Tuesday, February 16, 2010
It was a ridiculous play, and now it's a ridiculous movie. Well, technically 5 years ago, it became such, but I just saw it for the first time.
First performed in 1982, the year I was born, Edmond really stirred something in people, made them uncomfortable. But when I saw it performed in 2003, it bored me. And when I saw the film of it, it made me angry. Not because of the language, but because of how hard it was trying to hit me on the head and shout at me. GET ANGRY!! it said. Get angry that everyone is a racist. Get angry that men hate women. Get angry that corporate drones are driven to murder when their pent-up fears come bursting forth. And at the end, laugh as Edmond becomes a vile combination of the things he has always despised. A prison boyfriend to a black man. A LOVING prison boyfriend.
Edmond's hatred is never fully explained in my opinion, though I'm sure many people would disagree. His impetus for leaving his wife, which comes in the form of a Tarot-card-reading old biddy, is absurd. "You are not where you belong," she tells him. So he chooses to leave and wander 8th avenue, stopping in every sleazy sex joint on the block. He doesn't understand how strip clubs work, or "health clubs" with lace-adorned "masseuses" waiting to hand out their services. He is had by a 3-card Monte conman. He slits a pimp's throat and slashes a waitress to death after she allows him to screw her.
Perhaps if the screenplay had not been written by David Mamet, who wrote the play as well, this could have been a better film. William H Macy does all he can as Edmond, spiraling incredibly quickly, into despair. Julia Stiles does good work as the doomed waitress, with the bad luck of running into someone whose prejudices come flooding out, knife-first, when he is finally allowed a chance to voice them.
I presume that we are supposed to feel something like sympathy for Edmond at the end, with his good night kiss to his boyfriend, initially his rapist. This man wraps his arms around Edmond, newly bald and mustachioed, and Edmond smiles, for now he is happy. He has found happiness in jail, that place he knew he would be happy in, for it is simple. Jail is his opportunity for redemption and safety and love.
Honestly, this movie made me uncomfortable, but not via the language or the story, but the feeling of wonkiness it left me with. Nothing looked right afterwards. So maybe it worked.