Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Poor Men






Often at night I lie awake thinking of the ways I have squandered what little I once possessed by way of “potential”. What happened to that bright-eyed and shiny child I once was, whose stolen dreams for the future he gripped tightly with both hands? Have I become nothing but a dispenser of ant-related facts, when all I wanted was to make a difference? Now, on those dark evenings, it sometimes seems I can actually hear my failures and regrets scraping and snuffling at my bedroom door, begging admittance, also meowing. I put them out of my mind.


But it is without regret that I can recommend Jean Claude Van Damme’s new film JCVD. It’s not a fantastic flick by any means but Van Damme puts in a performance I would throw an Oscar at in a second. I was even moved to tears at one point (you’ll know which if you see the film). It’s the kind of flick you’re best heading into without any knowledge, except to say that it’s about JCVD himself and his position as a former B-grade movie superstar who fell from grace – hard – through drug addiction, numerous divorces, tax evasion and simply ending up the kind of joke that most action heroes become. Here we finally see him as the broken, confused, proud and desperate human he probably is. There’s a six minute monologue at the film’s heart which sees him assessing his life, and it’s one of the finest moments in cinema in recent history. The film is part self-parody, part self-valorisation and wholly redemptive. Check it out – like I say, not brilliant overall but JCVD is unforgettable. He’s either a brilliant actor or just brilliantly honest. Maybe both.


On the other hand, MTC’s Poor Boy is so mixed up and jumbled that I wouldn’t recommend it for much beyond the beautiful theatre it launched (the Sumner at the MTC’s new home). I agree with most of the reviews so far – the music has little to do with the drama, and the drama itself is often forced or awkward. But beyond that, what really got my ghostly goat was the incredibly earnest level of Importance to the whole thing. The metaphors and symbolic connections sailed gently through plotholes the size of a yacht, and genuine emotion was sacrificed for join-the-dots allusions. For instance, a character named Sol (almost everyone’s name seemed laden with significance) lost his boat the Neptune (God of water and horses, right) seven years ago (which is also when his son was born and another guy died on a zebra crossing wearing a zebra mask). Now, every time he appears on stage he is tying knots in a length of rope. Ok, I’m all for actors having their Bits of Business to liven up a scene. But it wasn’t just the fact that Sol’s entire life seemed to be taken up by tying knots. As a friend pointed out later, he didn’t even have a boat! But beyond all this was the problem that tying knots was so obviously a metaphor for the knots in his soul or something. Yes.

Anyway, it wasn’t a terrible play but it was made up of plot elements we’ve seen before shoved together in a way that didn’t gel. The soundtrack didn’t fit, the magical elements were at odds with the realism, and the overall design overshadowed the piece itself. It’s like those places that promote Kranskys filled with mozzarella and stuff, which makes me wonder who really wants a pile of cheese crud lumping up their weiner. There are probably a few different good shows in Poor Boy, but they need to stop hanging out together so much.


I should say, though, that I really liked Guy Pearce's singing voice.

1 comment:

martyn said...

dispenser of ant related facts is a worthwhile thing to do. i wish i could be that person...