Thursday, November 18, 2010

The US, as seen in the movies

I've been away from the US (besides the occasional trips home) for eight years. And since Juliette was born, visits to the movie theater have been rare (er, once in the last two and a half years). Even before that we didn't go to the movies that often. The result is that I'm totally out of it when it comes to knowing about recent movies. Sometimes we'll catch them here, dubbed, with some weird French title. But recently more stuff comes to us in English. And we seem to be getting the cable channels for a preview week. So we've been catching up (ok, just a fraction of the eight years). And I find that I have started to see the US differently after all that time away. I also have to be careful not to fall into the stereotypes that the films could give me about my home country.

For example: all cops are beefy, courageous types who have hearts of gold. Like the one in 12 Rounds. In this story, an Irish terrorist sets up a series of twelve, duh, challenges to torture the cop who was sort of responsible for said terrorist's girlfriend's accidental death. Enjoyed seeing New Orleans featured in this film since it's a place I've visited. Was the film at all realistic? Probably not. Did I fall asleep at about the 9th round? Yeah, but that's a problem I have with action films, plus I was cozy on the couch. It was a typical guy movie, I told Remi. No, it's a typical American film, he corrected me. No, no, I protested, they're not all like that. You're right, he said, there's also the romantic comedy.

Which brings me to the second stereotype: people in America have great, funny extended families and hook up with their soulmates after meet-cute situations. Like in, oops, don't know the English name, here it's Coup de Foudre à Rhode Island (Love at first sight in Rhode Island). Ok, thanks Internet, it's Dan in Real Life. I actually enjoyed this one. Yes, it was slapstick at times, but it was good fun and Steve Carrel can make me laugh even when he's just raising an eyebrow. Also liked his realationship (albeit dysfunctional) with his daughters. As far as romcoms go (is that the word, Jess?), it wasn't too sappy.

Going back to the action film genre, we could get the impression that Americans like saving the world. Or are the only ones capable of doing so. That's what the overly-sensitive Frenchies like to point out. But I say, if you're making a movie, you're probably going to put people of your own nationality in it. No offense to the others. We do seem to excel in this type of film, from a dollars earned point of view. Independence Day, Terminator (John Connor is American). Speaking of the Terminator, as Remi drops everything one of the four films is on, I'm getting to know every detail of the saga. It really is a very well-composed sotry.

But sometimes indie films are more my speed. Like Little Miss Sunshine and Sunshine Cleaning (just a coincidence that they both have "sunshine" in the name). The latter is a dark comedy (the sisters start a crime-scene cleaning company). But just hearing the sarcastic banter between the sisters reminded me of how fun and casual our US English can be. I felt more American after watching it, more connected to my language and country.

While we're on the subject of entertainment, check out my sister's blog for her fun and insightful TV and movie reviews. In the meantime, I think I'll microwave some popcorn and see what's on. As long as it's in English, I'll probably give it a try.


Chad said...

The action films and the romcoms ("guy movies" and "chick flicks" respectively) seem to make all the money. It's the kind of popcorn attraction people want to see on a day off. Escapism. The good movies however tend not to be those, with a few exceptions.

Also, in my opinion, the "good stuff" lately has been more in TV than in the movies.

Lindle said...

Agree with Chad. Some of the best acting/stories/directing I've seen in American filmmaking have been on our cable stations where they go a little deeper into characters and how complex they are, and have come up with unpredictable story lines. I like to be surprised. I'm old enough to have seen every romantic-twist and action film and murder mystery to know how it's going to go. Surprise me! Check out Justified, Terriers, Fringe, Rubicon--or even the BBC's new Sherlock Holmes. Glee is lighthearted fun, and more fun than some sappy rom-com. Maybe you can get them on YouTube or Hulu if you don't get them in France.
Will Smith and Reese and Sandra may be wealthy--but where is the surprise?