Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Stay away, Belle

This is exactly like the type of movie that would have appealed to my 20 year old self, yet I have the vague feeling that I should stay away from its twee sense of superiority:

Verona’s question may or may not be disingenuous, but the answer provided by “Away We Go,” the slack little road comedy in which it arises, is unambiguous. Far from being screw-ups, Verona and Burt, played with passive-aggressive winsomeness by Maya Rudolph and Jon Krasinski, are manifestly superior to everyone else in the movie and, by implication, the world.

And even though they express themselves with a measure of diffidence, it’s clear that they are acutely, at times painfully, aware of their special status as uniquely sensitive, caring, smart and cool beings on a planet full of cretins and failures.

To observe that they inhabit no recognizable American social reality is only to say that this is a film by Sam Mendes, a literary tourist from Britain who has missed the point every time he has crossed the ocean. The vague, secondhand ideas about the blight of the suburbs that sloshed around “American Beauty” and “Revolutionary Road” are now complemented by an equally incoherent set of notions about the open road, the pioneer spirit, the idealism of youth.

Or something. Really, “Away We Go” is about the flight from adulthood, from engagement, from responsibility, even as it cleverly disguises itself as a search for all those things. But the dream of being left alone in a world of your own making, far from anything sad or icky or difficult, is a child’s fantasy. Not an unattractive or uncommon one, it must be said, and for that reason it is tempting to follow Burt and Verona into the precious, hermetic paradise that awaits them at the end of the road. You know they will be happy there. But you should also understand that you are not welcome. Does it sound as if I hate this movie? Don’t be silly. But don’t be fooled. This movie does not like you.

Hmmm. I'm also staying away from the new two-steps-away-from-snuff-porn Lars von Trier movie, because the older I get, the less I want to be viscerally disturbed and emotionally decimated from watching a movie, which in theory should be my leisure time. There's something to be said for art that is challenging and difficult, but something in me broke a few years ago. Whereas previously I sought these extreme emotions, because their source was more foreign than the tumult of family life, now I can't bear to be so affected, for hours or days on end, by a visual and emotional depiction of pain and suffering, when my life is generally less dramatic now. I sort of get the American complacency that lacks a critical, self-directed eye and avoids difficult art, except that I am perfectly willing to read sad, difficult and emotionally disturbing literature, and allow myself to be so moved through words and imagination. That kind of emotional artistic experience I still seek. It's the visual depiction I can't bear, that so emotionally drains me. I've noticed too, that I shy away from violence much more easily now than I did when younger. In theory, I should be more desensitized, by now. But it just gives me nightmares. No, not even in the name of art. No.