Friday, July 14, 2017

The Little Prince

Year 9, Day 195 - 7/14/17 - Movie #2,689

BEFORE: I got myself a knee brace at the pharmacy, after visiting my doctor this morning.  The reflexes in my left knee seem to be less responsive, which could mean any of several different things.  I could have a torn ACL, or early osteo-arthritis, but I needed a quick fix to the problem since I leave for San Diego next Wednesday, and I'll be doing a lot of walking there.  While sitting in the exam room, I suddenly remembered the time in February that I slipped on some ice while crossing the street and stepping up on a curb - it's very possible that I landed hard on my knee before my chest hit the ground.  So maybe I just banged it up and it took this long to start acting up - with luck I'll have more time to investigate this when I get back, but in the meantime the doc showed me some exercises I can do to strengthen my quadriceps to compensate.

Rachel McAdams carries over from "Spotlight", and this is another little gem I found on Netflix, I think it was in theaters briefly, but since then it's been hiding there as a Netflix exclusive.

THE PLOT: A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it.  Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.

AFTER: Thankfully I don't end up saying this very often, but I didn't understand this film at all.  I mean, I get that the framing sequence is about over-achieving "helicopter moms", and that sometimes it's best to let kids just be kids and not put too much pressure on them.  If that's the point of the film, then I can get behind that.

But all of the sequences with the Little Prince, I just couldn't tell which end was up, where the story was coming from, or where it was going for that matter, or what it all means in the end.  Why did it have to be so obtuse?  I feel like everything I saw was a metaphor for something else, but the meaning was always just out of my grasp.  I know it's just the story-within-the-story, but this is the part based on the famous children's book, right?  I don't know for sure, I never read it.  I'm assuming that the framing sequence is what's new here, and those sequences are animated in a different style, so it seems fairly straight-forward about which events are "real" and which ones are the fictional story.

Or is it?  Because late in the film the real girl gets into the Aviator's broken-down plane, and flies to another world, where she meets someone who might be the grown-up version of the Little Prince.  Is this part supposed to be real or not?  I honestly have no idea - I mean, in the end NONE of it is real, it's all one big story, but the people from the story aren't supposed to interact with the people from the story-within-the-story, right?  Isn't that against the rules?

I admit it, I fell asleep at some point, and I'm sure that didn't help.  In order to insure that I would get up in time for my doctor's appointment, I avoided my usual caffeinated beverage during this film, thinking that I'd make it through the (relatively) short film, fall asleep right after, and get something close to a good night's rest.  Didn't work out that way - instead I dozed off about a half-hour into the film, slept for an hour, and when I woke up, I was too far away from the PlayStation controller that would rewind the film, so I watched the end of the film, then I figured I'd go back and watch the middle bit that I missed in the morning.  Only by this time I'd forced myself to stay awake, and there was no getting back to sleep, so I got up, rewound the film to where I fell asleep, and watched until the part where I dozed off.

I realize all that makes for a non-ideal way to watch a story - but since then, I've reviewed the entire plot in the right order, and I still don't get it.  Who or what is this Little Prince, who lives on an asteroid, supposed to represent?  Is he God, Jesus or the child that lives within all of us?  And he falls in love with a rose?  How is that a thing, unless the rose represents a young woman somehow, whom he leaves to makes his way in the world, which he regrets later.

The Little Prince then makes his way to a variety of other asteroids or planets, where he meets a King, a Conceited Man, and a Businessman - what the heck is THAT all about?  Who are these people, or what are they supposed to represent?   Then he comes to earth and meets a Fox, whom he tames, and a Snake, who I think kills him earlier in the story, even though that happens later.??  Again, so much is unclear here about what happens when, or whether I'm supposed to take everything in this story literally or symbolically, that in the end I have no idea what's going on.

The Little Girl keeps sneaking out to be with the Aviator, who's the one telling her all these stories about the Little Prince - it seems he once crash-landed his plane in the desert, where he encountered the Prince himself (only, did he?  I can't tell if the Aviator is a reliable narrator, or a senile fool.)  And may I add here that this is a movie for kids, and if I had this much trouble understanding it, then what possible chance does a child have when it comes to figuring out what this story means?

Eventually the Little Girl gets in trouble with her mother for spending so much time with the Aviator and neglecting her studies, which are supposed to be preparing her to enter a very prestigious school.  But then when the Aviator gets sick, she sneaks out of her bedroom, flies off in the Aviator's plane and has her own adventure, where she meets the Little Prince as a man in his twenties, on a world full of workaholic people, run by that Businessman from the story, who grinds up everything that is not essential, and is holding the stars from the sky hostage and using them to power his city.  Again, WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?  I much prefer to interpret this as maybe the girl hit her head when the drainpipe fell down, and she fell into the Aviator's yard next door.  So I think the whole sequence on the workaholic world wasn't real, she was just imagining it while lying unconscious in the yard - that makes sense to me, but I worry that other interpretations are possible too.

OK, I've paused here to look up the storyline of the original children's book "The Little Prince" on Wikipedia, and I think I'm starting to understand the problem.  Much like "The Jungle Book", the book is a series of little vignettes with the prince visiting these different asteroids, and each one contains an irrational adult that's meant to satirize a specific type of person, or a part of society.  (Maybe it's a bit more like "Gulliver's Travels", where Gulliver found differennt illogical people in each land that he visited.)  Like the king who has no subjects, or the vain man who believes he is the best person on his planet when he's the ONLY person there, or the businessman who counts the stars but is blind to their beauty.  I note that the film left out the drunk man who's drinking to forget the fact that he's an alcoholic, understandable because this doesn't belong in a kids' movie, and the lamplighter who wastes his life following orders, because today's kids wouldnt' know what a lamplighter is.

The author of the book, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, did fly airplanes, and did crash a plane in the Sahara in 1935, and while he and a co-pilot survived, four days in the desert led to some very strange mirages, no doubt.  He also saw desert foxes while serving as a mail pilot, so I get where that came from too.  The Prince's rose is thought to symbolize Saint-Exupery's wife (as I figured), and the other roses the Prince encounters on Earth are possibly symbols of his infidelity. 

But it seems that overall, the film retained the events of the book, but in my opinion, made no attempt to even try to state what these events might mean.  If that's what you're going to do, make a really half-hearted effort to tell a story, then why bother?

Also starring the voices of Jeff Bridges (last seen in "Masked and Anonymous"), Mackenzie Foy (last heard in "Ernest & Celestine"), Marion Cotillard (last seen in "Midnight in Paris"), James Franco (last seen in "Tristan & Isolde"), Riley Osborne, Bud Cort (last seen in "Harold and Maude"), Benicio Del Toro (last seen in "Sicario"), Ricky Gervais (last seen in "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb"), Albert Brooks (last seen in "Concussion"), Paul Rudd (last heard in "Sausage Party"), Paul Giamatti (also last heard in "Ernest & Celestine").

RATING: 3 out of 10 birthday pancakes

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