Wednesday, October 09, 2013

At the end of one's tether ...

"Life's an awfully lonesome affair.... You come into the world alone and you go out of the world alone yet it seems to me you are more alone while living than even going and coming." -- artist Emily Carr

You've lost your young child through a freak accident.  Hurt and without bearing, you are adrift from your own life.  Everyday living gives you little meaning or hope.  There is no solace in the words of others and you are, figuratively, at the end of one's tether.

What are you choices?  Give up, give in to grief, or to trust in yourself and move on.  Stop letting the past and the way you have done things limit what you can do in your future.

Gravity is a metaphor.  It turns that figurative isolation into literal isolation. This story of astronauts struggling in the hostile vastness of space is rife with symbolism.  George Clooney's character, Matt Kowalski,  represents the past that Sandra Bullock's character, Ryan Stone, must release in order to move forward.  Entangled in cords, dodging the debris of a space station damaged by falling satellites, the both of them are doomed to die unless one or the other releases himself and allows the other to fight on and hopefully live.  Clooney's choice allows Bullock's character to go on, to not be limited by his literal weight and the figurative weight of her past. When she finally gets out of her capsule back on Earth, she struggles to stand and finally gets back on her own two feet, reveling in the moment that is much more than a physical release.  It is an emotional one.

I could be way off on my take of Gravity.  Maybe I've listened to one too many reviews of artsy French new wave films or stayed up too late trying to find meaning and subtlety where it was never intended.  But I don't think so.  Alfonso Cuarón is one of my favorite directors and he is not a plodding Hollywood hack.  With his fellow Mexican directors and friends, Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, they have carved out a niche as original, visual and artistic talents not constrained by conventional American/Anglo narratives. Their movies are full of symbolism and allegory (Babel and Pan's Labyrinth most notably).  And it is my belief that Gravity continues that trend.

I have purposely not read, watched or listened to any reviews of Gravity (except my bud Wil) because I didn't want to be influenced by what someone else may think the movie means.  I didn't even want to see a confirmation of what I saw.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are stars and very good actors and do nothing in this film to change that opinion.  Clooney is funny and charming, as always.  Bullock is subdued, for her, but this serves the role for the most part.

I will not get into the technical aspects of Gravity.  They have been extensively described elsewhere.  Suffice to say, Cuarón has infused Gravity with a realism that gets about as close to what I imagine space would actually feel like.  I saw it on a normal screen but will be revisiting it with IMAX 3D in the near future.

So, why didn't it completely work for me?  Too much detachment.  For all its visual beauty, I believe it lacks a heart.  Something just kept me from altogether buying in.  I can't even quite put my reservations into words.  Secondly, with the movie being very short for an Oscar-worthy film (90 minutes), more time could have been spent explaining exactly why a doctor is installing something on Hubble.  How did she even end up at NASA?  I'm not expecting awkward exposition or anything, but it seems like a little more could have been revealed through her conversations with Clooney's character.  Lastly, Bullock's role seems just a bit too much like a trick role, à la Tom Hanks in Cast Away ... a role set up to present well to Oscar voters.  Maybe just a bit too much earnestness and not enough reality.

I'm definitely curious how a second watching may temper my opinion.  Like similar space movies, Moon and 2001, Gravity has a way of making real the quiet, yet ominous isolation of space.  And similarly, I didn't appreciate those movies fully the 1st few times.  Grade:  B

As usual, Mr Stachour at Journal Wunelle has done a bang-up job of a review of Gravity here.  Much smarter than I, a superior writer and possessing much more knowledge of life in thin air, I think you'll like his take.


William Stachour said...

"I could be way off on my take of Gravity."

Nope. You got to the sinew of the story much better than I did. I'll want to hear what you think after a second viewing. I was lucky enough to get slipped into a members-only (tho I"m not a member) showing in a swanky, high-tech big screen theater in Honolulu, and the large format made the visual awesomeness even more, well, awesome.

William Stachour said...

I think I'm naturally more sucked in by the technical aspects of the story, and the world made available by that technology (I still marvel at airplanes and my incredibly privileged view of the world because of them), but I think that encourages my already-heightened tendency to look at things too literally. The power of the story comes, in part, from the metaphor to what's going on in Stone's life--as you say. It's *this,* as well as the extraordinary visual world we get to inhabit for 90 minutes, that will give this film its staying power.

dbackdad said...

Did you see it in 3D (I'm sure you said in your post ... but I'm lazy)? Even not in 3D or IMAX, it felt very immersive. I can only imagine how it will be with both of those things.

William Stachour said...

Yeah. No IMAX, but 3-D and a super surround sound--apparently the only theater of its kind in HI. Makes for an immense experience!

CyberKitten said...

After reading both of your reviews this is stacking up to be a must see for me!