“Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin? ”—
Mark “Rent-Boy” Renton
Trainspotting - 1996
Seriously forgot how much I enjoyed this movie.
As part of my summer study of large dark air-conditioned rooms, I saw a movie yesterday. I convinced my mom to come see Beginners with me, knowing a movie with my mom is a movie on the house, disregarding the fact that my mom already bought me a new computer that day which I am gleefully typing away on right now!!! It’s one of those movies where I’m the youngest person in the audience, but that’s usually the case for any non-Harry Potter movie I see at Sundance Cinemas. There aren’t many interesting (or good) movies coming out this summer, so Beginners, a movie about an elderly father (Christopher Plummer) telling his son (Ewan McGregor) that he’s gay, seemed like a breath of fresh air from brain dead romantic comedies and more super hero origin stories than you can shake a radioactive stick at.
Usually I can deflect the awkward charm of indie films with my inability to suspend my disbelief, but I wasn’t prepared for writer director Mark Mill’s uncanny ability to layer melancholy onto subtlety onto more melancholy. The movie drags you down into an unhappy place and strings you along with slivers of happiness right up until the ending credits. The trailer got me expecting a fun dramedy romp a la 500 Days of Summer, but possessed too much ambiguity and depth for my mom and I to leave the theater smiling.
“It wasn’t unrealistic,” my mom told me on the way to our boat-like Honda, “it seemed real. He wasn’t happy about taking care of his father and I think that actor did an excellent job of portraying what is was like to take care of a dying family member.” The moments when Ewan McGregor sat by Christopher Plummer’s bedside, reading to him, feeding him, shaving him, it could have represented a fear of my own mother. The fear that one day her mother or father might need that kind of treatment and she might have to make difficult decisions in their final years. My Grandparents still seem well enough to drink copious amounts of rum between every meal, so I’m hoping a situation like that doesn’t come soon.
While walking back to the car, the only moments of the movie I could think about were the flashbacks to the father’s marriage. The depression of the mother, the montage of insincere kisses and Plummer’s character not being able to tell his own son about his sexuality until the mother died. I think I knew I was gay for most of high school, but man if I didn’t try really hard to repress it. Even with a supportive community, supportive friends and very supportive family that I knew would love me no matter what, it took me until this year to finally come out. Plummer’s character did not have any of those things and the thought that if I lived in a conservative community, with conservative friends and conservative parents, plagues my mind with a myriad concerning hypotheticals. I know that if I was born just 50 years ago, I might never have come out and would instead live a closeted life, marry blond blue eyed high school sweetheart and have beautiful blond blue eyed children that would also be thought that homosexuality is wrong. What if I was born in a community just outside of Madison? I’d grow up learning that gay people were just confused and that they’re lifestyle “choice” was morally corrupt. Would I have grown up never knowing what love felt like?
I guess what made Beginners so ominous is that it ended without quelling any of our concerns. The only fear it put to rest at the end is that maybe Mr. McGregor’s character finally overcame his guilt and depression to extinguish his inability to commit to a gorgeous French actress played by a gorgeous French actress. Yay.
The Long Way Round Series
One night while I was working in Iraq, I was cruising motorcycle forum’s planning my motorcycle ride across Central America. I stumbled across a DVD called “The Long Way Round.” I quickly jumped on Amazon.com to order it, but found it wasn’t yet available in a DVD format that was readable on North American players. So I added it to my amazon wishlist, and waited.
When it finally did arrive in the mail, I watched with delight as Charlie and Ewan adventured across the world. I actually remember standing up and cheering during one episode. They inspired and excited me about my upcoming trip.
There are adventure riders who poke fun at the Long Way Round
and Long Way Down
series. To them I say; You have no idea how difficult it is to film a motorcycle journey, and walk away with something good enough to put on television.
Sure they had security guards, medics, mechanics. Free bikes, and all the gadgets they could carry. I suppose you could even say, they had their hands held across the world. But what you need to understand about their trip is; it wasn’t purely an adventure. It was also a business venture.
They had a schedule to keep, people needed to be paid, and promises to sponsors to be kept. You can’t simply strap on a GoPro helmet cam
and expect to pull off what they did. For them it was a journey about seeing the world, AND sharing it with the world. Doing that means big production value. So all you hardcore adventure riders out there, who are traveling poor, and sleeping in the dirt complaining about what babies Charlie and Ewan are. Please stop breaking their balls. They did an awesome job, and I can’t wait to stand up and cheer while watching the “Long Way Up.”