Wrestling Ernest Hemingway
Dir: Randa Haines
Str: Richard Harris, Robert Duvall, Shirley MacLaine, Piper Laurie
This movie's theme is senility and loneliness. But, strangely, there
is no dreariness.
Wrestling Ernest Hemingway has a strange appeal. Despite the fact, essentially,
the movie is explicating senility and loneliness, there is no dreariness usually accompanying these kinds of issues.
But, still we can feel very strong loneliness from this movie. Before explaining this point, firstly I am going
to mention the overall synopsis.
Richard Harris and Robart Duvall act like children as if they wanted
to delete their indelible marks of loneliness, which makes them
the more look detached from the rest of the town.
The main characters of this movie are all played by rather old players such
as Richard Harris, Robert Duvall, Shirley MacLaine, and Piper Laurie. And all of them seem to be living alone with
the possible exception of Piper Laurie whose appearance is limited to a movie theater where she is always seduced
by Richard Harris and always fending him off. The only player belonging to younger generation is Sandra Bullock
who plays a waitress of a restaurant. Actually she seems to be the only channel connecting between these old boys
(Richard Harris and Robert Duvall) and actual town lives. In other occasions, they look like completely detached
from the rest of the town. Everyday, Robert Duvall orders bacon sandwiches, that is not on the usual menu of the
restaurant, from her. And, she seems to be the only person who admonishes him to stop eating the stuffs like bacon
sandwiches that would be surely detrimental to his health. I guess he is continuing to eat bacon sandwiches she
makes for him because he wants to be admonished by her forever.
One day, suddenly Richard Harris enters into his everyday life. He is an ex-sailor who is always telling people
about his brag that he once wrestled with Earnest Hemingway (so comes the title). As he has completely opposite
characteristics to Robert Duvall except the fact they are both old and alone, Robert Duvall must slightly change
his way of life. But, anyway, slight change is sufficient enough to cope with him. Because they are essentially
the same lonely persons. No matter how much they are different to each other in temperament, they can never wash
out their indelible marks of loneliness. And this fact alone can make them alike. So both old boys behave childishly
to compensate their senility and loneliness. They are funny because they are not supposed to be funny, nevertheless
act like children. In this regard, Richard Harris's wooing toward women (Piper Laurie and Shirley MacLaine) probably
also comes from his anxiety about being old and alone in his subconscious level. Therefore, when he must physically
do it, he can't do it. As he, himself, mentions himself, he looks like a clown.
Recently, the movies depicting the lives of southern part of
America seem to become very dreary.
Another thing I would like to mention about the film is about its bucolic atmosphere.
Though, especially recently, the movies depicting the lives of southern part of America seem to become very dreary
even if depicting modern day lives, this film is rather free from such a tendency in spite of its subject; i.e.
senility and loneliness. How many movies do you think have ever appeared since 1970s, which were shot in murkey
place like Louisiana swamps? I think, before 1970s, there appeared few such movies whose atmosphere was totally
covered with the tinge of swamp miasma. I presume this is because the American mentality has drastically changed
since 1970s. Though there are several good movies depicting this area (for example, Shy People, Mississippi
Burning), and I appreciate their values, I don't want to watch these kind of complete downer movies so often.
Bright Florida, and loneliness. They seem to be unmatched. But, by
contrast, loneliness is all the more noticeable in bright ambiance
Florida. This is truely nice touch.
Anyway, Wrestling Earnest Hemingway was shot in Florida, and
its sun yellowish (or rather orange) hue of the film seems to make it bucolic and peaceful and slightly lethargic,
and, at the same time, make the situation of those old boys look like not so desperate. I assume, had the director
been a male person (Randa Haines is female), the movie would have been completely different, for coating and wrapping
serious situations with a silky veil is definitely not the work of male directors. Nevertheless, I like this movie's
style. Because, by doing so, the film has all the more succeeded in summoning the ambiance of loneliness by contrast,
for loneliness is just the one aspect of normal life, and should not be regarded and handled as a dramatic event.
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