Intimate, and Only Quasi-Annoying, Movie

April 12, 2009 at 9:40 am Leave a comment

Yesterday I went to a movie for the first time since I walked out of 300 a few years ago, because it was played on some new type of screen that made me want to throw up. Thankfully, we were at a mall theater, so I left my husband in Spartan bliss while I went to American Eagle Outfitters and trolled the $5.00 basket for something wearable.
This time I met some friends at an art theater to see The Black Balloon, although I mistakingly called it The Red Balloon, which is about some kid who becomes friends with a red balloon but it’s destroyed by bullies and then a bunch of other red balloons show up and take the kid on a ride. It’s mute with attempted meaning in the way the French have down pat.
The Black Balloon is about a boy coming to terms with his autistic/ADD younger brother, while falling in love and dealing with the rest of his family. It’s an Australian film, so I hoped Russell Crowe would be in it, but instead I got Toni Collette, the only thing that makes The United States of Tara watchable.
The Aussies are grittier than Americans, and less tolerant of couching reality, so the Autistic kid was annoying and retarded 2/3 of the time, and charming and retarded only 1/3 of the time. We Americans love to show our cinematic retarded people as good-natured shamans, who force us to understand some essential truth about our own, non-retarded lives.
Yes, I know the difference between autistic and mentally retarded, and that the word retard is out of favor. Hell, I spent years in elementary school being called “retard,” which was actually a refreshing change from “Christ Killer.”
For the purposes of the move, the kid was called autistic, but he acted retarded and violent enough to be institutionalized. The he pulled some cute, relatable stunt, just enough so the audience would share an “awwww, you can’t take this kid away from his family,” moment. Then he acted violent again. That’s what I liked about this movie. That and the fact that the girl who played the older brother’s girlfriend was gorgeous, and the movie kept reminding us of that by shooting the kind of close-ups that implore us to count pores. It made me feel better to know that young, beautiful woman still have pores that beg to be squeezed.
It was the day after the movies’ premiere, a matinée with reduced admission.  Yet there were only about 15 people in the theater. It made me wonder how many people were taking this recession-cutting-back-on-spending-thing seriously But their spendthrift nature was my bonus gift, because I’m a personal-space lover and germaphobe. I got to experience the intimacy of being with strangers, without actually having to be near them.
But I did have to be near my friends, one of whom had constipation and missed the first ten minutes of the movie, and the other who brought a hummus lunch despite the reasonably priced pizza and panini served at the concession stand.
The movie was about a half hour too long, as most movies seem to be these days. But I liked the no-plot slice-of-life art movie thing, as much I was bored by it.
It was an atypical cold and rainy April day in the desert, and hanging out in a huge room in the dark with something big flickering on one wall had a certain appeal. Plus I could sort of relate to the retarded kid, what with my hyperactivity, low thrill threshold, and massive brattiness when I don’t get my way. All my friends knew it.  So much so that one friend called my husband and implored him to repeat one of the pivitol lines in the film, “can you say monkey?” to me when I called.
And in case you’re wondering-yes, I can say monkey-very well, thank you.

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Roberta Gale

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