Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Year 8, Day 187 - 7/5/16 - Movie #2,388

BEFORE: Of course, I COULD have gone out to see "Independence Day: Resurgence" this past weekend, but I did not.  Partially that's because with all of the illegal fireworks going off, I don't feel safe leaving the house.  But we did go to my brother-in-law's house on Sunday for some burgers and hot dogs, and yesterday we barely left the house at all, I just stayed in and caught up on some TV shows and comic books.  I do want to see the new "Independence Day" in theaters, maybe the weekend after next.  I've been averaging about one film in theaters per month, even if I haven't posted those reviews yet - but I'm also planning to see the new "Ghostbusters" film this month, I may sit on that review until October, because ghosts seem sort of Halloween-y, right?  I don't know why they're releasing that film in the middle of summer, but what do I know?

An actor named Clem Bevans carries over from "Sergeant York" (as does the frequently uncredited Pat Flaherty), and this brings me back to another cast member of "It's a Wonderful Life", James Stewart of course. 

THE PLOT: Due to his insistence that he has an invisible six foot-tall rabbit for a best friend, a whimsical middle-aged man is thought by his family to be insane - but he may be wiser than anyone knows.

AFTER: I've known OF this film for a long time, I think I first heard of it when I was a kid, and I didn't quite understand it.  This guy talks to an invisible rabbit?  Well, how does anyone know it's really there?  And what good is a six-foot rabbit if you can't even see it?  Is it like a kid having an imaginary friend?  And then I got busy with being a kid, then a teenager, then an adult and I never got around to watching the movie and following up.  

OK, that's fine, maybe we all come to these things in our own time, maybe I just needed to mature some more, get a better understanding of the world, learn a little about mental illness, people who are socially awkward or live in their own headspaces, or can't handle everyone else's reality.  If anything I think this Elwood P. Dowd character comes across to me as maybe a grown-up autistic, or someone with Asperger's or something, where he's able to function in his day-to-day life, but he spends time in a fantasy place.  

That being said, I still don't understand the movie, not even after watching it.  Especially after watching it.  The problem is that once this man's fantasy is established, the movie doesn't DO anything with it.  The story goes around in circles and never gets anywhere - instead it involves people chasing each other from place to place, from the mental institution back to the house, to the bar, back to the institution, back to the house, etc.  And nothing is ever resolved, nothing determined for sure, there's no second or third act, it's just more of the same, over and over.

Then, to make matters worse, time and time again when any character has any piece of information to relate, they either stumble over saying it, or are short of breath, or get talked over by someone else, so there are tons of tiny conflicts, but all arising from poor communication.  And that's usually a poor substitute for actual conflict, or, you know, any actions occurring in any constant direction or toward any goal.  

So Elwood is crazy, so what?  So he's also a very personable fellow, so what?  So there's some confusion about whether the rabbit is real, which is obviously impossible, so what?  What does it all mean, is the rabbit some kind of metaphor for man's inhumanity to man?  Tell me something that means anything, I beg you.  Otherwise it's just a bunch of nonsense that fills up 105 minutes.  

Perhaps I got spoiled by the last few films, which were filled with wartime propaganda, political rhetoric, and such - so when presented with a simple film with no hidden agenda, it kind of feels like something is missing.  

There are some indications that perhaps the rabbit, allegedly some form of Celtic "pooka", which I'll wager was made up for this story, might be real - there's the hat, and the dictionary entry, which can't be explained away simply.  But again, so what?  If Harvey's real, which he's not, they still didn't DO anything with that fact, so it still feels like a lost opportunity.  I'm just not seeing the point of this exercise.  I just get the feeling that the writer didn't bother to take the time to learn how mental institutions work, or mental illness either for that matter, and just wrote them the way he thought they should work.  Sure, they can just give you one shot of a magic formula, then you'll stop seeing things that aren't there, it's that simple.

Also starring James Stewart (last seen in "Bandolero!"), Josephine Hull (last seen in "Arsenic and Old Lace"), Peggy Dow, Charles Drake (also carrying over from "Sergeant York"), Cecil Kellaway (last seen in "The Postman Always Rings Twice"), Victoria Horne, Jesse White, William H. Lynn, Nana Bryant, Wallace Ford (last seen in "Spellbound").

RATING: 4 out of 10 cab drivers

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