The term “kindred spirit” never meant much to me until I watched Will Smith throw a plate of food at a wall in I Am Legend.
Smith’s character, the brilliant but tortured Dr. Robert Neville, is the only survivor on Earth following a man-made plague. Yet, he isn’t alone. During the day, he hunts the Darkseekers: vampire-like beings, once human who were susceptible to the Krippin virus and became infected, but lived. By night, he barricades himself in his home, listening to Bob Marley, drinking whiskey and praying for sunrise.
About an hour in, Dr. Neville has all but given up. He’s in his darkest hour, the mutant vampires closing in. It’s then that a woman and child appear from nowhere and save him from certain death. In the morning, he wakes to sounds from the kitchen. Entering, gun in hand, he finds they’ve prepared breakfast. He sets the gun down and sits, perturbed by something.
The three strangers begin to eat. Smith nibbles his eggs. (What zombie chickens are still laying during the middle of this hell?) The woman speaks of a survivor’s colony they’re going to check out.
He can’t take it. He won’t listen to such nonsense. He erupts.
“They’re all dead! Everyone is dead!” he yells, and rifles his plate of bacon and eggs into the wall behind him. Food and ceramic shards spray in every direction. The woman and boy jump to their feet.
Still, there’s something deeper troubling Smith.
He swirls his huge hands around his head, says he needs a minute.
Pounds the table twice. Grimaces.
His guests jump, no doubt, even if off-camera.
Finally, he admits to what really set him off.
“I just…I was savin’ that bacon,” he says, disappointment clinging to every syllable. His face a twisted, tortured show of dejection. “I was savin’ it.”
Man, that hits me in the chest every time. These guests have zero respect. You don’t just eat someone else’s bacon without asking first.
By this time, the woman and boy are clutching each other, trembling. The woman holds a gun at the ready even though Smith hasn’t raised his voice once after his initial flip-out.
Now, you might argue Smith’s outburst wasn’t that dramatic, that he didn’t fly off the handle or go as berserk as I feel he was warranted, the breakfast plate violence withstanding. He wasn’t Al Pacino in Scarface, or Adam Driver in Marriage Story, or Amanda Plummer as Honey Bunny in Pulp Fiction, and yet, Smith’s performance was just as iconic to me.
I implore you to consider his guests, the horror etched on their faces. Recalibrate the scale of what going nuts looks like to these two. Remember, the woman and child haven’t seen another human on this desolate, plague-infested earth in who knows how long. Same as Dr. Neville. We can now commiserate a little with how they felt, going through a seemingly never-ending pandemic of our own; how awkward meeting someone in-person feels. Now imagine a stranger hurling a plate of bacon against a wall and yelling at you. Can’t you see how those two table pounds exploded in their ears like shotgun blasts at close range? How every huff, grimace, and eyeroll from Smith must have pierced their emotional cores?
I’ll say it once more: You don’t mess with a person’s bacon!
Again, you’ll argue there are scenes in Smith’s other movies where he goes more nuts. After all, there’s a compilation of all his yelling scenes from 22 different movies. I mean, that’s all he did in I, Robot, right? Just freaked out and yelled at poor Sonny.
Still, no other scene resonates with me like the bacon scene in I Am Legend. The tension is real, the stakes dire. While I’m watching it, I find myself wondering what kind of bacon Dr. Neville was saving. Thick-sliced? Or maybe back bacon, its leanness offering a higher meat to fat ratio than other cuts? Canadian bacon? Streaky bacon, as we Americans are so familiar with—the crispy deliciousness that saddles up next to pancakes or eggs with equal complimenting perfection. Or maybe it was something a little more unique, such as pancetta, an Italian version of cured pork belly. More than likely it was smoked bacon with a hint of maple flavor to it. Yes, that’s what I would like to think it was.
I just hope to god it wasn’t turkey bacon Dr. Neville was savin’ for a special day. There’s no defending that.
Curtis Ippolito is a writer living in San Diego, California. Follow him @curtis9980 on Twitter.
Categories: Film & TV: Nuts on Screen