Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hollywood endings....

Every few days I go to my local library and flip through their DVD collection. I usually get box sets of TV series I've either missed or that air on channels I don't get. Occasionally I pick up a feature film or two, especially if it's something recent that I've read about. I don't go to see films in theaters anymore; the stress of dealing with other people distracts me for days before I even go. The last film I went to see in a theater was Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan anti-bio pic, I'm Not There. During the opening credits there was a fire alarm in the mall where the theater was and everyone was evacuated. I got the message: no exceptions.

I'm not a big Oliver Stone fan. I never made it through the first 10 minutes of Platoon; I can watch JFK if I watch it as a comedy. I am a fan of Natural Born Killers however, and I was surprised by World Trade Center because he avoided any whiff of "conspiracy" and never gave a second thought to the hijackers, choosing instead to tall a story about the first responders, which is the only important story to tell in all of that.

I thought Wall Street (1987) was OK, although it would have been thoroughly forgettable but for Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko. I like Michael Douglas (having finally forgiven him for his part in the ruining of Ken Kesey's novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) so when I saw the DVD of the Wall Street sequel, Money Never Sleeps, on the library shelf I brought it home.

The film is worth seeing for Douglas' performance alone. The subtlety and nuance he brings to the post-prison, broke and broken Gordon Gekko sent me back to the internet to look up the number of individual muscles in the human face (a lot). And watching Douglas appear to age backwards as the events unfold forward and he builds another fortune is a particularly stunning part of that performance.

But watching the film also became another reminder of the diminishing effects of the "Hollywood ending." I use the phrase to describe that peculiar effect the ending of a mainstream Hollywood film has upon the film as a whole - specifically, the way in which this sort of ending takes what might have been a very good film, and suddenly body slams it onto the concrete pavement of mediocrity.

For example....

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) would have been considerably more powerful (and shorter) had the credits rolled when William Hurt's character Louis, having just been released from prison, is getting on a bus still undecided about what he will do next.

The Devil Wore Prada (2006) is well worth seeing for Meryl Streep's performance as Miranda, but if the credits had rolled in the scene toward the end where Miranda sits in her limo with Andy (Ann Hathaway) and the film had ended with Andy still undecided about the choice that lays in front of her, it would have been a far better film.

The end of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps actually ruins the film. The Gordon Gekko we see at the very end reminds me of the Rocky Balboa of Rocky IV, a mutant who bears no resemblance to the human being in Rocky (1976). Even more however, the Hollywood ending of Money Never Sleeps is Oliver Stone losing his nerve and folding like a cheap suit. For ninety minutes we are told, in tremendous detail, how we were screwed, how we are being screwed, how we will be screwed in the future, and how we can't do a goddamn thing about it.

But wait... yes we can... maybe... look... happy.

In the end then we are screwed by Wall Street, just like this film is screwed by this Hollywood ending.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just watched Michael Douglas in "Solitary Man" and I think he was just brilliant in it. If you can ever get that one, get it!