Boy Meets World: Scott Pilgrim and The American
September 6, 2010 2 Comments
Because it’s September and I’m not back in school, I have been going to the movies like crazy. Most of what I have seen is solid but off balance. Late fall movies seem unevenly paced, with rougher casting choices and strange edits, and the most recent three I have seen are each their own wild representation of flatout boy fantasy. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the gamer/indie boy version where a young man without any agency in his life somehow ends up with his ex-girlfriends hugging him and encouraging him to forget about their feelings, and follow his heart. They want to make sure that he is okay. There is a quick bend to suggest that the women are empowered (they are fairly badass, and say sassy things), but at the end of the day, the two female sub-leads (Knives Chau, Scott Pilgrim’s original girlfriend who is still in high school, and Ramona Flowers, his very mature and independent lovequest) offer a spectrum of ideal cardboard girlfriends: meek and devoted (and hot) to sexually empowered and hard to get (and hot). Ramona almost has a life outside of Scott, but ultimately she needs him to save her from her evil jerk boyfriend who she is reluctantly obsessed with. The movie almost lets her go join the other two dimensions of her character that are lurking somewhere, but instead, Scott joins her. Scott is no catch, which is supposed to be charming and realistic. And perhaps we often do have to choose in the dating world between somebody who is too easy to date and demands no growth (and who is perhaps embarrassing), and the other that would demand we do quite a bit to catch up to them (if we are lucky enough to grab their attention). And Scott is supposed to grow when he realizes that he has hurt girls’ feelings in the past and apologizes. The fantasy presented here, and it is an entertaining one, is that as a kindly, unmotivated sadsack, you can find strong hot women who will coddle you into a more mature adolescence.
The American is George Clooney vs. The World, and in this version the sadsackery smells like Old Spice. Clooney’s character, Mr. Butterfly, comes complete with the requisite European spy sweater (navy blue, with a zip collar…Bond is a big fan of this sweater as well), tattoos speaking of an obvious metaphorical (one is a butterfly) and military past. He is a version of the masculine dream: unfettered, expert, doing chin ups in a barren Italian hideway, surrounded by gorgeous women who never wear slips. There are so many scenes of women in light dresses walking towards the sun that the dedication to the silhouette of the inner thigh is admirable. He is so lucky as to have encounters with a beautiful large breasted assassin, and a beautiful large breasted prostitute, who is so kind as to want to start a life with our fella, and also make love in the river. The assassin just wants to astound him with her professionalism, and coyly drink some wine in a meadow. She is so professionally put together that she wears smart driving gloves when she’s not even driving. He’s the kind of man who drinks whiskey after sex, and his gal dips her finger into his drink as he sullenly watches the fire, and she lovingly watches him. But it’s not all easy for him. He has issues. He is always looking over his shoulder. It’s dangerous for him to get involved with people. He can’t trust anybody. Like Scott Pilgrim, I enjoyed this movie, but it’s immense predictability made me think of it as a well made cliche’ layer cake. He’s also really good with guns. I offer that Tilda Swinton’s I Am Love is the female equivalent to this movie. Both rely heavily on the restraint and beauty of Italian life and landscape. Both are character studies of people who are caught between suffocating rules of societies that have isolated them to an extreme point, and who have a last chance at a life of the senses. Both lean on methods of melodrama, but Swinton’s is active and filled with small moments of suprise and delight making it messy and actually sensual. The American is so textbook that it’s difficult to call it beautiful. Meticulous, yes, but a wonder only as much as a well-made watch pleases by correctly announcing the expected hour. He is old school masculinity, tempered by the metaphor of a butterfly, which hits the audience so repeatedly I’m surprised I don’t have bruises. There are endangered butterflies, there are cocoons, there are butterflies flying up and up and away. This is Don Draper in Italy, sans officemates, sans new take.
Where Scott Pilgrim is barely motivated to do anything, Mr. Butterfly is keenly wound, but they are both waiting for the world to approach them. And when it does, it involves beautiful ladies, some fighting and shit, and some weary growth. In punk or couture costumes, women are mostly still ribs, helpmates to keep the fellas company.
The last installation to my late summer study is The Other Guys, which is its own pickle, and thus, will get a post of its own.