Monday, October 03, 2005

Themed Jokes Can Cause Air-Sickness

Flightplan
2005, USA
Robert Schwentke
35mm

This is one flight where I wish they’d changed the in-flight movie. Oh, god. I’m so embarrassed I wrote that joke. Not only that, I opened the review with it. I haven’t been this ashamed since the time I skipped high school to do mescaline and watch the OJ Simpson verdict on TV. But what’s more embarrassing is that I went to see this movie knowing it would be bad. After all, I’ve seen Red Eye and am therefore fully aware that something about plane movies turns screenwriters into semi-retarded Die Hard fans with a concept of logic looser than the women I sleep with. Maybe it’s writing 108 consecutive slug lines that start with INT. NIGHT. STILL IN THE FUCKING PLANE. that flicks on the idiot switch, but whatever it is, it’s generally clear by the third act that the writer is insane. Flightplan starts out coherently enough, with the usually dependable Jodie Foster grieving over her recently deceased husband, and boarding a plane with her quietly brooding daughter, who would be cute if her mouth didn’t look vaguely stained, like she just polished off a plate of Chef Boyardee and a cherry Popsicle. It’s after they board the plane that the plot starts to go a little screwy, though I was irritated far before that by director Robert Schwentke’s shot selection, which moves the camera around in a constant slow glide, like Michael Bay on half a Valium tablet.

One pill makes you smaller, the other makes you film retarded action movies.

Soon after they board the plane, Foster’s kid goes missing, and no one onboard seems to remember seeing her, including sky marshal Peter Saarsgard and pilot Sean Bean. I have no idea why Bean is allowed to fly a plane, since he’s been an Irish terrorist ever since he got his SAG card, but that’s the least of the film’s problems. Though Foster is a strong actress, she isn’t given much to do here, save occasionally pitting her sharp hatchet face against the puffy visage of Erika Christiansen, a fine actress who perpetually looks like she’s having a bad reaction to shellfish. Foster’s starting to look a little old and veiny, too, and though that doesn’t have an effect on her talent, it did spark a tangential discussion on the way home as to whether she was hotter as a child prostitute in Taxi Driver or getting gang-raped in acid washed jeans during The Accused. As much as she tries, however, Foster is not what destroys this movie. It’s the plot twists that do that, as surely as if someone had hijacked the direction and flown it into the Pentagon. The basic story of the film has us follow a sine-wave pattern, where we oscillate between believing that the daughter is missing, and thinking Foster stark raving mad. This confusion of our sympathies is interesting, I suppose, right up until it's resolved far too soon, through the trite mechanism of having Foster’s breath reveal that the young girl had written the entire script for The Lady Vanishes on one of the windows. From then on, Foster and the audience battle through disbelief and onward to the ludicrous ending. The whole thing is ridiculous and contrived, and apparently has the flight attendants union up in arms, mainly because it ends with the revelation that the stewardesses are witches and kidnapped the kid to make bone soup for the upcoming Walpurgis Night celebration.

Hecate enthroned upon an altar of boarding passes and individually packaged servings of peanuts.

Of course, this is not what actually happens, but the real ending is no less stupid. And though I’m not going to, I should have no qualms about spoiling the ending, because the trailer does it anyway. Well, it doesn’t actually show what happens when the high altitude asphyxiates the script into brain death, but it ruins the only tension the film has. By showing the scene where Foster finds the clue that finally convinces her that she’s not crazy, the audience is completely deprived of the narrative tension of the film. I understand that modern audiences want to know exactly what they’re getting into, lest they stumble into a good movie by mistake, but this is getting ridiculous. It’s gotten to the point where those of us who can think without the benefit of Coles’ Notes can guess the endings to films from the trailer, not merely the first thirty minutes as we’re accustomed to. I distinctly remember figuring out The Bone Collector on the way to the movie theatre, and this is not because I’m smart. Perhaps it’s not that I long for the days when trailers gave a taste of the film instead of telling the whole story, but rather than I’m hoping for a return to the time when movies couldn’t be boiled down to a 30 second rabbit skit. Maybe if the stories were more complicated, better written, and interestingly told, I wouldn’t have to suffer through watching the entirety of On The Line, including the final resolution, compressed into a two-minute mini-movie jammed before the DVD menu of Britney Spears' Crossroads. And then I wouldn’t have to add the embarrassment of publicly admitting to having seen that movie to the shame of opening with an airplane joke.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you've been reduced to posting pictures from your own film...

12:33 AM  
Anonymous Will said...

I said that about Taxi Driver. I'm famous!

12:47 AM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

I don't know if you should be proud of taking the pedophile side in the discussion, Will.

Anonymous - Nope. I don't make films. I just complain about them. Making them would be creative, whereas I prefer to be miserable and destructive.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

Yeah, this movie was just kind of there. I thought it was "OK", but that's because I didn't have to pay to see it, if it had been my turn to pay I would've been pissed about blowing dough on a piece of crap. Hey, who was the heroin addict chick teamed up with Peter Droopingeyelidsgaard? I wanted so smack her.

Ash, how could you wound me so. Leave my cruvy piece of uber-ass Erika alone. I just discovered her and haven't grown tired of her yet. I will keep her away from the shellfish for you though.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

It's not about the money, Jerk. You can always make more money. You cannot, however, make more time, unless you're Dr. Who. And I want my time back. The ending of this movie was beyond stupid.

The woman is Kate Behan. She was on Water Rats a couple of times, I think.

And I'm also a big Erika Christiansen fan. She's talented and very pretty. It doesn't change the fact that she looks swollen, however.

Also, Fatman and I have deftly shifted the discussion on the Shake Hands With The Devil thread to dead baby jokes. Please feel free to add your own there.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

Dead babies, right. I'm on it.

Shellfish are to Erika as Erika is to Jerk.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

I was actually hoping this movie would be decent. Now I'll probably just Netflix it instead of paying $14 to see it here in Los Angeles.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

I cannot un-recommend this movie enough. Just make up your own movie with a recycled Hitchcock premise. No, better yet, make up your own two thirds of a movie with a recycled Hitchcock premise, then get someone's 12 year old brother to come up with the rest.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Fatman said...

Just a quick question here Ash, don't know if you've covered it already but; Why do you choose some of the films you see? This film has 'dog poo' written all over it. Do you go into some flicks thinking 'Oh, boy am I going to bag the crap out of this sucker!'...and are you sometimes bitterly disappointed if you like said film? Do you have a whole bunch of film names in a hat and pick it randomly?

11:44 PM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Well, it depends on what film. I get a lot of free passes to stuff, so that explains some of it, though I did pay to see Flightplan,. In all seriousness, I love going to the theatre, and I'll see pretty much anything. Also, I have to alternate choices, so I pick one, then the little lady picks one, and sometimes what she picks makes me so mad I pick a shitty movie just to get back at her, which was the reasoning behind Flightplan. I'm passive aggressive like that. Also regular aggressive.

As for rentals, I have this really obsessive compulsive system that I won't go into here. It maximizes the variety of films I watch, but tends to minimize quality. Nevertheless, I soldier on.

Go on, hit me. Anymore questions?

9:26 AM  

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