Friday, December 29, 2017

everything we’ve got to work with

I would especially note the kitchen scene late in the film between Dave (Nick Thune) and Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani). It goes a little something like this...

Keep in mind, Annie has bought into the maze (she is the one who hangs the towel over the exit to keep the Minotaur inside). The apartment has been taken over by the maze. They have just come up with the plan to create the chrysalis at the heart of the maze to give the whole a weak spot. Dave didn't make a weak spot originally because, "then someone could destroy it." Harry and Annie don't come right out and say it, exactly, but they frame failure (or the potential for it) as part of life. No matter how much Dave wanted this maze to last, it is supposed to have a weak spot, because everything has a weak spot. That is life itself. Success really matters because to get there you overcome the potential for failure. Dave says, of the maze, "This is the only thing I've ever started that's worth finishing, and if I hadn't made it then no one would have gotten hurt." It's unbridled ambition injected into the shape of an unemployed hipster; a strange mix, to be sure, but that's what it is. He is so used to failure--he certainly sees himself as a failure--that when he could finally make something without a weakness, he did it, damn the consequences. And, whether or not the blood and guts are real, the dead friends to not magically reappear at the end of the film.

Earlier, Dave and Gordon (Adam Busch) were rhyming for no reason than (presumably) that's a thing they do. It's also symbolic of Gordon's early buy-in. When Dave says they have to finish the maze, Gordon is there with him. But, it's a good 2/3 through the movie before Annie really buys in. She stands up boldly and pronounces: "You've got to build the chrysalis, in order to rescue us." (But, she pronounces it riscue us, to get a sort of rhyme that barely works.)

The group ventures through an odd waist-high maze inside one room of the larger maze, they meet the cardboard puppet version of Brynn (Stephanie Allynne), and Dave and Annie separate from the group to make the chrysalis, leaving the group to distract Brynn. Puppet Brynn tells the documentary crew that the Minotaur was “born in shame, the dark manifestation, the unwanted.” Annie and Dave are going to cut themselves through the walls to the center of the maze, and as they are walking, the darkness of one hallway cuts to the two of them, in the same outfits they're wearing in the maze, sitting at the kitchen counter. Two plates but only one coffee cup.

Annie: You didn't have to get up so early.
Dave: I wanted to be with you. You're coffee's gonna get cold.
Annie: Where's your cup?
Dave: I don't want coffee this morning.
Annie: Are you going back to sleep?

And, when it cuts back to Dave this time, he's wearing pajamas and a long nightcap.

Dave: No. There just wasn't enough for two.

Annie now wears a business suit, like she's off to work.

Annie: Well, now I feel bad.
Dave: Don't feel bad. Just have your coffee.
Annie: Here,have some.

She pushes the cup toward him.

His outfit flickers, between his previous outfit, the pajamas, and finally settles on a cartoonish hobo outfit, with a stick over his shoulder, makeshift bag hung on the stick.

Dave: I made it for you.

Annie's outfit flickers and settles onto a pink sleeveless dress.

Annie: I don't want to drink it all if you can't have any.

Dave: Just drink it.

The coffee clearly doesn't taste good. She drinks, makes a face, sets it down.

Annie: What have you got going on today?

Dave now wears a cartoony artist getup, paint-stained smock, beret, paintbrush and palette.

Dave: The usual.
Annie: Well, look out, world.

Dave reaches out and pulls the coffee cup to him. Drinks. Sets it down. The eye contact between the two of them is quite passive aggressive.

Annie: I thought you weren't going to have any.
Dave: I changed my mind.

Scene change, sort of. Same location. Some things are covered in cardboard--picture frames, pots, pans. Maze outfits. No plates. Bottle of wine. One glass. Annie pours.

Dave: Where's your glass?
Annie: I'm not drinking anything tonight.

Dave wears a fancy suit, bow tie, scarf.

Dave: Big day tomorrow?

Annie wears a wedding gown. She holds a bouquet.

Annie: Yep.
Dave: Well, now I feel bad.

She removes her veil. She removes her dress, and it's nothing but crepe paper. She crumples it and tosses it aside. Her maze outfit from before is underneath.

Annie: Don't feel bad. Just have a drink.

Dave pulls off his suit getup. It's also made of paper now. The scarf is cardboard. Annie smiles. Dave crumples the suit.

Annie wears a stereotypical teacher outfit, big boring white collar. Cat eye glasses. And she hits her hand with a ruler. All made of cardboard.

Dave: Here, you have some.
Annie: Just drink it.

He drinks. She pulls off the latest costume.

Dave's new costume is a clown. Mostly cardboard, even the large brown nose.

Dave: So, what have you got going on tomorrow?

Annie wears a judge costume, with packing peanut wig. She holds a gavel that is at least partly made of a crossword puzzle.

Annie: The usual.
Dave: Look out, world.

Annie leans over the counter and pulls Dave's clown costume off of him. Then she removes her own.

She takes a drink of his wine.

Dave: Oh, I thought you weren't going to have any.
Annie: I changed my mind.

Scene change again. Same room, but everything is cardboard--the cabinets, the counter, the floor, the chairs. (Even another scene outside the window.) 

There is a candle burning between Dave and Annie.

Dave: There's nothing left.
Annie: Don't feel bad.
Dave: Well, I wanted us to have some.
Annie: We'll be all right.
Dave: Are you gonna go back to sleep?
Annie: No. I wanna be with you.
Dave: What are we gonna do tomorrow?
Annie: The usual.

The scene around them shakes. Dave smiles.

Annie: What are you doing?
Dave: I'm changing my mind.

He blows out the candle. The minotaur's face appears in the flame as he does so.

The costumes can be taken a couple ways.

The negative: Annie's costumes push her away from Dave. The wedding dress and suit are nice, and they work as connective tissue (but they are also the first costumes that Dave and Annie actively remove). But, otherwise, she's the working one of the couple (the business suit), she's his teacher, she's his judge. He's lazy, he's an artist (hardly a lucrative career), he's a clown.

The positive: She pulls away the clown costume, though, and of course, in whatever subconscious way, he controls the costumes. He sees himself as the lazy artist/clown. But, she pulls that costume off of him. She pulls off the teacher costume and the judge costume. She rejects his views of their relationship. She rejects his negative view of himself.

Dave's maze is a construct. He imagines his life a failure. It becomes a failure. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. But, what's really interesting in this scene is the reversal of roles, separate from the costume.

Dave gets up early to make coffee (albeit badly) because Annie is going to work. He lets her drink it. Then he has a drink. Annie: "I thought you weren't going to have any." Later, she pours the wine for him to drink. But, she has some. Dave: "I thought you weren't going to have any." Earlier in the film, Annie is the first one to enjoy Dave's keyboard hallway, stepping eagerly into the darkness between white keys. She leads the way into the maze. She makes him sandwiches. She helps him make the chrysalis. She gradually buys into his fantasy so he can once again buy into their reality. I say "once again" because how else did they get together? Maybe when they got together, they both had dreams. His went nowhere, probably because of a combination of his own lack of self-confidence, dreams that were too big for him, and the realities of the modern world. Annie's ambitions--whatever they were--maybe they were more down-to-earth, or maybe she got lucky, found the right interview on the right day. Whether through her own ability or not, she made it, he didn't. But, maybe she appreciated his dreams before. She liked his music. She liked his art. She loved it when he would leave origami birds on the bedside table. Then, she had a day job, she paid the rent, and his dreams unfulfilled felt more like hobbies holding him back. And she resented it.

Early in the film, when the pizza arrives, Dave asks Annie to come to the back of the labyrinth so they can talk through the cardboard wall. With little emotion--in such a way that you know there's bad feeling she's had to express so often that it has gotten boring--she says, "I can't. I have to get the pizza." She's tired. And, she's tired of being tired. But, Gordon offers to get the pizza, and Annie goes to talk to Dave, and he apologizes. And, while she doesn't buy into the labyrinth entirely just yet, you can tell she's used to Dave and his mishaps, Dave and his apologies. And, she's used to cleaning up his mess. (Earlier Gordon told her, "You know you're the one that's going to have to clean up all this cardboard once he takes up carpentry.") Next thing, she's heading to the bedroom to gear up for entering the maze.

Dave tells Annie at one point, "I know it's dangerous and unstable, but that's because it's incomplete." He's talking about his maze. But, also his life. Their relationship. In the end, they complete the maze together, and destroying it, and cleaning up the mess is part of that process. "None of this should work, but look at it--it's here," he says to Annie. Annie responds, with what must be here usual disappointment and resentment, "Yeah, in our apartment." This same exchange fits his life, fits their relationship. It shouldn't work, but it's here. Yeah, in our apartment. We shouldn't be together. You shouldn't put up with me. But, here we are. Yeah, in our apartment, where we're stuck because... Well, because she loves him. Long ago, his dreams turned into a cloud of failure. That doesn't mean he's done. Doesn't mean that he is a failure. He just needs to realize it. And, with Annie's help, he finishes something. He escapes it.

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