Tuesday, December 24, 2013

our nation's high

Rita’s imitating a groundhog right now, and Phil just called her “new.” But, just like the last couple days, I’m going to be talking mostly about something other than Groundhog Day today. I watched another time loop movie this morning, a Canadian “thriller” called Repeaters. Imagine if the time loop followed, instead of weatherman Phil Connors, a few drug addicts. The basic premise, three addicts get a day pass out of rehab, the day doesn’t go so well, but then, through mostly unexplained circumstances, the three of them get to repeat the day again and again. Like Phil Connors...

Assume SPOILERS ahead.

Like Phil Connors, these three get out of the loop by doing good, sort of.

Day 1 starts with Kyle woken by—I guess he’s a doctor, his name is Bob—telling him it’s 7:30. Then we meet Michael, who, though he turns out to be the id of the group, seems the more put upon, getting tripped by a fellow “inmate” (patient?). Kyle, who will turn out to be more the ego of the group, here is short-fused, not with violence but immediately defending his friend and demanding the tripper clean up the mess. The third in this trio is Sonia, who is carving her 92nd notch in the edge of the table (and who tells Kyle she was hit on last night by Bob). In this same rehab cafeteria scene we get a guy not quite getting his tray onto the tray cart, and it falls to the floor in what I presume is a deliberate nod to Groundhog Day.

Anyway, it’s day pass day, and Kyle waits outside the local high school to talk to his sister Charlotte but she sees him and refuses to talk to him. Michael goes to visit his father in prison—guy doesn’t want anything to do with his son because, though we never get any details, Michael got him sent to prison. Sonia goes to the hospital where her ailing father is but doesn’t actually go in to see him. Back at rehab, Sonia gets the call that he father has died. Then, after a well-placed news report about a suicide jumper at the local dam, the power goes out. Our trio, in separate locations all get shocked at the same time as they check on various electric bits. And, thus the trigger for the loop (but not an explanation, and as someone points out on the IMDb board for the movie, all the other people in rehab could probably use a repeated day to get their shit together also).

Day 2, Kyle is woken again and doesn’t realize it’s the same day. Every day is the same in rehab, and presumably in his drug addled life before as well. Only in the cafeteria when Sonia is confused because she’s not on the 93rd notch and that other guy drops his tray again, do they realize it’s the same day. Still, it’s more confused deja vu than recognition, like Phil Connors on his Day 2. The trio go see their sister, father and father again, though it goes a little differently for Kyle and Michael; Kyle doesn’t talk to his sister and Michael sits silently as his father yells at him through the glass. Recognition is setting in. Back at rehab, Sonia gets the call that her father has died. Then, the trio discuss what to do with the repeat. Michael mentions the suicide jumper and off they go to save her. At the 17-minute mark—see my three part (1 2 3) breakdown of screenplay structure as to why that’s important—they’ve just said “fuck curfew” and cut to the water falling over the dam. Problem is—and this is a big part of the theme of the whole movie—they are too late to stop Chekhov’s Jumper (trademarked) but do see her jump.

Day 3, Kyle and Michael go steal some alcohol from the liquor store, get drunk and trash Bob’s house. They don’t even have three days for a pattern before they give in to the hedonistic phase.

Day 4, along with Sonia, they go to a bar to get drunk, then put on masks and armed with pistols, they rob the liquor store. Then, they go find their old dealer and discover Kyle’s sister Charlotte and her friend are there getting high. They don’t get drugs there but I suppose they’ve got a second dealer because then they all smoke. While smoking, Michael mentions that he thought the sister’s friend was hot. She’s only 15, Kyle says. Michael laughs. Then they return to the first dealer and Kyle tazes him and they take him to a field, Kyle points a gun at his head and forces him to eat cow shit. Ultimately, they leave the dealer unharmed and end up back at the dam. Michael successfully balances on the railing but when Sonia tries it she falls to her death. This makes for an amusing exchange on the morning of Day 5, when Kyle finds her in the cafeteria.

Kyle: Jesus!
Sonia: Yeah, only it took him three days to rise from the dead.

Also, Michael has a great line at the end of the day: “See you this morning.”

Later on Day 5, Kyle and Sonia manage to save the jumper, with a shallow bit of scripting... like the “it’s not your fault” bit in Good Will Hunting, this is a notable flaw in an otherwise... well, actually, this script could use some work, but this is a low point. Back in town, Kyle and Sonia follow a police car and find Kyle’s sister’s friend who has just been attacked. Kyle makes the obvious logical leap and goes to find Michael and attacks him. Michael’s defense is the obvious one: tomorrow it will be like it never happened. Not to be flippant about it, but he realized didn’t need to bother Phil Connoring the girl, he could just have his way with her and it would be erased.

Day 6, Kyle gets his sister and her friend to go for food with him and Sonia. Michael shows up with a gun, proclaims “you don’t know what you’re missing,” and proceeds to shoot two cops.

Day 7, Kyle gets to Michael first thing in the morning, knocking him out with the chair leg, and chains him up down in the boiler room. Kyle takes Sonia to see her father, who we learn now molested her when she was a kid. She still doesn’t go in to see him. They return to rehab and this exchange happens with Michael still chained up:

Kyle: There’s got to be some deeper meaning to this.”
Michael: I just took a piss in my pants. There’s got to be some deeper meaning to that, right?

And then, Sonia wraps up the time loop problem in a nutshell (to mix metaphors); she asks Kyle: “If every good thing we do is erased and every bad thing we do is erased, does it matter what we do?”

His response: “I guess I just need for it to matter.” It’s not profound my any means; as I said the script could have used some more work. But, it does encapsulate a whole lot of the human experience nonetheless. We all want what we do to matter. And, these three (well, two really, since Michael has given in to his id) really want good deeds to matter to make up for the bad they’ve done. Repeaters benefits from not being a nice family-friendly comedy like Groundhog Day, getting into more gritty material like The Butterfly Effect.

Day 8, Kyle goes for Michael first thing but he’s already gone. He finds Michael at a barn—these characters have a tendency to find one another fairly easily, but we’re never really told the town is particularly big, and it’s a movie, so it’s forgivable as just watching Kyle search all over town all day would probably be boring—with the dealer from Day 4 and Sonia tied to chairs. Michael holds a gun on Kyle and tells him to cut the dealer’s throat. He even gets into a bit of a moral argument (or was that after Kyle confronted him about the girl he attacked?), asking why it was okay for Kyle to point a gun at the dealer or for all three of them to rob the liquor store. He shoots Sonia in the leg so Kyle will finally kill the dealer and Kyle, his hands covered in blood, drops Sonia at the hospital. If the metaphor of the drug addicts life hasn’t set in at this point, the drop off and leave bit plays like a don’t-do-drugs PSA (not that it’s unrealistic, mind you). Kyle finds Michael again and Michael shoots him. Rather than cutting straight to the next morning, instead we get Kyle on a gurney being rushed into emergency, blood gushing, a lot of pain, then we cut to the next morning, the same morning.

At this point, though I’ve already scribbled some notes about the Freudian trio, I’m now realizing this is playing out a lot like Chronicle did. Escalation and escalation as one member of the trio loses it.

Then comes Day 9, which tonally seems out of place, falling between two violent days. But, structurally, it’s necessary as Sonia actually goes in to talk to her father (a scene which we could have done without, in retrospect, because nothing really gets said except she gets to tell her father he’s going to die tonight... which is a bit problematic as far as emotional catharsis goes. The implication is that she just wanted revenge when that is not what she’s been trying to get. An explicit conversation about what her father did to her might have been too much of a downer even for this movie, though). And, Kyle goes to see his sister at home and talks to her. This conversation is a little better, but it’s hard to gauge exactly why it’s the sister that has an issue with him. He mentions at some point that he got beat up in front of her once by some guys he owed money (they also ransacked the house) but if that’s the issue, that doesn’t quite mesh with the sister using drugs herself (necessarily) and makes the ending to come a bit... off.

So, Day 10 comes and Michael’s got Sonia again. This time he’s just got her at the barn and he gives her and Kyle a one minute head start for a game of “hide-and-seek” in the nearby woods. Really, he just chases after them on a dirt bike in more of a hunt than hide-and-seek. He catches up to them by an old boat and shoots a guy who emerges while they are hiding. Then, when he’s got the chance to kill Kyle and Sonia, it starts to snow. Thing is, as Michael points out, “it doesn’t snow today.” See, they all got out of rehab so quickly that morning, none of them noticed it was actually the next day now. Sonia talking to her father, Kyle talking to his sister—that was apparently enough to end the time loop. This is the third-act twist.

Michael does not respond well. He runs off and ends up at Kyle’s house, taking hostage Kyle’s sister, her friend, and some other people that happened to have been there (since he doesn’t kill any of them, I’m not sure why they were there). Kyle, over the phone, then in person, tries to stop Michael, but Michael shoots himself. All of this right next to Kyle’s sister, who we’ve been led to believe had a big problem with her brother because she saw him get beaten up. Now, his friend just blew his brains out next to her and this is the happy ending? Well, it’s not supposed to be a happy ending, but is supposed to be an up ending. The loop’s over, Kyle and Sonia have dealt with their shit. And, Michael is dead, outside the loop. All is well, or as well as can be expected where the two surviving leads will now return to rehab to be there a while longer.

Except, then there’s an extra little scene after the movie has apparently ended. Michael wakes up in his bed in rehab and screams. On the one hands, it makes sense that he’d still be stuck in the loop because he hasn’t dealt with his problems. On the other hand, if he is still in the loop and will only get out by doing so, then how was the Michael on the following day still homicidal? Minus the extra scene, the movie works pretty well despite some predictability and a script that could use at least a polish. The acting is fine, and while someone on IMDb calls this “Groundhog Day for Crackheads” and another calls it “A thinking person’s Groundhog Day“ (which I find offensive because it suggests Groundhog Day is not for thinking people), it actually holds up well enough on its own.

And, O’Reilly—or now to occasionally be called Chekhov’s Homeless Man—is dying in an alley right now as locals party a couple blocks away. Groundhog Day is nearly over for today.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to do drugs, jump off dams, and kill cops... kidding. Better to make amends, to stop suicides, and find love with one of my fellow inmates.

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