Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Year 8, Day 138 - 5/17/16 - Movie #2,338

BEFORE: This is why it took me so long to connect "Boyhood", it languished at the bottom of my watchlist for a few months before I had other films starring Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, who carries over today

Speaking of connections, I'm headed out tonight to see "Captain America: Civil War", but even with like 50 name actors in it, I've got no way to connect to it now.  And plans to run a review while I'm on break at Comic Con have been stymied by the length of my current chain, which is going to run past the end of July - so as much as I would have loved to run the "Captain America" review on July 4, or while I'm in San Diego a few weeks later, my best guess now is that I'll run it in mid-August. 

THE PLOT:  A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.

AFTER: It's weird, I know, to bounce between genres like this - one day it's a weird mystery, the next it's a sensitive drama about growing up, and the next I'm back into sci-fi.  But it's not as strange as it seems at first, since so many things are universal, and films can connect to each other in a whole bunch of different ways, so if I follow the linking and don't worry too much about the topics, it makes for some strange bedfellows, but it also allows me to draw connections between things I might not have otherwise noticed - 

For example, "Gattaca" has a whole sequence with the lead character, Vincent Freeman, growing up through his teen years - how can I not notice the connection to "Boyhood"?  Even if Ethan Hawke played the teen in one movie and the father in the other, it's still a cool coincidence.   "Gattaca" is also all about identity, with one man masquerading as another, and that reminds me of "Lost Highway" - umm, assuming that anyone can understand what was going on in "Lost Highway", which is a tall order.   

"Gattaca" is set in a future where people are regularly traveling to colonies on other planets, though we're not given an exact year, or told what the reason for the space travel is.  Vincent wants to go to Saturn's moon, Titan - but why, is it better there?  Did Americans finally break the Earth?  It seems OK to me, even though they still don't have flying cars or driverless ones.  What's the benefit of traveling for months or years to reach an environment that's even more inhospitable than our own?  

But we're apparently only sending the best people - again, why?  Why put a health requirement on space travel, when living in a low-gravity environment like another planet, or even in the spacecraft itself, would be ideal for someone who's older, or say, in a wheelchair, who would find it much easier to get around.  (The film itself makes this point, then promptly forgets about doing so.)  

Vincent's got a heart condition - at least, the 99% probability of having one, and his life expectancy was calculated at birth, making him an "in-valid" or a "de-gene-erate".  And this means he can only work as a janitor, because apparently that's the only disgusting lob left that we couldn't even get robots to do. (Robots would rather wait tables, and restaurants would rather hire robots to do that because they get every order right with their CPU brains, work for less than minimum wage and don't expect tips.  Makes sense to me.)

But a blood-dealer puts Vincent in touch with Jerome, who's got the perfect DNA needed for space travel, but was paralyzed in an accident.  And thus one man masquerades as the other, and his life becomes a process for always having fresh blood and urine samples ready in case of random tests - and non-random ones, like a blood scanner that allows access to the space center every morning.  This leads to a long process of getting ready every day that includes massive exfoliating, for fear of shedding random skin cells, and packing a few of Jerome's spare hairs to leave on his desk, just in case.  

But aren't we ALWAYS in the process of shedding skin cells?  According to the trivia game I'm now playing, a human sheds skin cells at the rate of 30,000-40,000 per HOUR.  So no process is going to prevent a few cells from ending up on the cafeteria table while you're on lunch break.  I'm guessing this film was made at the start of the "CSI" fad, where every crime procedural on TV suddenly realized how easy it was for fictional criminals to leave DNA behind in some fashion, solid or (ugh) liquid.

I'm just not sure what the ultimate point was here, what were the filmmakers trying to say about future society, and therefore, by extension, about current (1997) society?  The message seems unclear, other than to serve as a potential warning against eugenic practices.  And the ending seems both joyous and depressing at the same time. 

NITPICK POINT: So, in the future they can invent a scanner that can predict a person's entire future health history from one drop of blood, but they can't make a TV monitor that doesn't flicker?        

Also starring Jude Law (last seen in "Spy"), Uma Thurman (last seen in "Henry & June"), Xander Berkeley (last heard in "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies"), Alan Arkin (last seen in "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing"), Ernest Borgnine (last seen in "The Catered Affair"), Tony Shalhoub (last seen in "Against the Ropes"), Loren Dean (last seen in "Billy Bathgate"), Gore Vidal, Elias Koteas (last seen in "She's Having a Baby"), Jayne Brook, Mason Gamble, with cameos from Maya Rudolph (last seen in "Sisters"), Blair Underwood, Ken Marino (last seen in "They Came Together"), Gabrielle Reece.  

RATING:  5 out of 10 solar panels 

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