Saturday, February 9, 2013

Side Effects & Identity Thief In Theaters This Weekend

Both films opening this weekend, Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects with Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Rooney Mara, as well as Jason Bateman's and Melissa McCarthy's Identity Thief, look to be fabulous examples of cultural and political encoding within a facade of entertainment. Identity Thief, because it's a comedy, might score a little bigger at the box office this weekend, so let's consider it first.
What we know of the film is that Sandy Patterson (Bateman) is a financial beaucrat and Diana (McCarthy) is a con-artist that even other criminals are after; Patterson has to go to Florida, the sight of Diana's spending spree on his unlimited credit cards, and drag her back to Denver to get her to confess her crime of stealing his identity so he doesn't have to pay the huge debt she's racked up in his name. All we have to ask is this question: who has recently accumulated a huge debt because of an unlimited spending spree?
America.
Please note that Paterson drives a Ford; if you saw Lawless, then you also saw the countless times the film maker's highlighted Ford's name on the cars Jack drove to deliver his moonshine; why? Socialists hate Ford because Ford didn't take Obama's bailout money, re-structured themselves, and proved that capitalism--not government programs and socialism--is what works because they ended up later being able to give employees bonuses from having better organized the company. When product placement in films generates potentially millions of dollars, nothing gets put in a scene by accident: everything is carefully considered and paid for, either by the film makers to have it or by the manufacturer to get it in the film. I have not yet seen Identity Thief, but knowing that the wronged man/victim drives a Ford, and he's being left to pay a debt he didn't accumulate, will have to be a consideration in our reading of the film. 
Sadly, Oscar-nominated McCarthy's body image has come under gross attack by a New York film critic who, instead of looking for obective reasons to why she might have been intentionally cast in this role, instead resorted to name-calling and shaming her. From what we have so far established, and taking into consideration Ms. McCarthy's size, we could say that (as women traditionally symbolize "the motherland" and men symbolize the economy) that she represents an over-sized government spending like there is no limit, and this fits in with--at least--the general plot line as so far thusly revealed. Democrats, of course, replace God with the role of government: don't look to God to do anything for you, because He doesn't exist, but the government will provide and be there in your every need and trial. Because they tend to think like this, Democrats need an enormous government to do the job of God. As we watch the film, these are points of interest to note and consider in understanding what is being conveyed by the film makers.
"Some people want to get better in the worst way," and, if we examine this tagline in a political--rather than psychological--sphere, what means would someone employ to "better themselves" economically? "Worst way," then, isn't just an observation on an inner-desperation to pull one's self out of the pit of depression and suffering, "worse way" can be a qualitative statement as in "Redistribution of wealth is the worst way of someone 'bettering themselves' at someone else's expense because everyone suffers for it and no one is bettered by it." Not having yet seen the film, this is just an observation on a possible angle the film might choose to employ.
Side Effects is an incredibly complex plot; I know there are some of you who, like myself, prefer to know what is going to happen before you watch a film so, like me, you can catch everything, so if you want to know what happens, the complete plot is revealed at this link. If you prefer not knowing what will happen, let us make these few observations, then you should probably stop reading until after you have seen the film. As is usual, Emily (Mara) will symbolize the "motherland" and her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) the economy, not only because he is a young male, but because he was a wealthy business man imprisoned for insider trading for four years. Emily suffers from "depression," which is not only a mental condition but, as well, an economic condition (as in the Great Depression of the 1930s). Drugs have been plot devices in a number of films lately, such as Dredd, Lawless (alcohol), House At the End of the Street (Carrie Ann is drugged), Savages, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters (the insulin), Looper, Arbitrage (the French artist uses drugs), Gangster Squad, etc. The film perhaps most closely resembling what will be seen with Side Effects is The Bourne Legacy because of how drugs/meds are used to program the behavior of the agents like Aaron Cross (please see All Points Of Convergence: The Bourne Legacy & Programmable Behavior for more). This is the place to stop reading.
Perhaps the two most important lines revealed in the trailer for our purposes, are at 0:12, when Martin tells Em, "I can get us back to where we were," because, decoded, that is, the upper-class telling America that they can take us back to the time of prosperity that we had prior to 2008; how can I deduce that meaning? Two reasons. The murder committed in the film is Em killing Martin, she stabs him to death. America, in the Occupy Wall Street movement and in the liberal media and political rhetoric, has murdered the 1% of the wealthy just like in the film; secondly, the plot of the film reveals that Em and Victoria (Zeta-Jones) had a homosexual affair and plotted the whole thing because Em was blaming Martin for taking away the rich lifestyle they had enjoyed together and lost so Victoria and Em frame Jonathan (Jude Law) to take him to the cleaners.
Which brings us to the second point.
If Martin was inprisoned for insider-trading, what Em and Victoria do is even more so because Victora, as a psychiatrist, uses her insider-knowledge of the field to frame Jonathan; while Jonathan goes around telling everyone there is a conspiracy and he's being framed, no one believes him, which starts out the second part of the story. When film "disrupts the narrative," that is, doesn't provide a straight linear way of telling the plot, but diverges between main characters and sub-story lines, the artistic techniques have been increased so as to develop a heavy degree of encoding the message; why? Usually it's a tell-tale sign that the message is controversial and the film makers want to communicate it, but it can't be communicated readily. So what Side Effects does is start us out in real-time, then goes back and reveals huge chunks of history of the characters which then re-defines them and their motives.
At 1:23, Jonathan exclaims, after having lost his wife, son and job, "I want my life back!" Where have we heard that line before? Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) in Tower Heist.  Both characters, at a moment of emotional crisis, express desire for "the way things were but aren't any longer," and Martin echoes that in Side Effects with his relationship with Em, but Em has "moved on," and the question is, will she win out and the answer is, she doesn't, and no one but Jonathan manages to get back to where they want to be; so what is it about Jonathan the film champions as heroic or at least commendable behavior? The real question--at this point--Side Effects seems to be asking us is: are there side effects or just consequences? And each of us will answer that in our own way, based on what the film reveals to us about ourselves and our morals, our desires, our fears and our hopes for what we consider "normal" behavior to be.   Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner