Monday, April 28, 2008

My Big Fat American New Year

Our New Year started off with a bang.

My husband and I wanted to do something special but we didn’t want it to be controversial or – god forbid – educational.

We considered going into The City to see a play, and prepared for our trip by waiting in line at the drive-thru window of our local pharmacy to refill needed prescriptions (restless leg/irritable bowel/overactive bladder/depression/anxiety/chronic fatigue/PMDD) and then proceeding to the bank’s drive-thru to withdraw funds for the estimated $385 it would cost (donuts/gas/insurance/tolls/parking/snacks/admission/beverages/drive-thru-donuts).
But then we remembered there were rumors of labor strikes forcing many plays to shut down.
These “strikers” almost ruined our New Year. What’s wrong with them?

The City is a scary place anyway filled with unsavory characters, so we were relieved to skip the play and see a movie - but not at the Mega Mall Movie Theatre Complex where "undesirables" could roam in an unsupervised manner (and high on whatever). No. We went to a little independent movie theatre in a quaint seashore town known for its (increasing) separation of the "haves" (on one side of the railroad tracks) and "have-nots" (on the other).

When I entered the theatre, an employee gave me a special promotion. The offer seemed phenomenal - yet confusing - but I think it worked like this: Every dollar spent, you earned one point. Spend $50 (50 points) and that entitled you to free (small, unbuttered) popcorn. Three hundred points entitled you to a movie pass (weekends, holidays, after hours excluded). I think five hundred thousand points entitled you to a $10 gift card.
(I don’t know how businesses make any money these days.)

Anyway, we moved into the crowded theatre to see the film: "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead” – which we heard was a family film - something about your distinctive all-American white collar family, living in a white four-story colonial (with black shutters), in a typical suburban neighborhood.

The story centers on the relationship between the two brothers.
The oldest brother, Andy, is embezzling money from his employer, a high-profile real estate conglomerate. Andy has a Park Avenue drug habit (not the kind that "cracks" open jail cells for people of color). He snorts cocaine on the top of his filing cabinet before going into a corporate meeting about an impending IRS audit. Hey, who wouldn't?

His wife, played by Marisa Tomei is mostly naked in the film -in almost every scene - every 15 minutes or so. And then some. Quite frankly, I'd seen more of her than I cared to.
I think my husband was glad we skipped the play.

The other brother, Hank, is four months behind in child support payments to his ex-wife who is a nagging, sniveling, denigrating hag. She does not have a scene or any dialogue in the movie where she is not hurling four letter words at her ex husband. Hank’s family loathes him, and Hank feels that pain by screwing Andy's wife (every Thursday morning between 10 and 11). Hence more naked scenes with Marisa Tomei.
Oh boy.

Despite all this family bliss, Andy and Hank decide to rob their parents business - a jewelry store that has been in the family for generations. All this conniving, planning, and possible jail time will net them $60,000 each. Each!
What dopes. I mean after taxes, they'll get only half of that!

During the robbery, all hell breaks loose. The mother tries to ward off the robber with a hand gun she has hidden in her....well, I dare not say. She manages to shoot the masked robber (who Hank hired to do the job because he is a big baby and doesn't even have enough courage to steal from his own mother). The robber - although wounded - is able to shoot the mother. There's lots of blood. The mother ends up in the hospital - brain dead - hooked up to machines that keep her alive. The family has to decide whether to pull the plug on mom.
I understood that part.

(As you can see, women are well represented in the film.)

In the aftermath, Andy laments: "Why couldn't it have been dad, instead of mom?"

The police are not looking into the crime so the father takes matters into his own hands after his investigation reveals his sons’ involvement. He grabs a gun and follows them during a bloody shooting spree (is there any other kind?).

I understood most of the film except the part where the father confesses that he was a bad parent. I’m not sure what dysfunctional leadership has to do with ensuing chaos.

I won't tell you the ending in case you want to see the film. But I think the moral of the story is black and white: Behind violence is the absence of color…and the presence of crude, capitalistic opportunities that benefit a very few.

Oh…and crimes against humanity come with a heavy price.
Especially if the Devil Knows You’re Dead: Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!

Copyright 2008

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