June 1, 2003

Everything is in its Proper Place...Except the Past


While wandering through the aisles of the video store last night, PCC came upon one of those films that always prompts the normally shy and non-confrontational PCC to jump up onto the nearby counter, a la Sally Field in Norma Rae, and demand that everyone in the store drop whatever they have in their hand and rent the film PCC is waving above her head (almost the same as demanding a union, right? uh huh.).

PCC thinks that she is the only person she has ever met who has a poster of Ordinary People (all the way from Canada no less) proudly displayed on her wall in college. Of course, PCC likes to be unique and all, but she would gladly join the masses if said proletariat would agree to rent Robert Redford's amazing 1980 film. Very rarely is PCC completely satisfied with a film adaptation- consider Jonathan Demme's bastardization of Toni Morrison's Beloved- but Alvin Sergeant's (Unfaithful, Paper Moon) treatment of Judith Guest's novel is undeniably deserving of the Oscar.

In Guest's novel , first person narration grants us access to Conrad Jarrett's pain, but the film avoids a voice-over, instead allowing us to experience the uncomforatble detachment that permeates the Jarrett house along with Conrad. As Conrad, Timothy Hutton is perfectly cast. For a story with such potential for soapy melodrama, Hutton's performance keeps the film painfully real. One of PCC's favorite scenes in the film, which doubles as one of the most wrenching arguments- on the same level as the plate-smashing screaming match between Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson in In the Bedroom- is the fight between Mary Tyler Moore (surprisingly successful so far away from Minneapolis and Rhoda), Hutton and Donald Sutherland. Non-confrontational PCC wanted to simultaneously hide underneath the covers and cheer the Jarretts on for finally saying what needed to be said.

PCC understands that not everyone is in the mood for a depressing film about death, guilt and family turmoil. This is understandable. BUT...Redford's film is a must. Watch it in the middle of the day when the sun is shining. Couple it with something mindless and entertaining like Zoolander (PCC is not bashing Mr. Stiller or his film, merely using it as a point of genre comparison). But watch it, with plenty of Kleenex, and remember it's a good thing when a film can make you feel like the floor just dropped out from underneath you.

Posted by jordan at June 1, 2003 2:07 AM