Impression: Oh, where do I begin. I like Charlie Kaufman‘s films. A lot! I’ve seen all the ones he has directed and all the one’s he has written. They are quirky and mindbending and definitely the most creative thing coming out of mainstream Hollywood. So, this movie. It’s a relatively simple set up, a woman is going with her boyfriend to his parents house for the first time. At first it seems like a fairly normal movie about 2 hipsters driving to a dinner, having some pseudointellectual conversations on the way. Slowly some weirdness creeps in. First she talks about a biology paper, then she’s apparently a poet, and recites a super long quite powerful poem, at some point she is a painter, then a waitress. Stranger and stranger things keep happening and you realize there is this dark undercurrent, but this is not a horror film, things are just off, and no one seems to realize it.
The point of the movie seems to be that it’s all performance: they are all just going through the motion (the dance?) of saying something to keep conversations going, and what they say is unimportant. Whether they are talking art or science or film, all that matters is that the other person doesn’t quite agree and keeps the conversation going. It’s a little weird to make a very talky movie where what they talk about is completely irrelevant. The characters never notice that their conversations are non-sequiturs or that the stories they tell to each other about themselves change or that who they are talking to ages or changes clothes or that sometimes they are a totally different person. They just keep talking. Sometimes the characters get emotional for no reason. Behind the endless talks there are possibly some truths about anxieties of modern life, but there might as well not be. It seems like none of that is the point.
After finishing watching the movie, I felt I needed to know a lot more about the musical Oklahoma (I know nothing more than it exists) to understand the plot. But instead I got sidetracked and read about the novel on which it was based, and it seems to have been pretty true to it, and there was no mention of the musical in the plot of the book, so maybe it’s not so central.
I don’t know, it’s a film that makes you think, and it looks good. But… did it really need to be 2 hours 14 minutes long to make you think about the purpose of conversations, about how we relate to each other and how well we really understand each other? I would argue it would have worked much better as a short film.
Facts: A couple on a surrealist road trip through snow and windswept Oklahoma.
My Buddhist reading: Idle chatter is one of the 10 non-virtuous actions in Buddhism. The film uses a lot of idle chatter (which passes for deep conversation) to illustrate the pointlessness of it.