the characters’ skin look a bit green.

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It’s unclear whether the effect is intended to be unsettling, somehow reflective of smoggy weather, or if it is intended to make the film seem darker and hyperrealistic. All in all it was a brave choice that came across as just unappealing. There were no dramatic colors in the entire film, it was just one long sepia sequence after another that would normally be reserved to indicate a time long since passed.

At times it seems like the complete lack of interesting details in the shots is intentional; forcing the viewer to direct all of their attention to the actors, like in the warehouse scenes of Reservoir Dogs. However, there’s much less happening onscreen in Enemy than any Tarantino film.

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While some shots do seem to be played for emotive effect, like the above which plays with the concept of dark as evil and light as good, the shots often seem dull. It doesn’t help that the most emotional Gyllenhaal ever gets throughout the entire movie is this:

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‘Atta Boy!

Plotline
Throughout the film there’s recurring imagery of spiders that could have been subtly  clever in a novel but terrorizes the viewer film form. This failed attempt to translate from one medium to another makes it obvious that this story was at one point, based on a novel; More specifically, The Double by  Portuguese author José Saramago.

The story itself is interesting because of its disorienting nature, the questions it poses then doesn’t immediately answer. When the history teacher Adam Bell first sees his double, Anthony Claire the viewer is left wondering what kind of story this is– clones? Long lost twins? Insanity? As the movie progresses, the viewer is forced to wait for an answer to end the suspense, and it just never comes. Reasonable doubt is cast on each potential; Anthony’s mother denies having twins, the only thing suggesting mad science is the recurring presence of a giant tarantula but that’s much too vague, and other characters seem to understand Adam and Anthony as two separate individuals for reasons we can get to later, which seems to work against the insanity storyline.

The two become obsessed with each other in their own ways. It seems to be a shock factor for Adam Bell, who quickly tries to abandon the situation once he realizes that they are identical, with the similarity down to a matching scar on their stomachs. Anthony seems amused when Adam becomes scared, and immediately blackmails his double so that he can leverage the situation to sleep with Adam’s girlfriend.

In the beginning of the film we are shown Gyllenhaal, later to be revealed as Anthony, present in a high end, dimly lit club where a naked woman sets a tray on the floor, lifts the lid, and lets out a tarantula. The closing shot of this scene is her heel hovering above as if to crush it. Later, presumably in a dream sequence, a giant spider walks over the skyscrapers of Toronto.

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Anthony Claire and Adam Bell’s girlfriend Mary die in a car crash during an argument. Adam Bell,  pretending to be Anthony, finds a key sealed in an envelope in Anthony’s jacket pocket. He immediately  behaves less like the socially awkward and skittish history teacher and more like his double, as he tells Anthony’s wife that he’ll be going out that night as she’s walking into the bedroom. When he walks into their shared bedroom, a giant tarantula sits against the wall. This would be a fantastic ending. To a novel.

 

Embracing Isolation: Cult Logic in Hulu Original’s “The Path”

Embracing Isolation: Cult Logic in Hulu Original’s “The Path”

Hulu’s original series “The Path” contains all of the classic elements of the television genre that started with “Weeds” and carried on with “Breaking Bad.” There’s a pitiable yet charismatic leader repressing some extremely dark personality traits, marital problems, illegal activity catching the attention of a police officer with a rigid moral code.

Very little about the show itself is new, but one of its gems is its representation of cult mentality through its gradual exploration of the fictional Meyerist Movement, an isolated society whose member’s interactions with the outside world are almost exclusively limited to a single one-liner: “We’re not a cult, we’re a movement!”

But the most interesting portrayal of the Meyerists is not their perception of themselves but of the framework of their organization. The Guardian lists three primary elements of cult worship:

1] The existence of a charismatic leader who progressively becomes central to the group as an object of worship.

2] An extensive process of indoctrination (read: brainwashing) which is meant to remove all doubt as to the goals and righteousness of the cult.

3] Exploitation of members by the group’s leader or ruling elite.

While the fictional Meyerist Movement does possess each of these qualifications, somehow its intentions still seem noble in some aspects. Shipping a heroine addicted teenager to Peru under the cover of the night to kick the drug habit with an ayahuasca trip of a lifetime never seemed so laudable.

The positive effects Meyerism has on its members is mentioned compulsively throughout the series as we watch the characters self comfort. As a collection of people desperate to make sense of the world, their fears are not focused on the leadership of the cult, but the concept of leaving. An already valid fear that is dramatized by the doctrinarian of the group which indicates that ex-members are to be excommunicated by everyone still in the Meyerist Movement.

It is not fears of what the leadership of the movement could potentially do in retaliation, it is the fear of being alone, of losing the feeling of being a part of a shared vision that keeps members prisoner. And it’s this exploration of a human need for community that’s what keeps this show full of caricatures interesting, because it’s uncomfortable in its truth.

The insidiousness of cult movements does not always lie in the fact that they pose a significant threat to its membership, in some cases its that they could give meaning to someone’s life through the facilitation of shared community and then suddenly take it away.