NOT KNOWING IT WHEN WE SEE IT
Friend Kale Zelden has a thoughtful and ironic rant here about the recent article by Naomi Wolf in which she expresses qualified unease about the fantastic wonderfulness of the Sexual Revolution and its special gift to culture, pornography.
This reasonates particularly with me this week as I was victimized by the unheralded pornography in the accalimed movie The Cooler this past weekend.
I had read at least four RAVE reviews about R-rated,The Cooler, which has garnered Oscar buzz for its screenplay, direction and stars Bill Macy, Maria Bello and Alec Baldwin. Not one of the reviews mentioned that the film includes a few absolutely graphic sex scenes - start to finish encounters with both Macy and Bello completely nude.
My friend and I came out of the film asking each other, "What the hell (and I do mean hell) is left for pornography?" It was just awful to watch - just coarse and lurid, like a couple of alley cats in a dumpster.
One of the reviews I had read of The Cooler lauded it as "a sweet love story." Good grief! Is it that the critics don't know what "sweet" means, or is it that they are so clogged with crassness and sin that they don't (to borrow from Flannery the Great) "recognize a freak" anymore? Or is it something much darker?
Since screening the film, I have been brooding over why so many filmmakers put moments of graphic sexuality in their movies. From a creative perspective, there is really nothing entertaining about watching people have sex. It isn't like there is anything new there from one movie to the next - some new body part or alternate way of doing it that will make it really surprising and different in the viewing. In every other circumstance, it is considered pedestrian to show something that the audience has seen before.
Anyway, The Cooler has a neat opening premise. The first ten minutes of the piece are quite good. Then, the whole thing starts to cool and then begins fluctuating wildly in tone until any sense of genre is completely lost. This is bad directing. But the writing is just as bad. The script makes use of only one adjective - that being the F-word which prefaces nearly every noun in the piece, and particularly those uttered by Alec Baldwin's despicable and - in terms of storytelling - completely inconsistent casino boss character.
Bill Macy is always good, but this movie has way more of him than I ever wanted to see including an unattractive middle-age paunch. Beyond writhing around naked, there isn't much for Macy to do here. Go rent Door to Door if you need a Macy fix.
The Cooler is not sweet. It is not cool. It is just more poison.