But don’t go looking for Kirk, Picard, Janeway or Sisko to show you the way.
In the next television instalment in Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic vision of a spacefaring future free from war, discrimination and want – although as Deep Space Nine showed most particularly, that’s a situation not enjoyed by every part of the galaxy – Star Trek: Discovery there will be a brand new ship, crew and captain, who could well be a woman.
It’s the first TV series for the beloved franchise since Star Trek: Enterprise finished its four season run in 2005 and marks an attempt by CBS All Access to mix it with the likes of Netflix and Amazon in the online streaming entertainment arena.
And given Star Trek’s high visibility in the pop culture consciousness, helped in no small part by the reimagined three-film film versions of the adventures of the original crew including the latest Star Trek Beyond, it stands a very good chance of accomplishing the goal set for it.
Of course at this stage we have but a teaser trailer than a Romulan/Klingon-esque ship setting forth from the orbiting station where it was built and assurances from executive producer Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) that it’s going to be brilliant, but that’s enough to get excited about what could well be another stellar entry in the Star Trek canon.
While we don’t much about the crew, its exact mission or even which time period it occupies, we do know its occupies the main Prime Timeline and not the alternate Kelvin Timeline that is home to the last three movies.
We also know, thanks to Fuller’s #SDCC appearance, reported by Nerdist, that the series will be science-oriented, strong on women characters, that it will have different visual aesthetic to previous Treks while being protective of the franchise as a whole, and that yes, even in the seriousness of space, there will be fun.
It all sounds wonderful and frankly I can’t wait to boldly go where no one (except everyone else watching Netflix with me) has gone before …
Star Trek Discovery premieres on CBS All Access is USA and Canada and Netflix around the world.
And as we prepare for the return of Star Trek to the small screen, why not take a look at this awesome video from Wisecrack, courtesy of Laughing Squid, which takes a look, not necessarily always seriously, at the philosophies of Roddenberry’s utopian future franchise.
Shakespeare may have been the one to remark on it in his play As You Like It, but the truth is all of us, at least the self-aware among us, have wondered at one time or another if we are merely playing the parts assigned to us and if there’s even a shred of authenticity on display for those who care to look.
For Renée, the concierge at one upscale Parisian apartment block, brought to life in all its rarefied glory and shame by Muriel Barbery in her book The Elegance of the Hedgehog, the musing on this truth has long since finished, and she has accepted that she is playing the part of the grumpy, ill-kempt, poorly-educated concierge, the one long assigned to her by convention and the willingness of the wealthy tenants she looks after to not question it.
Each of them are playing their roles, and while Renée understands that she is an actor atop a less than flattering or advantageous stage and knows who she reeally is, the tenants do not and many of them, bar a precious few, are content to go along with their pre-conceived, ill-thought out view of the world which sees them as top of the pile, and someone like their concierge as scurrying around its tolerated only because its necessary edges.
“My name is Renée … I am rarely friendly – though always polite – I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: I correspond very well to what social prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusions according to which life has meaning that can be easily deciphered.” (P.15)
Renée’s one advantage, and it’s not one that fills her with any lasting joy until a new tenant Kakuro Ozu moves into the complex and challenges her to not just own she is but to put it on public display, tropes be damned, is that in secret she reads her books on philosophy, art, social theory, watches films by celebrated Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu (particularly The Munekata Sisters) and exercises her well-disguised intellectualism at every turn.
The reason why the joy is fleeting is not that she doesn’t love these things – on the contrary they are her lifeforce and the sustenance she needs to get through the day – is that they can’t breathe and be given their full expression lest the tenants suspect she is more than what she appears and they take advantage of that or ridicule it.
That is Renée’s great prevailing fear; that if the truth about her and her life was exposed that she couldn’t hide away in plain sight, a protective mechanism initiated by tragic family events in her distant past.
But as The Elegance of the Hedgehog weaves its magic, a spell truncated in its power to seduce by some rather intense philosophical treatises that slow down the narrative in the first half of the book, Renée comes to realise that hiding who you are from view hurts no one but yourself and that any punitive actions that result are not worth what you must deny yourself to avoid them.
The instigator of this transformational shift in her thoughts, and approach to life is rich architect Ozu, who disregards the convention of treating the concierge as a mechanism to get things done by the tenants and not as a person.
Ozu, a wise, cultured man of ready wit, sees through Renée’s fabricated persona, as does Paloma, a precociously gifted 12 year old from the upper floors, and together these unlikely kindred spirits convince their new friend that an authentic life is the only one really worth pursuing.
And that is what makes The Elegance of the Hedgehog such a joy to read, at least once it dispenses with the over-philophising and Paloma’s gift for pre-pubescent annoying all-knowingness and commits to simply telling a highly-affecting, deeply insightful story.
The book is essentially a fairytale of sorts but one grounded in the reality of everyday life and Barbery acknowledges more than once that the road to our authentic self is strewn by a million obstacles fashioned of self-perception, social convention, prejudice, shame and ignorance, and that freeing ourselves from them is not an easy undertaking.
“Oh my gosh, I thought, does this mean that this is how we must live our lives? Constantly poised between beauty and death, between movement and its disappearance? … Maybe that’s what being alive is all about: so we can track down those moments that are dying.” [Paloma] (P. 269)
It’s this emotional realism, this understanding that while we all want happy endings that they can’t simply be conjured out of thin air or wished into existence and that we can often be our own worst enemies when it comes to living a life that actually means somethings and isn’t a confection or act.
That Renée, and to a lesser extent Paloma, finds some measure of freedom in being herself is the main thrust of a story that in typical French fashion is welcomingly realistic about the way life gives with one hand and takes with another.
That this doesn’t quite end as you might expect is almost a given – this is no Hollwywood rom com after all – but at every point you appreciate, through Barberry’s superlative language and deeply philosophical, richly-painted insights, that that is way of things and we take the blessings bestowed on us when we can.
Yes The Elegance of the Hedgehog is slow going at times in the opening half, and suffers from perhaps too much philosophising on the vicissitudes and vagaries of life, but it is on the whole, willfully and seductively charming, particularly because it dares to offer hope with realism, an understanding that while we all want happy endings, and that they are possible, that they are not a given and may come with a far greater price than any of us expect.
We are drowning in superhero narratives at the moment (or is it that we’re drowning and the superheroes are coming to rescue us and …?).
But that’s understandable.
After all, they seize the imagination, takes on bold and imaginative journeys into ourselves, the human spirit, around the world and beyond, and they reflect a lot of the things going on in this world and help us to possible make sense of them.
A number of trailers were shown at the recently-held San Diego Comic-Con and of the many that make the screens to largely receptive reactions, here are the three standouts that have me, a largely non-superhero fanboy, pretty excited.
SNAPSHOT Wonder Woman hits movie theaters around the world next summer when Gal Gadot returns as the title character in the epic action adventure from director Patty Jenkins. Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, raised on a sheltered island paradise and trained to be an unconquerable warrior. When an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers…and her true destiny. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
I absolutely love that Wonder Woman is getting her own movie at last!
Not simply because she is one of the first really high profile women superheroes out there, and thanks to Linda Carter’s portrayal, a fondly remembered part of my youth, but because she is a character who knows herself and it strong and articulate enough to stop those who would try to control her.
She is the standard bearer, regardless of your gender, of a person who stands defiantly against all the strictures, fashions and arbitrary dictums that can hamper or stop us completely from being ourselves.
And played by the amazing Gal Gadot, who was one of the few good things about Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, she is even more impressive.
This is going to be one of the standout movies of US summer blockbuster season next year, a treat for people who like action but want a superhero who actually stands for something far beyond themselves.
Marvel’s Doctor Strange follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilizing a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel cinematic universe. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
“This doesn’t make any sense.”
Not everything does. Not everything has to.”
That brief exchange between Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a man who stares death in the face and is propelled to utterly transform his life in the most magical of ways, and his teacher the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) is the reason this film has me excited.
Having no real exposure to the exposure prior to this, the idea of having everything you know challenged and having to find a way to grasp concepts and worldviews far beyond your own, is intoxicatingly good and speaks to the need all of us to live the fullest life we can.
Not all of us can but Doctor Strange shows us how important it can be, and yes granted our re-invented will likely not involve alternate dimensions, but they could be every bit as thrilling if we let them.
Throw in some eye-bendingly amazing special effects that recall Inception and some philosophical musings on light and dark sides, and Doctor Strange gives every impression of being the sort of film that will be a feast for the eyes and the mind, a rarity in any big budget film.
And oh yeah … need a wi-fi password? It has that too.
Doctor Strange opens in Australia on 27 October and USA on 4 November.
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
I must admit, try as I might I have never really warmed to Batman or Superman, despite copious iterations of both characters throughout the years.
But The Flash (bummer that Grant Gustin from the TV series wasn’t called up but you can’t have everything), Wonder Woman and especially Aquaman who I loved from the moment I saw him in the reruns of the Aquaman animated TV show from 1968-70 and again in Super Friends (1973) and The All-New Super Friends Hour (1977-78) are firm favourites and whet the appetites for what is essentially DC Comics equivalent of The Avengers.
And unlike some other DC Comics movies which have been Very Intense, there is, according to Digital Spy, some fun to be had with the Justice League:
“This Justice League trailer seems to indicate director Zack Snyder will be bringing a bit more colour and humour to the film. The very serious tone of BvS was a complaint some audiences had, but it seems like the addition of some more outlandish characters (Batman to Aquaman: “I hear you can talk to fish.”) could lighten the mood and even make it a worthy competitor to Marvel’s Avengers.”
All of which augurs well for a new series of superhero films that recalls the very best of what I loved about them growing up – the camaraderie and fun, the strength, the passion and the ability to transcend the petty concerns of life while being very much a part of it.
They were, as the jaunty theme song is fond of saying, “the modern stone age family”.
But a lot of time has passed between the 1960s when The Flintstones debuted, inspired in large part by The Honeymooners, and while the cartoon re-runs are still a delight to watch with their pterodactyl airlines, feet-powered cars and place names with a decidedly geological edge, if the habitants of Bedrock are still going to use the “modern” tag, they need some updating.
And so DC Comics, which is also rebooting Wacky Races, Scooby Doo and Future Quest, among other Hanna-Barbera properties, has obliged granting us a re-imagined The Flintstones that retains some of the hallmarks of its cartoon predecessor but throws in a whole lot more postmodern angst and social commentary as io9 notes:
“Visual differences aren’t the biggest swerve presented in the book, which is part of a multi-title Hanna-Barbera reboot that includes Scooby Apocalypse and Future Quest. The subtext of this first outing is all about the discontents of living in a post-industrial world. Fred and Barney go to a veterans’ support group where attendees break down in tears over the indigenous people they killed in manifest-destiny land grabs. Wilma frets about buying a dress that will let her properly play the role of artiste.”
Not quite so cute and goofy now are they?
But by all accounts, it works, keeping the novelty of a world with cavemen sensibilities but modern civilised touches and infusing it with a decidedly 21st century mindset.
Modern stone age family? You betcha! Now pass the Prozac will ya?
The tagline for Jason Bourne is the definitive yet poetic “You know his name”, an evocative phrase designed to speak to our familiarity with a character who, over the course of three genre-redefining films that caused among other Bond to play visual and narrative catch-up, we had come to know every well.
In fact, such has been our collective journey with Jason Bourne, played superbly by Matt Damon with the right mix of toughness and vulnerability, and directed by Paul Greengrass, that we viscerally lived every step in his quest to find out who he was and to enact justice against those shadowy figures in the CIA and the wider US Government who had stripped him of his identity in order to serve the “greater good”.
This has meant that unlike other characters who come to us largely fully-formed, Bourne was a work-in-progress that you couldn’t help but sympathise with, root for and champion at every turn.
He was the ultimate Good Guy, albeit one corrupted by powers beyond his control, up against a neverending stream of shadowy intelligence figures who couldn’t hope to compete with Bourne’s mix of toughness and emotional woundedness.
And yet 10 years after what was presented as the conclusion of his journey in The Bourne Ultimatum, which his sense of self was restored sufficiently to allow him to walk away from a fight he never asked for, there is a good chance we now know Bourne a little too well.
In other words, in Jason Bourne, he has gone from genre upsetting character on the make to the old hand with few secrets and not much left to reveal.
That’s not to say that the screenplay by Christopher Rouse and Paul Greengrass doesn’t attempt to give him some reason to put aside his restless wandering from one illegal street fight to another meet up with old ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who has uncovered some new information on Bourne’s induction into the Treadstone program and a disturbing link to his long-dead father.
But while it is, on the surface, a compelling reason to put on the old avenging gloves again, it simply doesn’t carry enough heft to sustain the narrative all the way through the film which ends up being a series of full-bore action scenes spread across the cities of the world such as Berlin, London and Las Vegas.
As far as a general spy thriller goes, Jason Bourne is perfectly serviceable, high-octane fun with just enough substance, or attempted substance, to make it worth plonking your money down at the box office.
But even though all the boxes are ticked, many of which Bourne was responsible for bringing to the table in a genre that had grown tired and imaginative, the film leaves you with the feeling you have seen it all before.
Try as you might to invest yourself fully in the tale of Bourne’s renewed question to get answers and further cement his sense of identity and purpose in life, there is nagging feeling that none of it really matters all that much.
It’s very much a sense of “Was this really necessary?” after The Bourne Ultimatum provided such a neat and fulfulling conclusion to the initial trilogy in the franchise.
Any longtime Bourne fans out there will be desperately willing the movie to conjure up the same energising life force as the first three films in the series, which sizzled with action, political commentary, real humanity and an inventive visual style that came to represent modern spy films from Bond to Mission Impossible and beyond.
And perhaps that is the problem.
With both its visual panache and its lone, wounded, searching protagonist both much aped by the genre it came to be the standard bearer for, and no real need to keep searching for answers after the really big ones had already been conclusively answered, is there anything left for Bourne to say?
Unlike Bond, who while conflicted largely came to us a complete and little-tinkered with persona, Bourne was always a man grappling with more and more unexplored dimensions to himself, and while you could argue that Jason Bourne uncovers a few more shards of information hitherto left uncovered, they really don’t the gravitas needed to give the film the emotional and existential impact of its predecessors.
The issue isn’t that this is a bad film; in many ways, it’s a gripping spy thriller that barely pauses for breath, is reasonably entertaining and does everything we expect it to do.
But therein lies the problem.
There is nothing new in Jason Bourne; again that is partly the result of the franchise being a victim of its own much-imitated success but it also speaks to a central problem with reviving a franchise whose main reason for existence was largely concluded by the last entry in the series (not counting the Jeremy Renner-starring fill-in, which was actually quite good even if distinctly Bourne-less), an entry so finely and perfectly wrought that no sequel was really needed.
But we live in an age where franchises are brought back from the figurative dead for all kinds of reasons but no one really stops to consider if it is a good idea, and if it is, whether there anyone really wants to see a beloved character brought back to big screen life.
The character of Bourne himself doesn’t suffer too much in the encounter, emerging from the well-worn fray as stoic, noble and exquisitely vulnerable as always (again a tribute to Damon’s inspired evocation of the wounded spy), but little is added either, and you emerge wondering why it is he wasn’t left to rest in peace as he would have wanted.
There are very few things these days that get me as excited as a kid at Christmas but the imminent arrival of four new episodes of the Gilmore Girls, one of my favourite TV shows ever, penned no less than by the creator and chief scribe (not including season 7) Amy Sherman-Palladino, has me wondering if I will sleep now and my birthday on 25 November.
Which if you’ve been any paying is the date that Netflix will be putting all four episodes online, unleashing a bingeing session of epic proportions that will in effect last an entire year.
Well not the actual viewing – although if you like living in Stars Hollow, the delightfully quirky Connecticut town that is home to Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bleidel) Gilmore, watching the episodes over and over for 365 days is an entirely sane and sensible thing to do – but rather the four episodes which will each take as their backdrop a season of the year and pick up the story of Stars Hollows’s favourite mother/daughter (and mother – we cannot forget grandmother Emily played by Kelly Bishop) at a pivotal point in their lives.
But as the first trailer for this most eagerly-awaited of revivals assures us, regardless of the season, some things stay very much the same.
Such as the pop culture heavy discussions between mother and daughter; in this case whether Lorelai could be friends with Amy Schumer – Rory’s reasoning for why such a friendship could never happen is as amusing and well-reasoned as you’d expect -and if John Oliver would find her hot.
It’s vintage Gilmore Girls repartee and bodes well for the four episodes which frankly cannot come soon enough especially since they are the best birthday present anyone could ask for. (Note to my partner: this does not in any way preclude the giving of any and all other presents.)
It appears the promo below won’t appear in the actual series with EW revealing that the scene was filmed solely for the trailer. But hey, it embodies the spirit of the Gilmore Girls to a tee, auguring well for the four episodes to come.
*SPOILERS AHEAD … AS WELL AS OVERLY INTIMATE MOTHERS DAY CELEBRATIONS, NOT ENOUGH JUICE IN THE TANK AND ABBIE-FREE HOLIDAYS*
It was back to the classics this week in Wayward Pines, nominated as the town most likely to be consumed by vengeful evolutionary anomalies by 10/10 apocalypse survivors, with Oedipus Rex, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and Pilcher’s well-worn and increasingly flaked life teachings all getting a pertinent look-in.
And in an episode where perspective mattered, I mean really mattered, all of these various influences played a part in telling the story of a town in near terminal decline.
Outside the walls, the walls electrified by so much power that certain other things such as, oh I don’t know, all of the life-saving hibernation pods weren’t fully-charged and ready, Abbies were gathering in insanely large amounts and it became apparent, even to Jason (Tim Stevens), Pilcher’s heir apparent and noted ostrich head-in-sand impersonator, that Something Had To Be Done.
What great, inspired, humanity-saving genius idea did the fascist-apparel-favouring leader of all of rump humanity come up with? What amazing solution did he concoct to save all 1000 souls within the town?
Why putting everyone back to sleep of course!
Yup, in the face of a dire threat from humanity’s evolutionary successors – it’s arguable whether they are in fact aberrations or simply, as Dr Theo Yedlin (Jason Patric) has repeatedly stated the ones who won out in the survival of the fittest race – Jason’s solution is to put everyone back to sleep in the hope that the Abbies will die out at some point in an indeterminate future.
Problem here of course, apart from it being a plan lacking in scope, imagination or any real understanding of the new world they’re living in (so only a few fatal flaws then) is that no one, not even the eminently capable, sane and sensible CJ (Djimon Hounsou) can put a time limit on all this nocturnal activity.
And when Jason is queried on this at one of those Nazi Party-esque rallies Jason is so fond of holding in main street it becomes obvious he has no idea which let’s face it doesn’t exactly assure everyone in the town that there will be any kind of happy ever after ending.
And that is the dreadful point.
Pilcher’s whole grand, quixotic vision has been in search of an ideal, a perfect envisioning of a world in which humanity would emerge triumphant, unencumbered by the follies and mistakes of the past.
The main problem with this approach is that it has no baked-in flexibility, no ability to mould itself to changed conditions, and it was placed into the hands of people like Jason and the rest of the First Generation who don’t have the necessary life experience or skills to rethink the approach.
Sure you have a Greek Chorus of dissenters like Theo who tries to co-opt Xander for a bit of Viva the Revolution-ing – a plot which went nowhere fast after Kerry took a rather aggrieved Jason out after he found out he’d been sexing up his mother all along – but frankly he’s so freakishly arrogant that you probably don’t want him calling the shots either.
Frankly Wayward Pines, quite deservedly so if recent news events are any kind of guide, has a rather dim view of humanity and whether it deserves to survive, and the events of “Walcott Prep”, which refer to flashbacks in which Pilcher tries to secure an heir, simply underscore that idealism is probably not the best basis on which to establish a futuristic community because the reality of the human condition will always come up and bite it right royally on the ass.
The episode beautifully underscored the dichotomy between idealism (Pilcher/Jason) and hard reality (Theo) when it quoted from Animal Farm during a conversation between Pilcher and Abigail, the young woman who was initially going to be the mother of his child (she was passed up in favour of, ahem, Kerry, played by Kacey Rohl) but more on that in a moment).
First up, Pilcher made a reference to Sugarcandy Mountain, which he quoted in loftily idealistic tones, missing the fact that it was actually an act of enslavement rather than of freedom:
“The pigs had an even harder struggle to counteract the lies put about by Moses, the tame raven. Moses, who was Mr. Jones’s especial pet, was a spy and a tale-bearer, but he was also a clever talker. He claimed to know of the existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all animals went when they died. It was situated somewhere up in the sky, a little distance beyond the clouds, Moses said. In Sugarcandy Mountain it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges.”
But Abigail, who queried whether Pilcher had ever finished the book – his facial expression indicated he had NOT which explains a great deal – retorted with this pithy quote which ably asked whether there was any real difference between the us and them, the friend and the enemy, and most pertinently in a future Abigail never lived to see, human and Abbie:
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
The short conversation, told in a flashback which encompassed a great deal of Kerry and Jason’s pre-apocalypse past spoke profoundly to the great disconnect which has powered Wayward Pines great, flawed, ill-fated experiment and which could ultimately doom it.
While Jason was refusing to depart from Pilcher’s grand vision for the future, to the point where even his solution was recklessly limited – a solution it should be pointed out rather doomed by CJ’s discovery that only half the pods had enough power to sustain life thus bringing into play some rather nasty eugenics-based lifeboard discussions – the flashback also startlingly revealed that the love of Jason’s life, Kerry was, in fact, HIS MOTHER!
Yes the tabloid-like exclamation point is entirely warranted.
Kerry was blissfully unaware of this, having been selected by Pilcher when Abigail, his first heir-producer, had failed to deliver the required baby, and put into deep freeze along with her newly born son so she was hardly guilty of any great crime; and Jason, who didn’t bother reading the Super Duper Top Secret files till he had to start selecting people to leave behind, wasn’t aware that the partner he’d selected by imperial decree was way too maternally close to be his romantic partner.
So while Wayward Pines figuratively burned around them, Jason attacked Kerry, who had a history of standing up to abusive men and winning handsomely, and lost, earning a gunshot to the stomach for his trouble.
Thus opening the door for Theo to take charge, for Kerry, whose damaged reproductive organs would have put her into the Leave Behind camp of Wayward Pines residents, to grab a pod and for humanity to possibly maybe find a more creative way to survive the coming Abbies onslaught.
Just don’t hold your breath OK?
So we’re right royally screwed aren’t we? When I say “we” I mean humanity as a whole who has continued on in the future as it so effectively (ha!) did in the past and really pretty much deserves all it’s going to get. Is there any way to save the unsalvageable? Perhaps but judging by the trailer for “Bedtime Story” not without a great deal of cost and some well-overdue free thinking …
If you’ve been alive for more than 5 minutes, you’ll know it doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse and beyond.
Life is rampantly, crazily unpredictable and what might seem like a simple enough undertaking – in the case of FUEL, a delightful screwball short film by Jalabert Camille, a MOPA animation college student, it’s servicing a car – can suddenly become uncontrollably complicated.
It’s not funny for the person involved true but for those watching on, it’s damn near hilarious; and so it is with FUEL which in its short running time dispenses a delightfully large amount of Murphy’s Law-esque hilarity.
You wouldn’t want a day like these guys but as a way to laugh at the chaotic vicissitudes of life, it’s pretty wonderful.
That would be a self-evident truth to most people but not to Maggie (Greta Gerwig), who, despite being highly intelligent and an accomplished professional whose job involves bringing together arts graduates and businesses, can’t quite come to grips with the fact that life doesn’t confirm to neat and tidy standards.
Most particularly that love, which is famed for not marching to the beat of a logical drum, won’t fit into her preconceived idea of how life behaves.
Convinced that all she has to do is take charge of her own destiny and everything else will follow through in perfect unison, she decides to inseminate via a “donation” from an old uni friend, “pickles entrepreneur” Guy (Travis Fimmel) who is clearly in love with her but unable to articulate his feelings.
Maggie of course is oblivious to Guy’s romantic aspirations since they aren’t a part of her grand design for life, an outworking of a mindset that grew from having to act like an adult early in life, looking after her mother who while brilliant, was hopelessly unable to keep across the more practical, banal aspects of raising a child.
If you’re paying attention at this point, it’s clear that Maggie’s life is verging on the chaotic already but since we only see what we want to see, she sails on regardless, readying herself for a life of single motherhood, fulfilling career choices and ongoing pondering about her inability to sustain a relationship for longer than six months.
Then noted ficto-critical anthropologist John (Ethan Hawke), one of the “bad boys” of the discipline enters her life and all the planning in the world can’t compensate for the glorious messiness that results.
The joy of Maggie’s Plan, a lo-fi screwball romantic comedy that defies expectations and the established tropes of the genre in exemplary style, is that the protagonist remains blissfully unaware that her life is spiralling way out of her control.
It’s not until old college friend Tony (Bill Hader) and his wife Felicia (Maya Rudolph) engage in some tough loving that Maggie comes to slowly realise that you can’t simply dictate how love behaves.
Love it turns out, and anyone who’s experienced its magnetic pull knows exactly what it involves, is barely-controlled chaos, a bundle of emotions and instinctual gut reactions that doesn’t conform to the tidy order of an Excel spreadsheet or a 5 year plan.
By the time Maggie realises that, she’s become John’s mistress then his wife, had a child with him, Lily (Ida Rohatyn), is a step mum to his children Justine (Mina Sundwall) and Paul (Jackson Frazer) and most bizarrely of all, a friend of sorts, with John’s ex-wife Georgette (Julianne Moore) a relationship initially fraught, as you might expect, by all manner of complications.
And she has, somewhat mistakenly, proposed to Georgette that the two of them collude to get John back to his original family nest, on the basis that he never stopped loving his first wife and has fallen out of love with his new one.
It’s a quirky narrative contrivance that at first blush reeks of implausibility and in fact it is called out as such by Georgette and later by John when he finds out what their highly-unorthodox plans are (and is predictably furious at first), but it works precisely because it is exactly the sort of thing that “everything can be planned and ordered” Maggie would think is a good idea.
That it isn’t of course is immediately obvious to everyone but her and by the time she realises it probably wasn’t the most sensible or realistic course of action, the wheels are in motion, Georgette decides it’s worth giving a go and the wheels of life chaotic are spinning themselves in ever unpredictable patterns.
While Maggie’s Plan, written and directed by Rebecca Miller, never really takes off in true farcical screwball fashion, inhabiting the spirit of a Woody Allen comedy without its absurdist outworkings, it’s nonetheless a highly amusing examination of what happens when a blissfully-unaware craving for order comes head to head with love in all its bull-in-a-china-shop cavorting.
Packed full of highly believable characters who exist in reasonably fashion depending the increasingly absurdist decisions guiding their actions, and a phalanx of witty observations and pithy oneliners, many of them redolent of the New York City milieu popularised by Allen’s films, Maggie’s Plan gleefully takes on all our assumptions about what we can and can’t control about life.
It’s comforting to think that destiny can be cajoled and corralled, and it’s the lure of that fatally-flawed idea, the siren song of which all of us have fallen prey to at one point or another, if not our entire lives, that forms the central narrative of the film.
Because no matter how silly Maggie’s idea is, the reality is that pretty much all of us wouldn’t our arm and leg to have the messy situations we get ourselves into so neatly and perfectly resolved.
But as Maggie’s increasingly chaotic life makes clear, there’s rarely anything neat or perfectly resolved about life, and the sooner we embrace that truth the happier we will be.
That Maggie and pretty much else in this very funny, skillfully written and easily-identifiable film look to be stumbling to some sort of happy-ish though never surgically-tied off is not the point; the storyline makes it clear that this due more to the irrational happenstance of life and love than to any carefully-coordinated, successfully-delivered planning on anyone’s part.
The reality is life is messy and the sooner we, and Maggie, comes to grips with that, the happier we will be.
A playful cat teaches Elmo all about cats. “Play like a Cat” is one of two episodes made in an exciting collaboration with Sesame Street. (synopsis via Laughing Squid)
I am a cat person; specifically a Simon’s Cat person.
And I am also, if you’ve been paying attention a Sesame Street person (a card holding member of the show since I first clapped eyes on it in 1971 as a five year old new to TV.)
So news that some bright and enlightened soul had seen fit to combine these two wonderful characters in videos educating people on cat behaviour filled with heart with delight, which only grew as soon as I clapped eyes on the videos below.
If you’ve ever wondered why cats do what they do, this is your chance to have many of your questions answered with the every lovely and inquisitive Elmo as your guide.
It’s the perfect marriage of adorable characters and information, very much the hallmark of both Simon’s Cat and Sesame Street and long may it continue because it is, after all, purrrr-fect! (Sorry I had to do that; no really I did.)