Tuesday, September 30, 2014

insect or man, death should always be painless

(A note, in case you are just joining the Groundhog Day Project: the phase 2 description above suggests that I am watching one movie seven times, but for this month, I am not doing that. Unless you count slasher films as one long film split into weird little chapters… which isn’t that bad a way to think about it, I suppose. But, even then, it is not seven times but 33 times this month.)

Saul Bass opening titles—always a good thing.

A specific date and time as we come into the window to find Marion Crane and her lover. The Final Girl was not a thing yet, but this movie lets us know first thing that this seeming lead character is not a virgin. There’s no hint of a killer and already some moral grey areas. The film, with its Saul Bass opening credits, it’s black and white (when color was an option, mind you), and the question of respectability (and morality) in the relationship on display, seems like a setup for a film noir more than the horror films that would borrow tropes from it in the future.

The film in question is Psycho, of course.

And, now, in less than 10 minutes, we’ve seen the lead in her bra twice, and while it was white before (and she and lover did talk about having a respectable relationship and even getting married), it’s black now, with the envelope full of cash on the bed. Having watched Pretty Woman so recently, the images reminds me of a prostitute, and I’m sure that isn’t an accident. Marion Crane is painted as a morally questionable woman from the start. Yet, we are with her; she’s our protagonist... for now.

And I find myself just watching the film for a couple of reasons. First, there isn’t much to say about Psycho that hasn’t already been said. Hitchcock has been studied time and time again—I even wrote a paper about The Birds during my first stint in college. Back when I was hoping to major in something related to film and wanted to make movies. I suppose I wouldn’t mind making movies still. Hell, I made one, sort of, this past summer.

Many have written about the shower scene. Cinematically, it’s still probably one of the best sequences in film, and the reason Hitchcock is considered a master at this stuff. Something I haven’t seen much written about—and that isn’t to say that it hasn’t been, just that I haven’t seen it—is some other camera stuff Hitchcock does. I mean, the quick cuts in that shower scene are cool and all, but I rather like something he does right after. After showing us the drain and the close up on Marion’s eye, then zooming out slowly, the camera looks around the room. And, I choose that word deliberately—looks. Though there is no one there to be looking around, the camera moves like someone looking around. Just as earlier Hitchcock put us inside Marion’s mind—and her seemingly imagined conversations of those she left behind—by keeping the camera on her face as she drives, with only the occasional cutaway to the road ahead, here he places us inside that room. We’ve just witnessed this murder and can do nothing about it, and we are looking around, maybe thinking about how that newspaper on the table might be evidence. In a way, we are allowed to survey the scene just as Norman will only moments later, take it all in not as deliberately as a film usually might show such a scene but almost casually, spontaneously. Then, the camera turns to the window, in time to hear Norman up at the house, discovering his mother. And we watch him stumble down the stairs to come see what his mother has done.

Speaking of stumbling down the stairs, the private detective falling down the stairs after “mother” stabs him is another great shot...

What I think I really want to say today is that, thought I felt I must include it in this month of slasher films, and though Clover (1987, 1992) ties Norman Bates to the other killers in the various slasher films, Psycho is not really a slasher film. The deaths are all a bit too sudden. There’s none of the stalking that is ubiquitous in the slasher genre.

Speaking of Clover (1992), she suggests that in watching slasher films—and this holds true for Psycho

We are both Red Riding Hood and the Wolf; the force of the experience, in horror, comes from “knowing” both sides of the story. It is no surprise that the first film to which viewers were not admitted once the theater darkened was Psycho. (p. 12)

Thomas (2010), describes the scene in the theater:

Psycho was famous all along for having paraded its own originality—if you’ve got it, flaunt it—inside and outside the purlieus of Hollywood. Hitchcock in life-size cardboard cutout, pointing at his wrist watch, and intoning that “No one... but not one... will be admitted to the theater after the start of each performance,” was also changing when we looked as well as how we looked and what we saw. (p. 86)

Clover continues:

Whether Hitchcock actually meant with this measure to intensify the “sleep” experience is unclear, but the effect both in the short run, in establishing Psycho as the ultimate thriller, and in the long run, in altering the cinema-going habits of the nation, is indisputable. In the current understanding, horror is the least interruptible of all film genres, and this fact itself bears witness to the compulsive nature of the stories it tells. (p. 12)

Calling Psycho a thriller may be more appropriate than calling it a horror film. Except, I wonder just how shocking and horrifying the revelation of Norman’s mother in the basement would have been in 1960. Coming out of a conservative time in America, and slipping into a world where sex was openly discussed. Take Peeping Tom and Psycho together, and it’s obvious, something in the postwar world was changing. The slasher genre was being birthed out of changing gender roles, changing politics, and changing ways of thinking about differences (not just gender) between human beings. It’s important to note that Norman is specifically not classified as a transvestite at the end of this film. He embodies both an incomplete version of himself and an incomplete version of his mother, but the psychosexual fury doesn’t come from one or the other, per se, but rather from the conflict between them.

Works Cited

Clover, C.J. (1992). Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Thomas, P. (2010). “Her Fine Soft Flesh.” Film Quarterly 63:4. pp. 86-87.

there's nothing to be afraid of

A note on life of late as the movie begins (the movie being Peeping Tom):

Actually, let me interrupt before I even get not going—opening shot with the backlot-looking city was awesome. I’d forgotten, also, this was a British film. Considering where I’m going with this blog this month, I rather like the immediate use of the first-person POV through the camera...

But, I wasn’t talking about the film yet. Or where I’m going with this blog this month, either.

On life:

It’s Monday and that’s going to be a particularly busy day for me for the next 10 weeks (i.e. fall quarter). Up by 6:30AM, left the house at 7:00, taught class 8:00 to 9:40 and 9:50 to 11:30...

The replay of the murder we’ve just witnessed being filmed over the opening credits is awesome, by the way. This is the first film I’ll be watching for this blog (it’s own entry, I mean) that I wasn’t 100% sure I’d actually seen before. It looks familiar, but also... not. The overall visual quality here is fascinating me, the bright hues, the slightly artificial setting... very cool.

...11:40 to 1:20, I’ve got office hours, then forensics class 1:30 to 3:10, followed immediately by a coaches meeting, followed immediately by a TA meeting, then 10 minutes to instructional comm, which goes nearly 4 hours. A long, potentially tiring day, but this first one of the quarter has me feeling a little bit physically tired but mentally exhilarated.

A note on this blog as the movie continues, and the titular character lingers in a newsstand that seems to sell a whole lot of pornography. Cut to an actual film set, with lights and everything. The movie is playing with cinematic boundaries quite interestingly. Hell, they just pulled out a fake brick wall to use as a backdrop inside an apartment. When outside the window there is an actual brick building across the way.

Oh, yes, the note:

I will not be watching one movie a week this month, each one for seven days. Instead, this “month” will be 33 days long, ending on Halloween, instead of the now usual 28. And, I will be watching 33 different films. I mentioned the other day that I would be getting into horror films again. I hadn’t intended to cover horror films the first month after the year-long exercise in Groundhog Day; rather, I deliberately began with The Ring so that I could title the initial entry “seven days.” But then research I had for that film led me to cover The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project, and then to sort of round out something of the state of late-90s horror, I went with Scream. And, there I discovered the work of Carol J. Clover—notably the essay “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film” and the book Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film...

This titular character—his name is Mark—has some obvious issues. Notably, he not only films women in public in addition to photographing them in private, he can’t seem to interact normally with women—his models or this woman right now who lives in his building. He’s got an awkward thing going that rivals Norman Bates in Psycho, which I will be watching tomorrow, and which was released in theaters only a month after Peeping Tom in 1960.

A lot of this behind-the-scenes photography stuff, not to mention the Britishness, reminds me of Blow Up... which (I just checked) came out 6 years later. Like the opening scene seems obviously echoed in the opening sequence of Halloween, which I shall be watching in a few days. Mark’s footage of himself as a child plays like a trap, having captured his childhood and stunted his development. It’s an interesting thing that he then wants to photograph the woman watching the footage. Like he can only see things through a camera to consider them real.

Clover demonstrated far more concretely than I think I’d seen before the link between gendered roles, stereotypes and interactions in and around the horror film, especially slasher films. I’d written about gender before in regards to Groundhog Day... more than once, actually. Hell, one of the ideas I had for my Master’s Thesis involved the portrayal of gender roles within Groundhog Day specifically. I found it hard...

Another film set, this a commercial rather than a modeling shoot...

I found it hard to justify a detailed examination of a 20 + -year-old film specifically, as opposed to, say, a look at romantic comedies (yesterday‘s argument that Groundhog Day is not a romantic comedy excepted) in general, or the change in them over time... something closer to what I did last month in this blog. Though, last month I only dealt with a small sampling and a short time frame of romantic comedies, I tried to sample differing examples of the genre so that I could explore the genre more fully. I still don’t particularly like romantic comedies, but I think I can appreciate the idea of them a little more after sitting down with them for a month...

It is amazing that this film—Peeping Tom—comes before so many horror films that use the first-person camera, as it is effectively equating the act of filming itself with a voyeuristic impulse, inherently sexual and ultimately dangerous. Only 38 minutes in, mind you, I’m wondering if Mark is attempting, on some level, to capture the essence of these women to protect them from the same decay unto death that he saw in his mother as a child. If he can film them and then kill them, he immortalizes them even as he removes their mortality on a more literal level by enacting it. I’m reminded of a far more recent film—that I wouldn’t classify as horror despite its inclusion of murders—of the film adaptation of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, in which the killer is literally trying to capture the essence of beautiful women and succeeds in creating an ecstatic experience powerful enough to overcome an entire village.

Right now, Mark is setting up a bunch of crates as a woman dances... and then into a crate she goes, willingly. And camera pointed at camera... Claudia’s line in the film adaptation of Interview with the Vampire occurs to me—”How avant garde.”

I like the idea of exploring genres and themes in depth, getting to know them then leaving them behind. This month, though, I will admit, I am exploring a genre with which I am quite familiar...

Did the leg of his camera’s tripod just raise in place of his erection? Clover (1992) says this “film sets out with astonishing candor and clarity a psychosexual theory of cinematic spectatorship” (p. 168). When it comes to horror films, we are obviously voyeurs, stepping into the shoes, vicariously, of both the killer an the killed, the monster and the hero/heroine—the Final Girl. But, really, in any film we live vicariously, or at least are invited to live vicariously, through the various characters. I don’t think it is all necessarily psychosexual, of course, but there is a certain power we wield over characters and an attraction to them. The power we wield comes from the fact of our choice to be where we are, watching what we are watching; characters do not have this luxury, rather their actions are dictated by the script, and they have already been acted out, filmed, edited, captured and immortalized within the confines of the specific film we are watching. In contrast, we live before the film and after the film, and we are free to leave whenever we want, free to interpret however we want, free to take away from the story anything we choose. The attraction may not always be obvious, but it is necessary for us to truly engage with the characters, or with their story. We have to, even if only on the most thinnest of levels, want to be the character, or at least in the character’s shoes. And, this month I am looking to—and living vicariously through the characters in—slasher films, a genre with which I am quite familiar...

And, my two narratives here have twisted together, not entirely by design but somewhat deliberately.

Slasher films, a staple of my own childhood, that have scarred me... No. That have marked me in some permanent fashion not unlike the way Mark’s father’s filming him through his childhood marked him. Not, of course, to suggest that I go around filming and murdering women—for the record, I do not—but my taste in film, the way I may react to things I’ve seen in slasher films, even the ways, probably, that I think about gender, have been shaped by my ongoing experience with film in general, and with slasher films more specifically. I will be watching every film (minus recent remakes) in four notable series of films—the Texas Chainsaw, Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series—and, to tie somewhat to the new usual setup for this blog, I will be engaging these films not necessarily as entirely separate entities but as, perhaps, individual chapters in an ongoing cinematic conversation about murder, about fear, about gender, about... well, we’ll see, won’t we?

Clover refers to the doubling of the opening murder sequence in remarkable terms:

If the “present” or “doing” gaze [of the initial murder] was predatory, penetrating, murderous, at once brutalizing the woman and recording that brutalization, causing the event to happen, the second or “past” gaze [playing behind the opening credits] is after the fact, at some contemplative distance—a distance underwritten by the relocation of the image further back in our screen (in such a way as to show us a screen in a screen) and by the superimposition of screen credits. What was action is now speculation. What was present is now pluperfect. What was real life is now movie—now our movie, too. (p. 173)

On that last note, how contemplative is the film we are watching if it is one more level removed from the initial murder? Does that separation release us from any culpability in the murder itself. I mean, sure, the murders in film are not real. But, spend enough time watching murders represented and surely you become desensitized to the imagery. Not so much that you turn to violence, but surely enough that a little more brutal murder in the sequel is not so bothersome as it might have been.

Ultimately, I don’t think Peeping Tom plays quite like what we think of as a slasher film. But, the use of the first-person camera moving in for the kill—here, quite literally—coupled with the apparently (but not fundamentally) sexual motivation, suggests some clear roots to what would become the slasher film. And, it is entirely appropriate that the camera itself (or at least its leg) is doing the killing here. Because, the camera is our doorway into many a murder to come in the decades of film to follow (and the next month of this blog, as well).

Sunday, September 28, 2014

i need someone to give me a good hard slap in the face

Groundhog Day is not a romantic comedy.

And, it’s not just me who thinks so. Dowd and Pallotta (2000)—you know, my go to academic quality romantic comedy source—specifically excluded it from their coding. They explain:

Our principle genre-relevant rule is that romance must be central to the story depicted in the film and not a secondary aspect... If the film is a mixed-genre effort—and adventure story, for example, in which two of the characters become romantically attached, such as was the case with Romancing the Stone

[—I must interrupt this extended quotation to say that I love the movie Romancing the Stone and actually have it on the potential list of movies to watch for this blog at some point. Perhaps an adventure month, do a little Romancing the Stone, some Raiders of the Lost Ark and some... ah, there’s the rub. There aren’t a lot of adventure movies anymore. Maybe High Road to China, although I barely remember that from when I was a kid and maybe it doesn’t qualify. It should be noted that I like to separate the action-adventure genre that movie rental shops used to insist on. Action and adventure are not the same thing. For example, the Wikipedia list of adventure films includes The Expendables. There is no adventure in The Expendables; it’s a nostalgia-driven action comedy. That doesn’t explain the distinction, does it. Adventure is about exploration, finding something new, going into exotic locales (usually). Action is about excitement, fast-paced... well, action. The two often mix, but some movies are very much one and not the other. The best way I have to think about it is this: compare Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Road Warrior. The former is a quintessential adventure film, the latter a quintessential action film.—]

or Speed—it was not included in our sample. Similarly, we excluded from our sample those films in which the lovers were not clearly the central characters...

Of all the mixed-genre films, the single most difficult type to identify unequivocally as a romance is the comedy. That is, the most difficult coding decision we faced in this research came when attempting to distinguish a genuine romantic comedy from a comedy that contained romantic elements. We decided against including such comedies as Tootsie (1982), Broadcast News (1987), Groundhog Day (1993), and Grumpier Old Men (1995), because in our judgment their romantic themes were not the principal driving elements. (p. 555-556)

That being said, Groundhog Day—which I am watching again now that my month of romantic comedies is over—may be one of the most romantic movies ever... if we accept a few caveats up front.

One major caveat is that some of the best romance that must be taking place during the course of the story happens off screen. That is, after hundreds or thousands of resumptions, maybe even hundreds or thousands of years, Phil still loves Rita. I’m reminded of a bit from Doctor Who... which reminds me of an exchange from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Allow me to nerd out for a moment.

(Because, that is so unexpected and rare.)

So, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Darmok,” Troi offers “Juliet on her balcony” as an image of romance to Dr. Crusher. I think a better image of romance is something like the last centurion from Doctor Who‘s “Big Bang,” Rory standing guard over the Pandorica for thousands of years because Amy is trapped inside—that’s romantic. That’s Phil Connors-level romance. Phil takes to heart the line from the much later film—I’m not sure how he does this, mind you—As Good As It Gets: “You make me want to be a better man.”

Now, if you’ve been paying attention for the past year, you’d know that I don’t think Phil improved himself for Rita. I’ve said time and time again that Faust (2012), not to mention the many others who have said as much, was wrong in calling Phil “Drive on by love.” I think the improvement was secondary, or even tertiary, to his interest in Rita. But, my point here is that his interest in Rita remained. He found other things to do with himself, he learned about the people of Punxsutawney, he learned to play piano and ice sculpt, he learned to appreciate the slower things in life, like books. If Phil Connors was stuck in a time loop today, he would potentially have time to explore all of the internet, maybe memorize (and correct for accuracy) Wikipedia. His observation about God—“Maybe he’s just been around so long, he knows everything.”—would be what he has become.

But, when it comes to my idea of romance, separate from love, it’s something like the wait of the last centurion or the wait of Phil Connors. A feeling that lasts through thick and thing, beyond death do us part...

I must interrupt this serious discussion to announce that I have discovered something new tonight even after having watched this film somewhere around 400 times. O’Reilly has no tragus. Doesn’t have much of an antitragus either. Oh, you might not know what those are. Here’s a diagram:

And, here’s a shot of O’Reilly’s ear:

It’s not groundbreaking, it doesn’t change the meaning of the film or anything, but I like that there are still things in the movie that I just hadn’t noticed before.

But anyway, I was saying that Phil’s love for Rita is something almost eternal, and that is romance to me. Romance doesn’t necessarily exist between two people. In a romantic comedy, I mean. It exists between the two people on screen and us in the audience. Romance is the feeling that lasts within us when we watch the budding of a new love onscreen. It’s the feeling that brings us back to something like When Harry Met Sally... or Moonstruck, not because the movies themselves are romantic but because they make us romantic. They are like Cosmo’s moon sitting outside our windows. And when they do their job, they makes us better people than we were going in. They make us love the world. They make us love each other. They make us happy.

Works Cited

Dowd, J.J. & Pallotta, N.R. The End of Romance: The Demystification of Love in the Postmodern Age. Sociological Perspectives 43:4. pp. 549-580.

Faust, M. (2012). Groundhog Day. Philosophy Now Nov/Dec. p. 45.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

we lost our way

Some stray observations:

On the HOTEL sign outside Vivian’s building, only the H and O are lit up. This seems both too on-the-nose and over-the-top.

Kit’s and Vivian’s motto is “We say who, we say when, we say how much.” Later when Vivian is mad at Edward, she forgets that last part. She says, “I say who. I say when.” And then, she repeats, “I say who.” Despite the opening line of the film, that it is “all about money,” it’s no longer about money. She doesn’t even take the money, though she does demand it, when she leaves then. And, ultimately, after she has been paid and is back home, she gives some—not sure how much—of the money to Kit.

I’ve written about the major differences between $3,000 and Pretty Woman before, but not a lot of the details. For example, this was Lawton’s second produced screenplay. It reads, especially early on, like someone’s first time writing a screenplay; there’s bit too much exposition setting the scene.

Looking at the script again right now, I thought of Dyer’s (2010) script breakdown. Plot point one, going by page count, would be when Vivian goes shopping... specifically, on page 40, Vivian returns to the original boutique that kicked her out. Plot point two would fall between the aforementioned fight between Vivian and Edward and their San Francisco date.

Leave out the page count or runtime, and really plot point one, obviously, is when they negotiate the $3,000. That’s about to happen right now on my television. Plot point two... Vivian and Edward making up after the fight is a good spot, actually. But, it’s a little problematic structurally in the original in which Vivian and Edward do not end up together.

(The exchange—”I would have stayed for two thousand.” “I would have paid four.”—bugs me. If she has not been paid yet, she is far too trusting to suggest her price could be lower; it’s not like they’ve got a written contract. And, he also shouldn’t suggest his willingness to pay more or she might later hold out for more when it comes time to have sex again. This exchange suggest not only the realistic possibility that Vivian is not very shrewd in business, but also that Edward, who is clearly supposed to be particularly successful, is also not very shrewd in business. Of course, given his antagonizing his own attorney later and abruptly dropping a business plan—the Morse takeover—in place for months (with a thousand man hours on it) without telling anyone suggests he’s already a bit of bad boss.)

The reason it’s problematic is this: in a plot that doesn’t end with Vivian and Edward together, the plot point of them growing closer is misleading and manipulative... Well, this isn’t problematic for the potential viewer, necessarily, because... I was going to suggest that the point was that we expect them to get together but the capitalist reality within the film won’t allow it. Except, $3,000 is not a comedy, so really, we shouldn’t expect the leads to get together necessarily. Note: Dowd and Pallotta (2000) point out that romantic dramas must “contend with the reality that the love affair must almost certainly never succeed” (p. 558). It is in romantic comedies, specifically, that the love affair is more likely to succeed. So, of course the turn from $3,000 to Pretty Woman means Edward comes back to rescue Vivian from her tower just as she imagined as a child. It’s weird. If you take certain parts of the original script and certain parts of the movie—the opening magic trick, for example—you’d get a serious critique of modern capitalism and the resulting class structures wrapped up in a romantic package. Notably, in $3,000, Edward’s change of plans with the takeover is not saving the company in question rather than dismantling it, but rather taking extra advantage of what piece of that company—a waste processing plant—to make money off it separately by selling the toxic waste rights to the highest bidder.

Yet, it’s in the original script that we get a much better reason for the decision Edward makes regarding the takeover in the filmed version. Even though Edward doesn’t hear this speech Kross (in the film, Morse) makes to Vivian, the content would work on the audience to justify Edward helping Kross/Morse rather than hurting him. Kross tells Vivian:

Your boyfriend’s a real sharpie, little girl. A real shark. That’s the kind of man who makes it these days. They smell money like blood.

There was a time when men got rich by building things. I built ships the size of cities! Ships that could rule the seas into the next century. Why, last year the Navy recommissioned a ship out of mothballs that I built forty years ago. They did it because they knew damn well no one could build anything better! We built this country into the greatest industrial power the world has ever known. We creamed the Japanese! We dwarfed the rest of the world. Dwarfed! This country sent men to the moon! (Beat) But something happened...

We made mistakes, maybe. I don’t know. We lost our way.

Listen to too many Harvard fags telling us how to maximize profits. And now men like your boyfriend, they survive by feeding off our decay. They make themselves rich by sucking the money out of our shipyards. Blind to the future. They’re destroying everything we built.

But stay with him, little girl. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the fence when this country falls apart. He’s going to be a good little meal ticket for you. (p. 64-65)

Morse’s son says a couple lines from that in the film, but they don’t play well coming from him. It’s interesting that Kross is more like the bad guy in this deal. When he tells Edward,

I’m not going to pay you off. I’m going to fight you with every resource I have. Neither you nor any of your cronies will ever set foot in my shipyards. You’ll burn in hell first.

Edward responds coolly,

Alright. If you feel that way, do what you have to do. And if you change your mind, I won’t hold it against you later. Just tell me that you’ve changed your mind and I’ll forget about this conversation.

Edward is cold, but not evil. He lacks emotion. This version of Edward is one that can use the film version of Vivian to warm him up. Interestingly, original script Edward has no reason to be this way. He just is. This is where I think the original makes for a nice critique. Edward is a businessman coming out of the 1980s, Vivian is a hooker. As he simplifies it in the film, they both screw people for money. Without origin stories, though... they are more symbolic of their separate fields, symbolic of the system that creates them. A system script Edward sums up quite well:

The man made a business decision. That’s all. I make business decisions; you make business decisions.

Nobody does anything unless it’s in his own best interest. (p. 96-97)

It occurs to me that, coming out of the 1980s, this film has good reason to sit on the brink between a good romantic comedy and a shallow, 80s, money-obsessed film. This is not a 90s film. It is an 80s film, built on American hegemony, cultural and financial superiority most of its audience wouldn’t dare to question.

Really, all you need to know about what is so very different in $3,000 that is not in Pretty Woman is this bit from Vivian:

I’m going crazy ‘cause you won’t let me get high. I’m bored out of my fucking mind all day and whenever I see you, you treat me like shit! You don’t like the way I eat. I never tie your tie right. I don’t drink enough and then I drink too much. You’re always shitting on me!

Note, for example, the tie thing. In the film, Vivian knows how to tie a tie because—insert joke—she screwed the debate team in high school. She ties Edward’s tie perfectly the first time. In $3,000, she ties it several times throughout, and he critiques the placement of the design on the knot, comparing Vivian to his ex and how she tied a tie. Edward’s response to this rant, by the way is to say, “I’m sorry. I thought I was treating you pretty nicely.” To which Vivian responds:

I’ve fucked stinking old men who made me want to puke, but I’ve never had anyone make me feel as dirty as you do! You make me feel dirty inside.

A) she isn’t “new” to prostitution. B) this is the same girl who not too many pages later seems to both be crazily in love with Edward and also just crazy. $3,000 is just a darker beast, all around, even though so many of its beats are the same as the thing it became.

But, it still remains a romantic story because, well, it’s all about money. Everything is a business decision. Dowd and Pallotta (2000) describe it well. “We think of love,” they write,

as a significant undertaking, an investment in our future well-being, that must be approached carefully and rationally. Few adults today take seriously the notion that we each have a perfect match, someone in the world who would complete us as a missing piece does a puzzle. We might describe our lover as our soulmate yet also understand that he or she is almost certainly not the only one who might be so described. (p. 554)

That’s really as good a place as any to end this month’s discussion of romantic comedies... or perhaps, with the less academic lyrics of Tim Minchin:

If I didn’t have you
Someone else would do

That isn’t to say, much like more of Minchin’s “If I Didn’t Have You,” I don’t value romance and love and all that. I just don’t think that one love lost is the end of the world. Of course, it can feel like it. I’ve felt that more than once. But, I’ve moved on. And, if I find love again and lose it again, I’ll probably hate these words right then, when I’m in pain and hating the world. But, that doesn’t make it any less right.

There is no one person for any of us. There is no one person for me... Although I wouldn’t mind being in the position to disagree with that sentiment once again.

But, I’ll can do without romantic comedies for a while.

Horror films—those I can do some more.

First, though, Groundhog Day again tomorrow.

Works Cited

Dowd, J.J. & Pallotta, N.R. (2000). The End of Romance: The Demystification of Love in the Postmodern Age. Sociological Perspectives 43:4. pp. 549-580.

Dyer, P. (2010, October 18). Screenplay Structure. Doctor My Script. http://www.doctormyscript.com/2010/10/screenplay-structure.html

only cause you're paying me

When Harry Met Sally..., Moonstruck, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Pretty Woman—each one involves men and women, regardless of when in the process they have sex, getting to know each other by talking, by exchanging information. I’ve already written about Altman and Taylor’s social penetration theory...

(Sidenote: maybe the stated theme (per yesterday‘s discussion, is Philip’s line, “You’re gonna get lost in the dark.” Vivian lives in the dark. She wakes up in the evening, works all night, and that’s before we deal with the metaphorical darkness inherent in her job. And, Edward, he works in the darkness of corporate raiding, making a living off the suffering of others. And, I’ve said before, they are both lost before the events of the film.)

Anyway, where was I? I think it’s nice that even the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold setup revolves not around the sex but around conversation and other, non-sexual interaction. Edward and Vivian definitely get into Altman and Taylor’s exploratory affective exchange phase. Interestingly, talk works against both Edward’s work and Vivian’s work. There’s no instant intimacy, but they exchange personal stories. They talk about work, they talk about their pasts. She teaches him to relax and take a walk. He teaches her to appreciate the opera. That’s how two people get together... or stay together.

Back when I was first married, I got my wife watching movies far more than she ever had before. And, if she hadn’t started as a nontraditional student in college, I never would have gone back to school myself, I wouldn’t be in grad school today, and would not be teaching. I doubt me back then would imagine I’d be here. (I probably would have liked to imagine this blog, but I don’t know if I would have had as much to say back then.)

We’re not together anymore, but some changes stick. She doesn’t see as many movies as I might, but come December and Oscar season, she’ll probably pay more attention than a lot of people might. And, I’ve stuck with school when once upon a time I wrote an essay arguing against going to college.

(Sidenote: there are little moments in Pretty Woman that I really like. When Edward is on the phone with his girlfriend early in the film, for example, the camera moves over him and it’s an interesting angle, just barely keeping the camera out of the reflection in the window, even as we see a second Edward in the reflection—some hint at changes to come for him later. Another moment I like is when Vivian turns her attention away from I Love Lucy to Edward, and she’s on her knees in front of him, and whether it was Julia Roberts’ choice or the director’s, I like that she moves away from Edward again briefly to grab a pillow to kneel on. It softens the character at the same time that it suggests she does this far too often.)

We change each other and, at least for the time we are together, we sort of become each other. Give and take, back and forth.

(Another moment I like: not Vivian singing in the bathtub, and certainly not the negotiation bit that follows, but the moment after the negotiation, when she’s underwater, she moves her legs up and down like a kid who’s overexcited. One moment I shouldn’t like, but Roberts and Gere play it well: when he comes into the lounge to find her dressed for their dinner with the Morses, she says, “You’re late.” He says, “You’re stunning.” She replies, “You’re forgiven.” It’s a shallow bit there at the end, but she plays it cute, and it works. There’s a lot of little fish-out-of-water bits for Vivian that work even when they’re almost too silly, like her eating the leaf off of her dessert, than pulling it out of her mouth in disgust.)

I’m getting lost in the parenthetical. That’s a good thing, I think. I’m finding the good.

I’m gearing up for a very different month coming up, though. I’ll be done with romantic comedies, and moving—as I think I’ve mentioned—back to horror films, but in a different way than before. That first month sort of happened one movie at a time. The next “month” is planned ahead, and it will be more than just four movies... I’ll explain in more detail in a few days. For now, though, the thing is, between this blog, grad school, teaching, coaching, being a father, a movie buff, a gamer, getting into my thesis... and I was thinking about auditioning for the theater on campus, but I doubt my schedule will fit their rehearsal schedule. I’m going to like being busy again. And, it’s times like this that I wonder how it would be if I had someone to share it all with. I mean besides you readers of this blog, whoever you might be—most of you don’t interact with me on here, or Facebook or Twitter... the conversation is very one-sided. Speaking of which, and getting off on a tangent (but I’ll come right back), I’m considering adding a new element my prospectus for my thesis, something to do with the illusion of connection we have over the internet. I already need to code my own blog entries, as well as those of a few other people, for where personal stuff is included (and a more detailed breakdown, but the basic coding will be that)... That is the kind of thing I’d like to talk about with someone else. But, I’ve got people for that, I think, friends in the Comm Department, and soon I’ll have my thesis committee together as well. But, that’s more business than personal. I’m concerned with the personal here, too. It’s not just a new element for the potential thesis, but also a new element for me to think about as I write. I mean, this blog is not just for me. But, it also sometimes very much is.

Consider the next month of horror films I was alluding to. I’ve set up a standard for the second year of this blog, I’ve followed it for two months so far, and I’m changing it up for the next month. It should be back to (the new) normal after, but my point is I can do whatever I want with this blog. I can make it personal, I can make it objective. I can make it dense with research, or just ramble on about whatever subject comes to mind, as long as it connects to the topic at hand. And, all of this does connect to the topic because as I embark on a new... I don’t want to call it a chapter but that is the nomenclature. As I embark on a new chapter of my story, so to speak, it would be nice to have someone to share it all with. Not just my kids, because there are limits to what I can share with them. Not my ex because there are also now limits to what I would share with her. I’ll tell her what’s going on, but her input into the directions I might go, in school, in life, in whatever—it doesn’t hold the same weight as it used to. And, there are limits to what I share with one friend or another. Hell, sometimes it seems like I can be more personal here because as I’m typing, I’m often alone. Sure, Pretty Woman is playing right now, and Vivian is sorry she ever met Edward right now, but it’s just me here in the living room, and though this will be put out on the internet, to remain there indefinitely, in the moments I’m typing, it’s just me and the screen. I can say anything I want.

(“That’s just geography.” That’s a good line.

I argued once that I was in a relationship with Groundhog Day, watching it every day for a year. It was a constant when so much else in my life was in flux. This blog, even without Groundhog Day, is still a nice constant in a life that is often in flux. Constants are good.

Of course, so is flux.

Friday, September 26, 2014

who does it really work out for?

“You know what they say—it’s all about money.” That’s the opening line of Pretty Woman. And, arguably, the whole point to the existence of this movie—and I don’t mean from the perspective of the writer, the director, the stars, any of the filmmakers, really—is to make money. That’s why we get the unrealistic ending, because that will draw the biggest audience.

Yeah, that’s me being cynical again. But, so what? I’m about to be nice to this movie for a change. See, I don’t think the movie itself is telling us that “it’s all about money.” Even though Dyer (2010) suggests “In the first few pages of your screenplay, one of the characters should state the story’s theme out loud.” I think the movie ultimately rejects the idea that it’s all about money. Money loses out to love, even though money is the means to that end. Vivian wouldn’t be there if not for Edward’s $3,000. She wouldn’t have the whole Cinderella thing going on if not for more of his money. She is romanced as much by the clothing and the nice treatment that changing her appearance gets her than by Edward himself.

Trying to figure out the theme per Dyer’s standard. Maybe it’s Kit saying “We say who. We say when. We say how much.” She and Vivian are certainly trying to be more independent than other hookers. In the end, Vivian gets out of the business even before Edward comes back for her, and Edward also steps out of his usual line of business to go for something other than a girl who just wants to spend his money (although, I admit, that last point is problematic in a film that makes a big production out of Vivian spending Edward’s money).

Maybe it’s Vivian’s “I can do anything I want to, baby. I ain’t lost.” If we assume it’s Edward who’s lost and not Vivian. Except, I think the movie insists we believe they were both a little lost at the start of the film.

Or Vivian’s “This is fate. That’s what this is.” That’s what we want in a romance. We see the main characters at the front end of the film and we pair them off even before the film really does. We want them together. We need them together, or the film... the whole romantic comedy genre doesn’t make sense. But, really, the point within the movie comes from the character billed as “Happy Man.” The first time we see him, he says, “Welcome to Hollywood. Everybody comes to Hollywood’s got a dream. What’s your dream?” At the end of the movie, we hear him again: “Welcome to Hollywood. What’s your dream? Everybody comes here. This is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t, but keep on dreamin’. This is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”

The movie—all romantic comedies, really—operates on our dreams. We dream of financial success, the ability to buy what we want when we want it, to lavish those we care about with fancy things... or at least the things they want, even if those things aren’t fancy. And, we dream of romance, of love. Even if our dreams don’t go that far, we dream of at least something like companionship, finding someone we can talk to about whatever is bothering us, someone we can talk to about the dreams we’ve still got.

And, the movie works despite its flaws because dreams are, well, unrealistic. That’s why the movie ends when it does. We don’t want to see what happens later, when Edward and Vivian realize they don’t have much in common. They realize that spending 6 days together really doesn’t guarantee that any more days will be successful.

But, we specifically don’t see that. So, why make it depressing now by talking about it? Actually, well, the movie tells us why. Kit and Vivian have a poolside conversation about who they know, or don’t know as it turns out, that has ended up happy and in love. Kit wracks her brain trying to come up with someone, and all she can come up with is “Cinder-fucking-rella.” Problem there is that same thing I was just talking about regarding Pretty Woman. Cinderella ends just as the prince and the girl get together. We don’t see the relationship part of things. We see a girl whose circumstance is awful enough that we don’t really care how it’s going to go later. Cinderella, Hinnant (2006) tells us, is “a pervasive figure in sentimental courtship fiction” (p. 295). Hinnant cites the Cinderella story as the first of seven scenarios in Jane Austen’s novels, but the same scenarios are present in all romantic fiction, prose or filmed, dramatic or comedic. The second one of Hinnant’s scenarios is the the rescue plot, which also seems to fit Pretty Woman.

Importantly, both Vivian and Edward have specific roles they have taken on. Vivian, left by the guy she followed to Hollywood, has chosen the street rather than slink on home. Edward, given more motivation in the film than the original script, has become who he is in a sort of delayed revenge against his father, who left his mother when he was young. In one of the more personal moments he has in the film, Edward tells Vivian that the third company he took over was one for which his own father was president. His father has also only recently died, which plays almost like a minor point in a subplot rather than a vital piece of the larger story, but it is vital to understanding Edward’s transformation within the film. With his father gone, and now facing the prospect of putting a sort of father figure in the guise of James Morse out of business, it becomes understandable that Edward is changing here not because of Vivian but despite her. The fuel to his business methods—his anger with his father—has dissipated with his father’s death. It’s a somewhat disturbing angle, but the age difference between Edward and Vivian may also come into play here, because Edward is old enough to be father to Vivian and may in fact, by providing for and then rescuing her, Edward may be shifting into a more fatherly role, replacing his father just as he once took ownership of his father’s company. Recall, of course, that the film version of Edward does not seek out Vivian but happens upon her, and initially only pays her $20 to help get him back to Beverly Hills. And, even after he has paid her $100 to come up to his room, he balks at her impulse to have sex. I’ve previously compared the film to Lolita, actually, and that interpretation makes sense here. The rescue is something patriarchal and paternalistic, even if not strictly paternal.

The film counters this with Vivian’s sense of personal agency. She doesn’t kiss on the mouth because it’s too personal. (This is not an element of the original script, by the way.) She disconnects from the sex in order to do what she does. It would be a stretch, though, to take Vivian Ward as a feminist character. Gilmour (1998) explains (in regards, generally, to women in romantic comedies, not specifically Vivian):

Although it is widely assumed that women in romantic comedies are images of feminine liberation, I argue that women’s roles in these films are contradictory. In the films and in the marketing materials around them, women at times enact masculine-coded tropes of agency and aggression and at other times enact feminine-coded passivity and morality. This contradictory status of femininity can be seen as a continuation of a much longer debate about the proper status of women in culture and in representation. (p. 35)

What I wonder is not about the women in these films, but the women watching them. The men as well. I mean, I’ve already suggested that we all dream of companionship and love and romance, but do we really define ourselves by this? Hell, I’ve even argued in this very blog that we don’t need love... I wish I could remember when that was so I could link to it, but trust me, I said it. I have also said the exact opposite. That’s what I do. Not because I’m a hypocrite, though, but because that’s how I think in reality (not to suggest that I am not sitting in reality, right now, typing this); sometimes I figure the thing missing from my life these days is the romantic relationship, that I want to find a girlfriend again, maybe even another wife. Other times, I figure I’ve got plenty going on right now as things are. I’ve got my kids, I’ve got my school, I’ve got my job. I don’t need more... Of course, if you’re attentive, you might have noticed my choice (subconscious, I suspect) of verbs there. I used want in that first bit, and need in the second. It’s the line between those two verbs, and the moments when one seems so very much like the other, that it’s hard to be sure what I want/need and what I don’t want/need. I figure I want it all. But, what I need is to do what I can to make sure my kids can do what they want. At least as much as it possible and reasonable. Sometimes I may neglect them for work—a weekend or longer away from home for a speech tournament, for example—but even that I do for them; I do it so I can be good at my job, and keep my job, and get a better job after I get my Masters next year, so that what we have can remain or improve.

What I may have once dreamed about what my life would be—that is something left behind for new dreams. My kids, my work... these are big parts of the ongoing dream.

Works Cited

Dyer, P. (2010, October 18). Screenplay Structure. Doctor My Script. http://www.doctormyscript.com/2010/10/screenplay-structure.html

Gilmour, H. (1998). Different Except in a Different Way: Marriage, Divorce, and Gender in the Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage. Journal of Film and Video 50:2. pp. 26-39.

Hinnant, C.H. (2006). Jane Austen’s “Wild Imagination”: Romanc and the Courtship Plot in the Six Canonical Novels. Narrative 14:3. pp. 294-310.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

i refuse to spend the next three days fighting with you

Pretty Woman begins with a magic trick. And, not long after, there’s an amusing bit on the street—tourists taking pictures of a dead body. There is more here than lazy romance.

And the movie does paint a picture of a city (or cities, rather) divided on class/money lines... as I’ve already said, but with a more negative tone, the picture presents us a world that creates people like Edward and Vivian.

(Sidenote: There are a lot of horses in Edward’s penthouse, statutes, paintings. Combine those with the polo match (not a part of the original script), not to mention Vivian’s dream about a being saved by a knight on horseback, and the running motif seems like it might mean something. But, the most obvious meaning—linking horses to the whole class thing—doesn’t really add anything new to the film.)

Both Richard Gere and Julia Roberts are charming here. Hector Elizondo does a great job with very little material, and handful of lines but mostly just a few looks—disapproving at first, then approving bordering on proud... the film has been compared not just to Cinderella but also Pygmalion (or My Fair Lady). Elizondo’s Mr. Thompson would be the more hands on side of a divided Professor Higgins (the other half, obviously, Gere’s Edward).

Ralph Bellamy’s Morse is supposed to evoke an old-fashioned, down-home sort of charm, but comes off a bit simplistically, more of a fool than a businessman. But, some small parts work quite well. Patrick Richwood as the elevator guy, Dennis, Larry Miller as a store manager and Elinor Donihue as the helpful saleswoman Bridget all do quite well with little to no lines of dialogue.

Laura San Giacomo’s Kit is pretty funny, as well, like when she explains her turf in terms of which stars’ stars are on the ground, then rather childishly whines, when the other hooker calls her a grouch. But, the portrayal of Kit coupled with Vivian’s naivetĂ© paints a disturbing picture of prostitutes as innocents. We barely see any darker side of the oldest profession (or of Edward’s profession for that matter). Vivian might as well have just been any girl half Edward’s age that he happened upon on the street.

...

This movie is quite watchable, but I really don’t think it’s very good. Knowing that it did quite well back when it came out I was surprised to see that it only has a 6.9 on IMDb; I thought this movie was still a well-loved staple of romantic comedies. I think this film, regardless of what people think of it today, is a vital piece in understanding the romantic comedy genre. There’s a sense about the film that if you just stick a pair of beautiful people together, of course they must be in love by the end of the film, and the audience will cheer.

It’s not my genre. This film is a good example of why. It glosses over serious issues with class and money and love and romance and paints a simple picture. Love isn’t simple. Class divides are not simple. Money is not simple. You don’t casually become a prostitute after the guy you followed to Hollywood dumps you and then get a happy ending with a corporate raider from out of town.

I was reading a discussion the other day about whether or not Pretty Woman glorifies prostitution. I think the film not only glorifies prostitution but also corporate raiding. Only Jason Alexander’s lawyer character and a couple saleswomen are treated negatively.

Maybe that’s why the movie works so well despite fundamental flaws; it barely has anything negative to work with. It’s almost all happy and cheerful. It’s a dream come true for Vivian, a dream he didn’t even know he had come true for Edward, and a dream that many an audience member can vicariously enjoy as well.

Plus, ultimately, however unrealistic the love and romance may be, the film puts those things above the money and the business. And, that plays nicely.

The biggest failure in the film is something that most of the audience simply won’t care about. Dowd and Pallotta (2000) list a couple basic ingredients to the classic romance—”the risk of social ostracism [and] the presence of a serious obstacle... that lies in the path of the developing relationship” (p. 552). In Pretty Woman, there is really no “serious obstacle” in the way of Edward and Vivian. Dowd and Pallotta suggest that as the years go on, romantic comedies have to “fill the gap produced by the disappearance of the significant romantic impediment” and they do so by inventing “ingenious and funny circumstances that keep the lovers apart without violating social taboos” (p. 563). Romantic comedies manufacture reasons for two lovers to separate. They manipulate the details, and the audience, to make the final embrace all the more ecstatic. Sure, there is social taboo separating Edward and Vivian, except Edward doesn’t see it, Vivian doesn’t see it, and the movie does its best right from the start in ignoring it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

i don't need any romantic hassles this week

Cinderella‘s kind of a horrible story, too. The idea that love can be found in one dance, that the prince can rescue the girl from a bad situation... except, love can feel like a rescue, I suppose. And, it’s loss can feel like... whatever the opposite is.

I saw The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them today and it’s a sad story that invokes the shadow left when love (and romance) are gone. It’s an awesome film, a tragic film with the vaguest sense of hope in the end. Comparatively, Pretty Woman is a slight little thing, hardly worth another thousand negative words...

Instead, I offer this. There’s a simple reason that we buy into the “romance” on display in Pretty Woman. Money and the things it can buy are important to us in this country, in the whole of the Western World, to be sure. Where other romantic comedies focus in on the other items on Dowd and Pallotta’s (2000) “norms,” Pretty Woman recognizes that all love is a transaction. Recall my discussion of social penetration theory a few weeks back. All social interaction can be described in economic terms. Value-laden, maybe, but still economic. All with a cost-benefit analysis. I don’t mean that cynically, either. It’s metaphor, sure, but not cynicism. This time.

My point is, wanting something and making the effort to get it—that’s the American way. Whether it’s a failing company, a prostitute, a lover... it’s all the same. It’s a goal and it takes whatever steps it takes to get there. Edward has the benefit of money. Movie Edward has made most of it himself rather than inheriting a lot of it like original script Edward, but both versions have money and that certainly makes the process easier. He can make people do what he wants them to do. He can pay Vivian to be however he wants her to be.

Really... Really, I want to say something more positive. In theory, the romantic comedy is a wonderful thing, In execution, often romantic comedy consists of shallow excuses to pretend true love is easy and waiting around every corner.

Tomorrow, I will look past the romance and see what else this film has to offer.

Let’s hope there’s something good there.

i needed a little pick-me-up

I want to like this movie. I mean, I’m not a fan of modern capitalism, and, as I said yesterday it’s almost a critique of a system that creates sharks like Edward and whores like Vivian. (And, that’s too nice to Edward. In $3,000, Kross asks Edward, “You want me to recommend to the Board that my company be raped by a man like you?” (p. 63).

It’s almost a critique. But, instead of jumping into the plotline, it skirts along the top of it into a fairy tale.

Vivian is no longer a seasoned prostitute with a crack problem barely looking after the more vulnerable Kit. Instead, she’s new to the oldest profession, and judging by a brief shot of some photos in her apartment at the beginning of the film, she’s doing this because of a guy; I’m guessing her broke up with her since she’s either ripped or scratched his face out of the photos we see. It’s a cheap way of making her a little less dirty. The more expensive way, so to speak, was to cut the opening scene from Lawton’s original in which Vivian not only scores some crack but picks up the paraphernalia to smoke it just in case you didn’t already catch on what she was buying.

Edward is no longer a shark who, well, doesn’t care about the people whose lives he’s destroying. For example, explaining to Vivian what pension funds are, he says:

That’s cash invested in various accounts. It’s supposed to be used to pay worker’s retirement and health benefits. Sometimes it’s hard to get at because of various government laws, but with good lawyers you can usually strip them down since only part of them have been contractually promised to the employees. Anyhow, we figure Kross is worth about 400 million. We hope we can acquire it for between two and three hundred million. No matter what, I’m going to make a profit. The question is how large. (p. 49)

Now, he is somewhat charming from the start and finds it in his heart to help out Morse (the replacement for Kross) rather than take it over, because... reasons. He’s shown the classless whore the opera so of course he’s been transformed himself. The thing is, Edward’s actions up until the business meeting at the end of the movie are almost exactly his actions from the original script. There is no reason for him to fall for Vivian. And, in the film, there’s barely a reason for Vivian to fall for him, because she’s a bit too strong, a bit too smart (and I don’t necessarily mean she’s got intelligence)... She’s sharp. In the original, she’s a little more emotionally volatile. There’s a thing border, I guess between a petulant child and a crack-addled prostitute, and $3,000‘ Vivian falls a little more on the latter side while Pretty Woman‘s Vivian falls a little more on the former. The scene on right now, for example—she’s watching I Love Lucy while Edward works. It plays more like a scene from Lolita than a real romantic comedy.

Roger Ebert, in his review calls Pretty Woman “the sweetest and most openhearted love fable” since The Princess Bride. I really don’t see it. I think he couldn’t be more wrong. Except, America bought into that, too. Number one with $11 million it’s opening weekend. And $178 million total domestic. With a budget of $14 million.

(It took #1 from The Hunt for Red October, which had made $17, $14 and $11 million the previous three weeks. I think I saw that one its opening weekend. #3 was Joe Versus the Volcano in its third week—I probably saw that later because I saw that one at a second run theater—the Academy in Pasadena. Saw The Lord of the Flies (#6 that weekend) at the Academy also.)

We bought into the fairy tale, the fable, whatever you want to call it. It wasn’t anywhere near as wholesome as The Princess Bride a few years earlier (though it was far more wholesome than $3,000. Ebert acknowledges, “There could indeed be... an entirely different movie made from the same material—a more realistic film, in which the cold economic realities of the lives of both characters would make it unlikely they could stay together.” I imagine something with a tone more like Leaving Las Vegas. Ebert ends his review: “And, for that matter, a final scene involving a limousine, a fire escape and some flowers is awkward and feels tacked on. But by the end of the movie I was happy to have it close as it does.” We all were. Because we’re shallow when it comes to cinematic romance. Give us a guy and a girl and we yearn for them to get together even before they do. We grow up on happily ever after and we demand it constantly, no matter how unrealistic it may be.

(Hell, even $3,000 ends on an almost happy note as, with $3,000 to her name, Vivian takes Kit to Disneyland. Maybe that’s why Disney bought the film—it ends at the happiest place on earth. Then, Disney realized what it bought, and mangled it just enough that it played like an even shallower version of Cinderella for the modern age.)

And, in America especially, we dream of the kind of simplistic makeover this movie presents—a little cash to throw around and in a single day, low class becomes high class. The rich don’t like nouveau riche. But, we do, because we want to be it. The romance of the “love story” goes hand-in-hand with the romance of the money. That Dowd and Pallotta (2000) “cultural norm” the other movies I’ve watched this month barely touch on—“the integration of the romantic couple as workers and consumers in the existing structure of modern capitalism” (p. 565)—is central here. The two leads are involved in business in such a way that they must detach themselves from it to perform. Edward ignores the employees he may ruin, Vivian has sex like a robot. That’s modern capitalism for ya.

Explaining how she followed a guy (a “bum”) out to Hollywood, Vivian tells Edward, “So, here I was: no money, no friends, no bum.”

“And you chose this as your profession?”

And, she lays it all out...

I worked at a couple fast food places, parked cars at wrestling, and I couldn’t make the rent. I was too ashamed to go home. That’s when I met Kit. She was a hooker and made it sound so great. So one day I did it. I cried the whole time. But then I got some regulars and, you know... It’s not like anybody plans this; it’s not your childhood dream.

That’s modern romance for ya. Broken hearts, broken dreams, sell yourself to the right guy and everything will work out fine.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

we both screw people for money

Now, let’s get out of New York. And, be a little less light and happy. The kind of movie that starts with two prostitutes buying some crack on the streets of Hollywood... unless Disney gets their hands on the script and twists it around and around until not only does the lead female—still a prostitute, mind you—no longer has a drug problem and the rich guy picking her up is just asking for directions, not prowling for a replacement girlfriend for the week. What used to be a rather despicable guy picking up a hooker who lists her likes as “hot baths and white rocks,” becomes a meet-cute instead. It’s a little sad.

You’d know the movie as Pretty Woman.

The original script by Jonathan Lawton was called $3,000.

$3,000 has a fairly straightforward plot, making a serious effort toward a critique of 1980s American capitalism. Pretty Woman drains so much of the darker... I would say realism, but $3,000 is just slight enough that it’s hard to suggest it has real depth. But, whatever darker realism there is in the original is sucked right out of this version.

For example, consider this exchange, the morning after their first together, from the original script:

VIVIAN
I forgot where I was.

EDWARD
That must be an occupational hazard.

Think of the reality of the information there. The suggestion is that Vivian falls asleep wherever she has been paid to be—it’s a depressing thought, I think. But, the film’s version plays slightly differently. The only dialogic change is Edward’s line becomes a question, “Occupational hazard?” And, Vivian laughs. And, we laugh.

Sidenote: negotiating buying a person for a week should not be an amusing back-and-forth, either.

It’s remarkable, actually, how much of the dialogue in the film comes straight from the original script, but play them with a smile and a laugh, add some upbeat music here and there, and the whole sordid affair becomes a classic in the genre of romantic comedy.

Humanize your ruthless businessman with a little piano playing and a dead father, and the idea that he wouldn’t fall in love with the prostitute he’s hired becomes silly. Of course, you’ve got to take away her crack habit, too. To be fair, she doesn’t actually use any crack in the original script; Edward pays her “hardship pay” to not use any drugs while she’s with him.

Sidenote: The “Pretty Woman” shopping sequence bugs me. It seems so entirely not out of place in a movie like this. But, then, combine it with our first shot of Vivian, a body in bed with no face, and the movie is begging us to objectify her as much as her clients do.

Edward’s making Vivian feel cheap in the movie plays like a manipulation. The same girl who showed off her bare thigh in front of the elevator the first night they were together just to get a rise out of another couple feels cheap because he told his lawyer she’s an prostitute? I don’t think so. Now, in the original, Edward offers her to William Reaves (the character that morphed into Philip Stuckey (Jason Alexander)); “You want her?” he asks. “I don’t mind. You want to try her?” William’s response: “Jesus, Edward, don’t be so tacky. I can rent my own girls.” Note: William runs a call girl service. Edward has already told William that “this girl I have for the week” is “a real tramp” and also that she’s “ real tiger in bed.” When William says he isn’t interested, Edward offers, “Go ahead, Vivian doesn’t care. She’s used to six guys a night. Just be sure you wear a condom. She’s careful about that.” He claims later to her that he was joking because of William’s service, but his apology comes across more like the same manipulation he previously used on Mr. Kross (Mr. Morse in the movie) than as anything genuine. Hell, before he offers the excuse that he was joking with William, he says, “I’m sorry. It never occurred to me that you would mind, honestly.”

An interesting and notable change from $3,000 to Pretty Woman is the opera. In $3,000, Edward takes Vivian to see Aida, which involves a princess held as a Egyptian slave who falls in love with an Egyptian commander. In Pretty Woman, Edward takes Vivian to see La Traviata, which involves a courtesan in love with a nobleman. From slave to courtesan—that’s the change in translation. It’s still supposed to be love, but Vivian has more agency to her in the film. But, really, in either incarnation, Vivian is not a particularly free agent. Both Vivians work without a pimp, because that allows her more agency, but—and here one of Dowd and Pallotta’s (2000) “cultural norms and rules governing romance” is “reinforced in [this] romantic film...” (p. 565)—she has no agency as long as she’s operating in a world in which she could be property, could be bought for the week, the night, the hour. Pretty Woman is not a wholesome romantic comedy about love winning over all; it’s a scathing indictment of a capitalist system that creates both Vivian and Edward... or at least, it should be. It fails to be, because the audience wants a nice happy ending.

I don’t usually get too “political” in this blog, but I just gotta quote Vivian’s rant about pimps from $3,000:

Yeah, they take their cut. Then they sell you their shitty overpriced dope. Then they rent you their places... they let you use one of their cars. Then they tell you they need a bigger cut, and the dope costs more, too. But don’t worry, they’ll lend you the money ‘til your next job. Yeah, they’ll help you. They’ll help fuck you. Well, no thanks. I only want to get fucked by one person at a time. (p. 108)

In a modern America where we’ve got paycheck advance stores all over the place and where our economy so recently fell apart arguably over subprime loans, and “big pharm” makes billions, I figure we’ve got plenty of pimps out there right now. It’s nice to imagine a businessman who buys companies just to tear them apart can find his humanity in a woman who sells her body for money. But, realistically, they’d probably just fuck one another and then go their separate ways.

Disney just had to ruin it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

a soulless manipulation

If Americans can be divorced for ‘incompatibility of temper’, I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible. – G. K. Chesterton

In his review of The Mirror Has Two Faces, Roger Ebert writes, “It's rare to find a film that deals intelligently with issues of sex and love, instead of just assuming that everyone on the screen and in the audience shares the same popular culture assumptions.” While he may be correct on the first point, I think he’s wrong on the second. I think The Mirror Has Two Faces operates on the very same assumptions that most any romantic comedy does: that we all want romance, that men and women are supposed to couple and copulate and consummate marriage. Plus, remember (as I’ve already referenced them a couple times) Dowd and Pallotta’s (2000) “cultural norms and rules governing romance that are reinforced in the romantic film genre...”

(1) marital fidelity;
(2) the importance of marriage for the right reasons, that is, for love;
(3) the primacy of individual wishes over family preferences in the matter of mate selection;
(4) the importance for the romance of sexual passion, on the one hand, and a sense of intimacy, mutual self-disclosure, and friendship, on the other; and
(5) the integration of the romantic couple as workers and consumers in the existing structure of modern capitalism... (p. 565)

As I pointed out the other day, #5 doesn’t play a big part in The Mirror Has Two Faces, but the other four—they very much do.

At her sister’s wedding, Rose expresses quite simply some of the things we assume women want; she tells Doris, “I'd love it if someone knew me, I mean really knew me. What I like, what I'm afraid of, what kind of toothpaste I use.” Then, she gets exactly that, and pushes for more. She and Gregory both move toward something they don’t really want, and they do this, basically, because what society tells them to want has turned out to be unavailable to them, or painful in its capriciousness.

Ebert calls The Mirror Has Two Faces, “On balance… a moving and challenging movie, fascinated by the murky depths that separate what people want from what they say they want and what they think they should want.” I’m not sure I’d call the film challenging, but it definitely plays in those “murky depths” he mentions. The film is all about the distances between what we think we want, what we think we should want, and what we actually want. These three things can be so very different that navigating our attractions can be challenging (even if the movie is not).

Don’t get me wrong; the movie is thoughtful. It explores notions about romance, and argues occasionally against them even as it reinforces them. It tries to be deconstructionalist, but I don’t think it quite achieves it. The ending, which is even more Hollywood than most Hollywood endings, defeats most of the intriguing (read: challenging, if you’re Roger Ebert) directions the film leans earlier on. Gregory’s idea of marriage without the physicality should be a reasonable thing, but the movie refuses to let him be right. Like When Harry Met Sally…, this film suggests arguments it simply doesn’t have the guts to make outside of its setup.

At best, The Mirror Has Two Faces takes a few of the common elements of the romantic comedy and reorders them chronologically. But, ultimately, it still hits all of the bases. Remarkably, the most romantic line in the film, in my opinion, comes along with the least romantic suggestion—Gregory’s marriage proposal. He tells Rose:

I think we have a lot in common. Although, I’m aware certain variables are and forever will remain unknown, as is the case with most complex equations where you have two completely diverse...

This feeling you have for Alex... It won't be the same with me. You won't have that constant ache in the pit of your stomach, because, well, we're not in love. I think we do share a genuine affection for each other. We share a passion for knowledge rather than a physical passion. Although, if sex is something that interests you, I'm sure I could provide that on occasion, given enough warning…

Well, we were in both in love and we were both miserable. And, we’re both alone. Which is a waste, really, because as people, we're quite valuable. Rose, when I look at you, I see a woman unlike any I've known before. Your mind, your humor, your passion for ideas. I'm very fond of you. I feel in a strange way, when I'm with you… I feel as if I’m... as if I'm home. So I think we should get married. People marry for sexual passion, which fades, or beauty, which fades. Why are my reasons more insane than those?

The line I think is the most romantic: the idea that when I’m with you, I feel as if I’m home. The level of comfort and intimacy implicit in those words amazes me.

In the end, it comes down to another line from Chesterton:

“Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should refuse.”

Will marriage work out for everyone? No. Should it? Probably not. But, that doesn’t mean that it is not worth trying. Giving yourself to someone else, on any level, can be very rewarding. I can’t find an original source for this quotation, but there’s definitely some truth to it:

No relationship is ever a waste of your time. If it didn't bring you what you want, it taught you what you didn't want.

Friday, September 19, 2014

how childishly you're behaving

I want to get into talking about Deborah Tannen’s Genderlect Styles, but it’s hard to map it onto The Mirror Has Two Faces. Gregory is hardly the stereotypical male that Tannen talks about, nor really is Rose the stereotypical female that Tannen talks about. Tannen’s male wants status—meaning he wants the score that comes from having bedded a woman. Gregory is far from that, wanting anything but the score. Tannen’s female wants connection, but Rose gets the connection and wants more...

Arguably.

The question is—and this may just be a reiteration of my attempt to define the successful relationship the other day—does a connection include or preclude sex?

Personally, I think it’s inclusive, and The Mirror Has Two Faces seems to support that idea even if Gregory and Rose have still not consummated their relationship at the end of the film. When Harry Met Sally... comes to the same conclusion (including the sex) thought it approaches it from a more stereotypical direction; that is to say, Harry is more like Tannen’s stereotypical male, Sally more like Tannen’s stereotypical female.

The weird thing is, as I’m looking at Tannen’s (1990) piece in the Washington Post—”Sex, Lies and Conversation; Why Is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other?“, I’m realizing that I am more of a male than I might have thought. I mean, I had six older sisters and thus spent a lot of time around females growing up, I was a stay-at-home dad for years, and have never had an interest in some of the more (supposedly) masculine things like sports or cars or whatever. But, the way Tannen describes men and women... I’m far more the male, and some of the emergent problems arising between men and women were definitely present between my wife and me.

Before I get to an example, let’s backtrack a little. Tannen writes of male-female communication as being, effectively, cross-cultural. This arises because of childhood socialization (Tannen, 1990). Essentially, boys playing together have one set of “organizational structures and interactive norms” and girls playing together have another. For girls,

intimacy is the fabric of relationships, and talk is the thread from which it is woven. Little girls create and maintain friendships by exchanging secrets; similarly, women regard conversation as the cornerstone of friendship.

Notably, Gregory not only focuses on conversation for his connection to Rose, but also to his friend Henry. The two of them don’t play sports together; they are seen briefly at a bar where baseball is playing on the television, but the focus of the scene only barely suggests that they are watching the game. Rose’s relationships with her sister, her mother, and her friend Doris are defined by conversation—which is appropriate for their femaleness—but then she enjoys watching baseball.

The expectation that comes when those little girls grow up and become women, Tannen tells us, is that a woman expects her husband to be a new and improved version of her best friend. In The Mirror Has Two Faces, Doris is seen early in the film, but disappears for a while when Rose and Gregory are married, only to show up again after Rose has left him.

“Bonds between boys can be as intense as girls’,” Tannen writes, “but they are based less on talking, more on doing things together. Since they don’t assume talk is the cement that binds a relationship, men don’t know what kind of talk women want, and they don’t miss it when it isn’t there.” This wasn’t my problem, I don’t think. And, it is certainly not Gregory’s, or Harry’s.

Interestingly, Tannen describes the way men and women (and boys and girls) arrange themselves when talking to friends of the same gender. Men and boys will sit next to each other, women and girls will sit facing each other. This is demonstrated in The Mirror Has Two Faces as well—one of the few times the film frames Gregory as particularly masculine; compare Gregory and Henry sitting next to each in the bar scene to Rose and Doris sitting across from each other at Claire’s wedding reception or their lunch late in the film. A man might appear to not be listening because he’s not, say, making eye contact, but he may be paying close attention to what a woman is saying. Another difference in childhood that leads to miscommunication as adults is that boys switch topics often while girls will speak at length on a single topic. An adult female, then, might think a man isn’t interested in what she is talking about when he might simply think that particular topic has been covered.

And, I realize I’ve been wording this so far as if it’s a defense of the males here, but this stuff works both directions. Going back to that last example, for instance, a man might think the woman isn’t interested in what he wants to talk about because she keeps returning to the same topic instead of moving on to his new one. The confusion could be his or hers.

The big one that I think definitely applies to me and my ex is “listener-noise.” Tannen cites linguist Lynette Hirschman’s findings that women make more—noises “such as ‘mhm,’ ‘uhuh,’ and ‘yeah,’ to show ‘I’m with you’ [while men] more often give silent attention.” Even still, I will get text messages from anyone, not just females, and I won’t feel everything needs a response. I got the message, thanks for the info, I’m moving on. But, then I learn someone wanted a response. Or, when we were together, my wife would say something and expect a response but my thing a lot of the time was that, if it wasn’t a question, there was no obligation to respond. Doesn’t mean I never would respond, but sometimes I wouldn’t, and that probably made it look like I didn’t care

The Mirror Has Two Faces uses an instrumental version of Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me,” a song featured in Groundhog Day as well, and its lyrics encapsulate the issue between men and women...

No you don’t know the one
Who dreams of you at night
And longs to kiss your lips
And longs to hold you tight
Oh, I’m just a friend
That’s all I’ve ever been
No you don’t know me

There’s a hint of the friend zone there as well.

There is hope, though. Tannen explains:

The communication problems that endanger marriage can’t be fixed by mechanical engineering. They require a new conceptual framework about the role of talk in human relationships. Many of the psychological explanations that have become second nature may not be helpful, because they tend to blame either women (for not being assertive enough) or men (for not being in touch with their feelings). A sociolinguistic approach by which male-female conversation is seen as cross-cultural communication allows us to understand the problem and forge solutions without blaming either party.

Once the problem is understood, improvement comes naturally...

Women who feel abandoned and deprived when they husbands won’t listen to or report daily news may be happy to discover their husbands don’t adapt once they understand the place of small talk in women’s relationships. But if their husbands don’t adapt, the women may still be comforted that for men, this is not a failure of intimacy. Accepting the difference, the wives may look to their friends or family for that kind of talk. And husbands who can’t provide it shouldn’t feel their wives have made unreasonable demands. Some couples will still decide to divorce, but at least their decisions will be based on realistic expectations.

Figuring out a problem exists is an important first step to solving (or avoiding) that problem in the future. Rose is, on one level, wrapped up in her looks, and is hesitant to marry Gregory on his terms. Had she expressed as much rather than simply asking how she could marry someone she hasn’t kissed, maybe they never would have gotten married and would have instead remained friends, or maybe they could have renegotiated before getting married rather than months later.

But, really, there’s another problem at work here. Just like with When Harry Met Sally...—which ended differently originally, remember—Hollywood just cannot handle the idea of men and women being friends. They have to be lovers as well. Gregory Larkin may have had a noble goal, but he exists within a film, so he never stood a chance.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

everything is about sex

“In coming up...” A Freudian slip about six minutes into the film. Candy has sat down at the library presentation Greg’s giving about his book. Gregory is flustered by her presence and, more specifically, her legs. He quickly corrects his wording to “In summing up” but the damage is done.

A movie that deliberately avoids actual sex, The Mirror Has Two Faces is understandably full of references to sex, suggestive language... double entendre and innuendo.

Like, after Claire’s wedding, Rose tells Doris, “I’d like it if someone knew me...” And she pauses just long enough, for me, that I think biblically, before she gets more literal.

(Sidenote: I just wondered aloud if Gregory just picked Rose because she taught at the same school he does. And, I also asked where he put his ad. And, Saer says from nearby, “Stop Groundhog Daying this.”)

Gregory invites Rose up to his apartment. Not, of course, for sex.

“Not unless you’re planning to use it on something else other than his neck.” Doris’ response as to whether or not a tie is too personal a birthday gift.

The shared bedroom is rife with double entendre. For example:

Gregory: “So, what would you like to do?”
Rose: “Go to bed!” Beat. “To sleep. You go to the bed to sleep.”

And this, captioned with Gregory’s choice of video: “Lawrence of Arabia. It’s nice and long.”

Followed with, “Just, stick it in.”

And, he falls asleep before it’s even over. Such a guy move.

And, this exchange...

Rose: “Come on, don’t stop.”
Gregory: “What do you think, I’m a machine?”
Rose: “Come on, come on, you’re doing great, keep it up.”
Gregory: “Ok, ready?”

And, then we see that Gregory is just doing situps, Rose holding his feet. Then, she rubs on his back after he pulls something. And, abruptly, he has to leave the room.

But, the best exchange comes right as the actual attempt at sex gets going:

Gregory: The outline is actually...
Rose (opening his shirt): Is what?

Gregory: It’s coming along... almost there. It’s not at all what I expected. It’s harder than I thought. But, I’m sure I’ll...
Rose: What are you sure of?
Gregory: I’m sure I’ll get there.
Rose: I want you to get there.

Maybe this falls in line with Henderson’s (1978) notion that the romantic comedy doesn’t talk explicitly about sex.

Not a lot of words today. It has been a long day. We’re in the middle of TA training at school. I’ve got classes to teach starting in a week and a half, another day of training tomorrow, stuff to do this weekend and into next week to prepare for the beginning of the fall quarter.

And, like Moonstruck, I have neglected bookmarked articles relating to The Mirror Has Two Faces. Maybe I will get to them in the two days I have left with this movie. Then, one more romantic comedy.

divisible by themselves

The Mirror Has Two Faces includes numerous mirrors. Shocker, I know.

The first mirror: Rose’s opening scene. She pulls a Sno Ball out of the drawer, takes a big bite, and in the mirror we see her with a facial mask on. Very cinematically feminine, snacking on junkfood stashed secretly—reminds me of Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson in The Closer, though that came later—while readying for a date. But, then there’s a baseball right by her hand, the Sno Ball juxtaposed with the baseball, two sides of her character framed within the mirror. And, she has to then choose between those two things a moment later, and she chooses to cancel her date (feigning illness) to watch the baseball game.

It’s not a literal mirror, but when Candy leaves Gregory’s apartment, he asks if he can call her. Her response: “What for?” When Rose leaves him (the second time), he also asks if he can call her? Her response: “What for?”

Another mirror: before Claire’s wedding, Rose in the pink bridesmaid dress, Claire in her wedding gown. Sisters reflected together. And there’s comment on Rose’s makeup; Claire thinks she isn’t wearing any, but she is.

Next mirror(s): after the wedding, Claire is dancing with a guy (not her new husband, so maybe a bit of foreshadowing of her eventual split from him) in a room full of mirrors. Alex can’t find her a moment later and hits on Rose. Meanwhile, Claire is outside drinking with another man.

The union of souls, that Rose says comes from courtly love, is the same sort of reflection you might get in a mirror. Think of Rose and Gregory—both teachers—as reflections of one another, or two parts of a larger whole—that’s the real romantic idea, isn’t it? Like Johnny’s theory about why men chase women in Moonstruck, romance happens because men and women are incomplete without one another.

Not a mirror, but dinner with Rose and her mother, Hannah (Lauren Bacall) is framed with a photo of her younger self just over her shoulder.

Not a mirror, but in that same scene, Hannah says to Rose, “You’re just like your father.” A reflection, if you will.

There’s a lot of pairs in this movie. Gregory has two mismatch lamps on either side of his bed. Rose has two mismatched lamps as well, one of which is actually divided symmetrically. Rose’s mishap with the remotes? Two remotes. On the wall on either side of her bed, two framed... I think they’re doilies.

When Rose spies on Gregory’s class, she looks through the window and he appears on the other side, looking back, like a reflection.

Next shot, Rose in the mirror at home, putting on makeup. She is framed along with her mother. Then, she goes to the closet and there’s another mirror, full length so we see the unshapely robe she’s wearing. Then, back to the smaller mirror as her mother offers to do her hair. For Rose, the mirror seems to define her. Later she’ll demonstrate concern about how she looked growing up in addition to how she looks in the present. It is the realization that she was pretty when she was young that gets her to go work out and eat better. Like many a stereotypical woman, Rose is stuck on the idea that she isn’t attractive.

Outside, as Rose goes for a taxi, even prettied up by her mother, her reflection is a much younger girl coming out of the building across the street, who one taxi driver goes out of his way to pick up instead of Rose.

A nice mirror shot, after Rose arrives at the restaurant with her hair a mess. As she heads for the bathroom, Gregory watches her go, he smiles, and in the mirror behind him, he puts his hand in his pocket. Maybe it’s just because of a similar move in The West Wing years later but I get the impression that Gregory in that mirror is interested in Rose even though Gregory not in that mirror is not.

Gregory’s book, and his big math thing is the “twin prime conjecture” about pairs of prime numbers. It’s almost too on-the-nose.

At the Christmas concert, Henry arrives with his date, a woman much younger than he is, a reflection of Gregory’s old dating habits even as Gregory sits at that same concert with Rose.

Not mirrors, but I see some interesting costuming things going on. Rose dresses in black, unshapely, not unlike a nun, in front of her class. At the Christmas concert, she’s wearing black. And, Gregory’s coat/scarf combination evokes a Samurai’s (or a monk’s) robe. Even moreso, Gregory’s robe later, after he refuses sex. A scene in which Rose again is dressed in black. A nun and a samurai (monk)—both images of repressed sexuality.

A lot of shots through windows and glass—just now through a pastry display—in addition to the mirrors.

Another mirror, briefly, Doris—good name—reflected, when they’re at the department store.

When Alex invades Rose’s and Claire’s lunch, his tie matches Claire’s outfit. Yet another example of his attachment—which Claire thinks is too much (I wonder if she even noticed the tie).

I’ve already pointed out how Gregory’s proposal scene, however unconventional, plays and is framed like a more conventional proposal scene. Their wedding also quite nearly splits the movie in half, timewise.

As Rose arrives home after the proposal, she stops at the mirror by the door, but we don’t see the mirror image. There is only one Rose in this moment.

And, look at this shot:

Rose, behind her mother. Behind Rose a painting of a mother and child. And, on the right side of the frame, a plant often referred to as mother-in-law’s tongue (which there was more of in the Tip Top Cafe in Groundhog Day by the way).

Cut from the wedding to Rose placing a photo of her parents onto a shelf in her now shared apartment with Gregory (with twin beds). The new couple, without romance to the old couple, who we later learn maybe wasn’t as great as Rose might’ve though. Her mother tells her, “That feeling that you have for Gregory, i don’t think i ever felt that, not even for your father.”

The park is full of couples in love—even Barry, the guy who Rose was supposed to go out with at the beginning of the film, with a fiancĂ©. Meanwhile, Gregory is writing and Rose is (not) reading. The reflection is flawed. The marriage is flawed as well.

The imbalance of the marriage is reflected (pun unintended) in the costuming; Gregory dons jeans a polo shirt (at home and in class), and a classier suit on their night out. But, on that same night out, Rose is dressed in a black shapeless dress with lace that seems a bit old fashioned (of course, so does Rose’s hair). Leaving to go to the bathroom, Rose checks herself out in the mirror.

Speaking of costuming, the morning Rose warns Gregory about wanting sex, she’s still wearing black, but only a sweater over a white blouse and a long red skirt. She’s branching out... and Gregory is back to looking more like a dorky math teacher, wearing a bow tie.

The silhouette of Rose as she enters the bedroom is again, shapeless (but feminine) and black. But, change the angle and it’s clear she’s wearing a lacy robe over a nightgown, far more overtly feminine than many of her outfits.

Gregory leaves Rose curled up on the floor. When she emerges from the bathroom at the end of the sequence, he is curled up on his bed (he fell asleep waiting for her to reemerge). And, between these two shots we get Gregory on one side of the bathroom door, Rose on the other, then Rose seeing herself in the mirror again. When she leaves, she takes the photo of her parents. She takes marriage with her.

And, back at her apartment, she is in the mirror again. And, now she asks if her mother thought she was pretty as a baby. And, she remains in front of the mirror until her sister is mentioned. Then, she sits beside a photo of a younger Lauren Bacall to continue the conversation. And, she refers to her mother “looking at yourself in the mirror with such appreciation.” Rose’s problem is not that men don’t find her to be beautiful; it is that she doesn’t.

There’s a nice transition from Rose, sitting in her bedroom listening to Gregory’s phone message, to her mother sitting in the breakfast nook. The implication is that Rose will end up like her mother. And this is when her mother reveals that she settled for Rose’s father. She’s jealous of what Rose has with Gregory.

Of course there are mirrors at the gym where Rose works out. A lot of mirrors.

And at the salon where Rose gets made up.

Gregory fixes his tie in the mirror when he gets home from Europe.

(And, the music playing is an instrumental version of You Don’t Know Me, making another connection to Groundhog Day.)

As Rose and Gregory “break up” for the second time now, neither one really resembles their earlier selves. He’s got a less stuffy-math-teacher suit on, and she’s wearing a shapely dress (not to mention the makeup and lightened hair).

Gregory’s problem with baseball before was that he didn’t understand playing a game where you just end up where you started. With Rose’s “What for?” Gregory is back where he was an hour and a half ago. He played a game and he lost.

But, he came out changed. Rose dresses differently for her class, and Gregory is out at a bar with Henry, baseball playing on the television. He’s now more of a man, Rose more of a woman. Hell, out at a bar herself, with her sister, Rose now wears read—earlier red was her sister’s color.

Rose sits at the mirror doing her hair as her television talks about how we all want to be attractive. She seems tired of the idea. She looks at a photo from her wedding. But, then Alex calls.

Another reflection: Mr. Jenkins tells Hannah he thinks she’s more beautiful now than her old photos. Meanwhile, Rose is with Alex except she thinks he is only interested because she‘s more beautiful now, too. I guess she wasn’t paying attention to every scene she’s shared with Alex since the film began. He was obviously interested in her well before she changed.

And, finally, the playing of Puccini while Rose and Gregory kiss is a callback to Rose’s lecture near the beginning of the film—the idea that we all hear Puccini when we kiss.