A conversation has emerged between the Lu & a good friend -- we'll call her "MovieDame"-- who loves movies but remained deeply unimpressed with A History of Violence. Last evening, MovieDame forwarded some observations & criticisms expressed by a good moviebuddy of MovieDame's. This morning, StinkyLulu responded with the text included below (edited slightly for this forum). FYI, lovely reader...
Your friend's reaction makes total sense. It may be an issue of "point of engagement" -- most of the questions raised by your friend have to do with reality & believability & plausibility, which StinkyLulu would agree that the movie doesn't do much of a job of explaining/justifying. Yet, for the Lu, such questions never really became that important. And with regard to the other issue: "I felt like I'd seen it before." StinkyLu's response: "Precisely. That seemed to be the point."
Beginning with the first scene outside the motel, StinkyLulu never thought we were dealing with a "real world" story. Rather, it seemed to the Lu that Cronenberg was guiding us into an already familiar fantasy world that looked a lot like Mayberry or some other received notion of Middle America wholesome. It was all a little too cutely constructed to be "real" -- c'mon, that first family scene with the tow-headed daddy's girl & all that giddiness over cereal?
What StinkyLulu enjoyed about the film is that it toyed with the Lu. And it did so expertly, consciously. Most especially, it toyed with the Lu's mounting sense of unease -- that something was fundamentally wrong with this picture. And StinkyLulu quickly started really wanting to know what was "off" in this world reeling before the Lu's eyes. Perhaps because of this, it became fun -- sometimes in a giddy way, sometimes in a more sicko way -- to see which of StinkyLulu's movie-bred expectations Cronenberg would be tweaking next. And all the while, the film felt familiar... the way a movie from the early 50s might have -- not a noir, but a western. It seems there are good guys and bad guys but... And Viggo Mortenson has a similar kind power as Gary Cooper or Robert Mitchum -- moral clarity sullied or twisted by life. It read to StinkyLulu as a great fakey allegory like some of those coded early 50s flicks. (Albeit with more sex, filth & gore.)
And, yes, StinkyLu too noticed all kinds of things in the film that didn't seem real, didn't line up quite right. Like the end of movie dinner was a huge meat & potatoes affair for a single working mother recently abandoned by her deceiving husband. And -- in that wierdly familiar moment where the littlest angel broke the family's desperate silence -- how the tow-head set the daddy's place upside-down. (Not to mention the water glasses.) And though StinkyLulu wouldn't go so far as to say all that was planned, the Lu would argue that the elements of continuity/reality that so characterize most film productions were operating in a slightly off-kilter way in this film.
Your friend notes that she will likely not spend a lot of time thinking about this film. Interestingly, were it not for this conversation, StinkyLulu probably would not have spent a whole lot more time either. The film didn't stick with Lu the way that JUNEBUG seems to have stuck with you. Yet, StinkyLulu -- unlike you & your friend -- found the experience of watching this film electrifying. Not satisfying, not enjoyable, not fun. Electrifying -- in the way that so rarely StinkyLulu finds in the cinema where the Lu's brain, body & emotions are all on point anticipating what (StinkyLulu fears) might be coming next. StinkyLulu suspects some similarly electric engagement might be undergirding some of the critical enthusiasm.
So, there are some more of StinkyLu's thoughts.
It makes total sense that the film didn't work for you. It's that kind of
movie, it seems. It'll either click with you or it won't.