Friday, February 13, 2015


Movies that deal with protagonists who stray from their significant other on a one-night fling, spend their time juggling multiple partners, or leave their stable relationship for something more "exciting" (Take This Waltz, She’s Gotta Have It, Friday Night, Two Lovers, Boomerang, Unfaithful, etc ) are often hit or miss with me because a lot of times they're sympathetic when I personally feel they shouldn't be (She’s Gotta Have It & Friday Night being the exceptions/“hits”, Two Lovers & Unfaithful being the “misses”, and Take This Waltz falls somewhere in the middle).
Even some of the good movies that explore this subject matter are incredibly frustrating. You often look at the characters in these stories who know they’re being cheated on or being ”played” yet they still stick around and allow it to happen. That's incredibly frustrating to watch. In defense of She’s Gotta Have It, the title character does make it known from the start that she’s not about settling down or being with just one partner. But take a movie like Boomerang. I’ve come to learn that women love that movie and don’t seem to have any issues with the ending (men obviously enjoy it too, but women LOVE Boomerang). Ladies, aren’t you supposed to hate a character like “Marcus Graham” (Eddie Murphy)? He sleeps around, cheats on Halle Berry, and STILL ends up with her in the end. How do you not have a problem with that? I only ask because I have yet, in the almost 23 years that Boomerang has existed, to hear anyone ever address this. I know there’s a human element to all of this. There are realistic factors that do come in to play. When someone has a hold of your heart it’s tough to let that person go no matter how shitty or half available they are to you. I guess at the end of the day that’s just not my thing, and I chose to not fully understand or accept that way of thinking. In my opinion, for a relationship to work you have to be available for just one person. But that’s me.
This is partially why it took me so long to watch Terence Davies The Deep Blue Sea – a remake of the 1955 film based on the 1952 play of the same name. I read the synopsis when I was in Toronto a few years back and I decided that it was about some fragile/delicate woman who is given some invisible “pass” to cheat on her husband and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her. As I’ve already stated in my review of Take This Waltz (a movie that shares a few similarities with Deep Blue Sea), filmmakers tend to make these scenarios where one spouse (usually the husband) is mean, abusive, unloving and/or unfeeling, which gives their better half no choice but to cheat in order to feel loved.

Like Michelle Williams in Waltz, Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea plays a married woman (“Hester”) who falls for a man (“Freddie”) who is the opposite of her husband (“William”) in almost every way – Freddie (Tom Hiddleson) is young, handsome, exciting, charming and even slightly dangerous (he clearly has PTSD from his time serving as a soldier in WW2). William offers stability, safety and the other typical husbandly duties one would expect, yet he's incapable of affection. But thats not exactly all his fault. We learn, in a flashback, that William’s dysfunctional upbringing (courtesy of his mother) is the reason he’s not very good at showing affection. Hester may be the main character in The Deep Blue Sea but I found her husband William to be the most interesting. He’s also the reason I respect this film so much. Instead of making him out to be the typical shitty husband who leaves his beautiful wife no choice but to stray, Davies gives us a glimpse in to his side of things and we learn he isn’t the coldhearted guy he initially appears to be.

Hester soon finds herself in a pickle when she comes to learn that even though Freddie meets her physical needs, he can’t offer her the stability she wants in order for their relationship to last. And I don’t mean to cheapen the relationship between Hester & Freddie by implying that all they do is have great sex. This sounds corny as all hell, but Freddy makes Hester feel “alive”, which is something she didn’t feel with her husband William. Like I eluded too earlier, I normally wouldn’t care about the problems concerning a character like Hester, but when Terence Davies lays out everyone’s problems and allows us to feel sorry for some of the supporting characters, it’s hard to not feel some sympathy for her as well. Plus we know that Hester & Freddie are doomed. Ultimately, no one wins in the end.

The Deep Blue Sea is also interesting in terms of gender. It's a movie, directed by a (gay) male, that looks at things from the perspective of a complicated (straight) female character, from source material originated from a (gay) male playwright. The film also sheds light on men’s (sometimes) closeted sensistivity (courtesy of the William character) and our (sometimes) inability to deal with things like love, responsibility, etc. I know it seems pointless to even mention this or bring up the sexuality of Terence Davies, but he brought up an interesting point in an old film comment interview from 2012...

Film Comment: Rattigan, of course, was gay. Do you think he was thinking of his own forbidden desires when he wrote Freddie, or was he more invested in the idea of Hester’s womanhood?

Terence Davies: There was a myth that Rattigan had written it for two men, but I heard from [co-producer] Sean O’Connor, who had known Frith Banbury, who directed the play in 1952, that he had never written it that way. If he had done, it would never have been staged because homosexuality was against the law then. But what had happened was that Rattigan’s former lover [the actor Kenneth Morgan] had gassed himself [over his loss of a subsequent lover] and that had been the springboard for the story.
Like a lot of gay writers and directors, Rattigan could do women rather well. That’s not a backhanded compliment to myself—I’m thinking of someone like George Cukor. One reason is that there’s a sort of bond between women and gay men. You can come across women who are very nasty about gay men, but they’re quite rare and I’ve only ever come across two. Rattigan, I think, was fascinated by the nature of sexual love.

The Deep Blue Sea certainly has a Douglas Sirk vibe. It’s like Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven in that it’s not only a remake of a movie from the 1950’s (Far From Heaven being a loose remake of Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows) but the overall ambiance is overwhelmingly melodramatic. The Deep Blue Sea isn’t as intense as Far From Heaven, but if you’re familiar with both films and what they tried to do, I think you get the comparison I’m trying to make. The performances in The Deep Blue Sea stay true to the kind of acting you’d expect from a film made in the early 1950’s (maybe slightly more subdued and intentionally surpressed), and the colors are incredibly rich & bold (true, the colors in Far From Heaven “pop” a lot louder than in the drab post-WW2 Britain that Davies shows us, but the colors in Deep Blue Sea are still polarizing).

All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk) / The Deep Blue Sea (Davies)

I grew up when Douglas Sirk was at his height—All That Heaven Allows, Magnificent Obsession. – Terence Davies (Film Comment, 2012)

Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes) / The Deep Blue Sea 

The Deep Blue Sea (2011) might have been my favorite late discovery of 2014. This is kind of an inappropriate pick for Valentine’s Day in that it deals with attempted suicide, infidelity, PTSD, depression & heartbreak. But the romance & passion within Deep Blue Sea is very intense which makes it kind of eligible in my opinion. I do very much recommend this (it’s currently streaming on Hulu+), but some of you may want to wait until AFTER Valentine’s Day to do so.


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