Thursday, November 17, 2011

The American - In Which George Clooney Mortifies My Son

Yesterday, George Clooney's latest film, The Descendants, opened in "select cities." None of these cities are one in which I currently live. I don't know who to address about this important issue but, when it comes to the opening of Clooney films, wherever I am living should be considered a "select city."

Not only will I see the film the day it opens, but I also will drag others along with me.

Case in point: When The American opened in Birmingham last fall on a Wednesday (or what we parents refer to as a "school night"), I dropped off my daughter, Kate, at a friend's house and I took my son, Jacob, to the movie.

The movie was rated R but, from what I could gauge from reviews and trailers, what we would see was probably no worse than hundreds of images on Jacob's Xbox games.

Unfortunately for Jacob, this film about a hit man doing one last job (according to movies, a criminal's last job is the only one worth showing) is ponderously slow. For something called The American, it has the pace of a foreign film.

Full disclosure: I enjoy even the most boring Clooney films. Solaris (2002) is so slow it's like the big-screen equivalent of watching a televised golf tournament on a Sunday afternoon (nap time), but - damn - does George look wonderful in it? Yes, he does. Does he look sad and do I want to comfort him with a few bourbon cocktails and a make-out session? Yes, I do.

As time has passed and I have experienced a little more of life (and a lot more of death than I care to), I have gained a new appreciation for the story in Solaris (if not its execution on film). The love interest of George Clooney's psychologist character commits suicide and, years later when George visits a space station where weird things are happening, this weird thing happens: His dead girlfriend reappears. But then she attempts to kill herself again. And again. Because she isn't real. She is only a manifestation of his memories of her and, so, tragically, she will always be someone who kills herself.



When people only exist in the past, we must question who they are in our minds versus who they were in the world outside our memories. When people commit suicide, we must relive, over and over, what led them to the end. No matter how many alternate endings we attempt to create, we must find a way to accept that there is no alternative. If we do not accept this, we will end up lost in space. More people might know this if they hadn't fallen asleep while watching Solaris.

Perhaps there will come a year when Jacob, who was 14 when he accompanied me on this school-night movie date, will appreciate The American. But, upon first viewing, he deemed it boring and mortifying. Because George Clooney wasn't just a hit man performing one last assignment in the beautiful Italian countryside. He was a hit man having sex with an Italian prostitute. Uh oh.

During one scene, George and the prostitute engage in an act no son should have to watch while sitting next to his mother. Jacob quickly turned his head, put his left hand up to shield his peripheral vision, and looked at me.

"Tell me when it's over," he whispered.

A long moment of awkwardness ensued.

"OK," I whispered. "It's over. Listen, Jacob, he was just giving her a foot rub."

"Ha ha, Mom. I'm going to sneak into Lottery Ticket."

And, with that, Jacob picked up his soda and his popcorn and he left the theater.



1 comment:

  1. Poor Jacob. As the person sitting on the other side of you during the "foot rub" scene, I can attest to his discomfort. I've never seen a kid sink so low into his chair in my life. It was like watching a really, really sedentary Transformer.

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