Everybody loves a heartwarming children’s story about our nation’s cohesive historical through-line of racism and prison labor, right? Aside from a few moments of heavy-handedness in making sure the viewer really got a connection between certain plot points, and a couple of musical choices, Holes is much more of a movie that happens to be about children than a children’s movie. Dulé Hill has the kind of soft voice and sad eyes that take a very few moments of screen-time and turn them into a tragedy for the ages, and Sigourney Weaver is excellent as the kind of heartless villain you kind of want to step on you. It’s unsurprising that the screenplay for the Disney version was adapted by the book’s author, since the only part of the movie which was in any significant way unfaithful to the source material was that fact that Stanley is supposed to be fat.
On The Rocks
Spoiler for the end of this movie in a sec, because it’s beautifully made in a quirky, early-Woody-Allen-homage kind of way, but the ending proves that the writer hadn’t quite gotten to the end of her emotional journey of self-discovery before sitting down to write a movie about it; like the movie’s protagonist, she pitched a story she wasn’t ready to write yet. The movie assures me that Rashida Jones’ husband was, actually, not cheating on her after all, and that this meant that everything had been fine all along. This is untrue because a) I am entirely unconvinced that he was not actually cheating, but also b) even if he wasn’t, all of the things she picked up on — the moments of coldness, the absence, the lack of consideration — were still there. Even if he’s not cheating, there’s still trouble in paradise, and the fact that On The Rocks doesn’t seem to know this leaves the movie feeling like a piece of work that’s had the third act clumsily hacked off from the body of the piece with a set of garden shears.
The thing about tropes is that, when you take away the challenge of coming up with a brand new plot-structure hook, and instead go all-in on the second or fifth or thirty-fifth round of people wondering “what would happen if?” about the same flight of fancy — in this case time travel — what each creator chooses to do with that same, repeated idea is, in some ways, a better way of parsing what that person’s real personality or priorities are. If time travel is the control in the experiment, the way in which it’s either wish-fulfillment of dystopia, feast or famine, is what points a spotlight at the psyche of each new writer who takes on the old idea. About Time talks a good game as a thought experiment — it establishes a few rules of the universe it inhabits, sets a couple of boundaries for what even this superhuman power can and cannot achieve, and it flirts with the truly unsettling possibilities of time travel, including the intense power imbalance of a world where only the very few have any number of chances to try a social situation out again and again until they get it right while everyone else they’re out in the world interacting with is none the wiser. But ultimately, the question that makes About Time tick isn’t about fate versus free will, or about whether personhood is purely biological or whether a less quantifiable form of soul is at play. Ultimately, the idea About Time is interested in is the tension between a loved but finite past and a bright but uncertain future, and the fact that, even in a world which provides a literal alternative, the only real and fulfilling direction to move through time is forward. Underneath that more ambitious idea, there’s the even simpler “what if?” that boils down to “what if you could have just one more hour with someone you loved?”
This is the kind of theme which can only be effectively written by a much-loved person who has lead a basically happy life, and as such, there’s something intensely warm and soothing about About Time. There are moments of tension woven through the meandering plot, and many of the turns of events are unexpected not because they’re twists, but rather because they don’t add up to a traditional introduction — rising action — climax — conclusion plot structure, but on the whole, the movie isn’t compelling because it’s suspenseful, or because anything much outside the realm of a quiet, gently-funny, upper-middle-class British life unfolding happens. Instead, it’s compelling because both the main character and his screenwriter really love this particular quiet, gently-funny, upper-middle-class British life and the people in it, and the storytelling is strong enough to allow the viewer to love them, too.
I’ve figured out that a big part of my Entourage thing is just missing California — “missing California” shows include Entourage, The O.C. and Veronica Mars. This list might sound a) like I’m emotionally trapped in the aughts and I can’t get out and b) like I’m from southern California. To these charges I say a) guilty as charged and b) there really aren’t any good TV shows set in Berkeley. But when you get right down to it, one part of California tends to look more like the other parts of California than it does like any other place besides the states which directly border it, and the three shows I mention are the ones I can think of which take the most joy from being set in California, rather than just happening to shoot there because they don’t have a travel budget.
I’ve recently been watching the season where Turtle gets a girlfriend and thinking about the weirdness of watching this show, laughing at its jokes, but also knowing that Jeremy Piven doesn’t just play a misogynist on TV. On the one hand, it takes a little bit of extra effort to only consume media that doesn’t contain the work of someone who has more-than-likely committed sexual assault. On the other, of course, there are the dual truths that a) you can still fucking do it, though, and b) Entourage, as a piece of work that doesn’t just contain the work of people who have done bad things, but which also perpetuates the attitudes which gave tacit or not-so-tacit permission for those acts, is more culpable than many others. But on the third hand, no one’s going to un-make Entourage now whether I watch it or not, and no one has made a very good show set in Berkeley, and the shopfront in the Entourage credits with the green and black stripes around the front window invariably makes me think of the tattoo and piercing shop Zebra.
Sidney Dritz is currently reevaluating what to do with the rest of her life, which makes the angle to take in bios tricky. She finished her three-college tour of America at the University of Southern Maine, and her poetry has appeared in Glass Poetry Press’s #PoetsResist series, in Claw & Blossom, and in Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters.