Friday, June 27, 2008
It's All (not) Happening
Eberto the Pirate says "Arr, there be spoilers ahead. These be dangerous waters. Mind your spinnakers!"
THE HAPPENING - A Tale of Trite Shite
"Class, welcome to Great Directing 101. This week, we're discussing the concept of denouement. Now who can tell me what denouement means? Steven? Marty? Wilder? Clint? Oh fine, Alfred."
(class groans, murmurs of "teacher's pet" abound)
"Professor Kubrick, it means the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot, as of a drama or novel."
"Good, good, Alfred. Now, let's discuss examples. M Night, can you give me an example of the proper use of denouement? M Night? Has anybody seen M Night? Dang it. This'll come back to bite him one day. Ok, let's move on. Joel, Ethan, can you give me an example?"
Oh, THE HAPPENING. How I wish thee had not been a bad movie. How I wish that you had lived up to thine wonderful opening scenes. Those bodies falling like raindrops,the calm of shoving a knitting needle through a jugular, the idyllic, foreboding images of nature. The first five minutes or so were excellent. Then Marky Mark opened his mouth and everything began to fall apart.
I wonder if Marky Mark was thrust upon M Night, or if M Night chose Marky Mark. Either way, it turned out bad. He simply can't carry a movie. He has one emotion - incredulity. Fortunately for him, it helped in some scenes - that was the required emotion. But incredulity can only carry you so far. The unfortunate part is that Jon Leguizamo was excellent, if wasted. His role is far too limited, as if M Night didn't want him stealing scenes from Marky Mark. Zooey Deschanel is wonderful, of course, and her bright blue eyes dominate the screen.
I do think, though, that THE HAPPENING could have survived Marky Mark. But the story is really the low point of the film, and not even Zooey's eyes can save that. It's almost as if M Night (who my boss at work calls "Midnight" as if the M stands for Mid) came up with the concept and figured that the kinks would just get worked out along the way - "An ending? Don't bother me with details!"
Here's the plot in a nutshell: People start committing suicide en masse, and no one knows why. Marky Mark, his wife Zooey, and their buddy's young daughter attempt to flee from New England to escape what's HAPPENING. They progress in smaller and smaller groups until they are alone and assured that they too, will die. (SPOILER) They don't. Everyone lives happily ever after. What was killing everybody? You guessed it, the plants. The plants are mad that people are mistreating the earth, so they start killing folks (actually, getting people to kill themselves). We find all of this out in a third act that lasts all of four minutes - very reminiscent of Speilberg's crappy WAR OF THE WORLDS. In fact, the whole of THE HAPPENING is reminiscent of WoTW. So much so that Stevie might want to check out some plagiarism lawyers.
Oh, M Night can still build suspense. There are some excellent, tense scenes. They effects are nice - a guy gets run over buy a riding lawnmower, etc. There's a really great scene involving three individual suicides with the same gun.
M Night's strength has always been that he's an excellent storyteller, but I'm afraid he's lost his mojo. The movie really feels like a student assignment - "Do a film about global warning. Make it a metaphor." 2 Marky Marks out of five.