Fireproof: Part 4

While Caleb bonds with a man friend…Catherine is bonding with a man friend, too!

I know the movie wants us to think that Doctor What’s-His-Name is a slimeball (spoiler alert: he is one), but here he just so happens to be doing one of the many, many things that Caleb hasn’t done: he listens to Catherine.  He lets her talk about her feelings and doesn’t judge her.  He commends her for helping her parents.  (This is an especially noteworthy compliment, as it’s an issue Catherine is very sensitive about—remember when Caleb first screamed a list of insults in her face?  The one she objected to was “selfish.”)

***

Fire alarm!

The boys (of course Albany, Georgia doesn’t have any female firefighters.  Don’t be ridiculous.) head out to a house fire.  Long story short, it’s pretty bad, and a little girl is trapped inside, natch.

For all his talk (even in the truck on the way to this very fire) about sticking with your partner, Caleb…crawls into the house on his own, looking for the kid.  Everyone else sticks at the front of the house and are separated from Caleb when some of the roof caves.

So, Caleb is trapped in a back bedroom with the kid, but without his partner.  Because he left his partner.

Oh, and for reasons best known to himself, Caleb deliberately set down his walkie-talkie before heading into the house.  So he has no way of letting anyone know exactly where her is.

And, and, he can’t break a window because they’re all barred.

Now, I am about as far from being an expert on firefighting as it is possible to be, but is it really advisable for Caleb to take off his oxygen mask and his firefighting jacket, and put them on the unconscious kid?  Doesn’t Caleb need them more at this moment?  I mean, I keep thinking about being on an airplane—secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.  Because if Caleb is injured or collapses from smoke inhalation, they’re both screwed.  Isn’t it better, instead of wasting time fumbling with the gear, to get them both out as quickly as possible so the kid can get medical attention?

But it’s probably okay, because Caleb prays!

Caleb:  God, get me out of here.  Get us out of here.

God:  Sure thing, Caleb.  Just radio your crew, and…oh.  Right.  You left your walkie-talkie outside like a dumbass, Caleb.

Anyway, Caleb uses his fire axe to break through the floor.  (And expends a lot of energy doing so, necessitating some heavy breathing.  Gee, sure would be nice to have an oxygen mask about now, eh, Caleb?  It’s one of those basement-less houses that sits on cinderblocks, so Caleb crawls out, dragging the kid, and makes it away Just In Time.

(btw, you can see a lot of the fire scenes in the trailer)

Phew.  I was worried there.

***

In the hospital, Catherine checks in on Caleb just as the nurse (I can only assume she’s a nurse, because she’s a she) is dressing Caleb’s partial thickness burn on his arm.

I can only assume he wouldn’t have gotten that had he kept his jacket on, but I digress.

The nurse then tells Catherine that Caleb only has first-degree burns, and this movie should have found a medical advisor, because partial thickness burns are second-degree burns, not first-degree burns, so Caleb has both first- and second-degree burns.

Stupid movie.

The doctor in attendance is Flirty Doctor What’s-His-Face, who reacts with some surprise to hearing that Caleb is Catherine’s husband.  Which, okay, if he is surprised that this particular guy is Catherine’s husband, but he shouldn’t be surprised that Catherine has a husband (separated-in-all-but-name though they are) because Catherine was wearing her wedding ring until three weeks ago.

Catherine:  Well, let me get out of your way.

Nurse:  Oh, no, you’re not in our way; you can stay.

Catherine:  No, it’s alright.  I’ll let you do your jobs.  *walks away*

Let me say right now—I will never get tired of seeing Catherine blow off Caleb.  (Especially since I know it won’t last much longer.  Sad face.)

Caleb and Flirty Doctor have a moment when the nurse heads off to get more gauze.  Caleb put his wedding ring back on his burned and swollen hand.  (Gee, sure would have been nice if you had been wearing some protective gear inside that burning house, eh, Caleb?)  Flirty Doctor advises that he should keep the ring off until the hand has a chance to heal.

Caleb:  My hand’s gonna have to heal with this on my finger.

People are so silly when they purposely go through pain to prove a point.  I mean, Jesus, Caleb, put the ring on a chain and wear it or something.  I’m can only hope that God would understand.

An aside: I know that the whole wedding ring bit is supposed to be the proof that Caleb is officially a Changed Man, but to me, a better demonstration of changedness would have been for Caleb to check on the condition of the little girl he saved.  But that’s just me.

***

Caleb’s changedness doesn’t extend to his mom, of course.

Caleb:  *on the phone*  Mom, it’ll be fine.  It’s gonna heal up in a couple of weeks. … Yes, I’ve got it wrapped up right now.  Can I speak with Dad, please?  Okay, Mom, I got it.  Now, would you please hand the phone to Dad?  Thank you.  *to John*  Dad, would you please ask Mom to cut me some slack?

Young man, I will slap that smart mouth of yours right now, you keep disrespecting your mother like that!

Sadly, John says nothing like that.  Instead, he just lets Caleb brag on how he’s received so many requests for interviews.

Caleb:  Seems I’m a hero with everybody in the world except my wife.

***

Sorry it’s a short one this time, guys.  Been a long week at work and I need to catch some sleep.

Next time: Caleb confronts his porn addiction!

 

Fireproof: Part 3

So, in the comments for Part 2, several of you opined that the Love Dare challenges were…well, basically crap.  Maybe okay if you’re trying to bring back a little something to a marriage that is fundamentally good, but less than useless in a marriage as broken as Caleb and Catherine’s.

Catherine’s friends agree.  In fact, they’ve got a theory:

Oh, and remember what I said about the black female characters back in Part 1?  Well, here we go again, as two of Catherine’s friends, both black, address Catherine’s confusion:

Nurse #1:  Hey, Cat, how you doin’, girl?

[Catherine explains what's been going on]

Nurse #2:  I’ll tell you what he’s doing—he’s trying to butter you up for a divorce.

Catherine:  And why would he do that?

Nurse #2:  Before my cousin Luwanna got a divorce, her husband did the same thing.  He started acting nice and sweet, and the next thing we know, he walks away with the house and most of their money.  He hasn’t even talked to her since.  Don’t you let him deceive you, girl.

Nurse #1:  Mmmmmmm.

Oh, god.

Catherine, sinful woman that she is, immediately agrees with her friends.  Clearly, none of them are quite right with God, what with being concerned for Catherine’s feelings and welfare and future.

***

Later, at home, Caleb is sitting in front of the computer.  Presumably, he is feeding his porn addiction, given how quickly he closes all the windows when he hears Catherine come in.  (Naturally, the camera is positioned so we can’t see the monitor.)

Now, I’m no expert on guys watching porn online…but do they really do it fully clothed, in an uncomfortable-looking chair, in the living room?

I mean, there’s not even a box of tissues or anything there on the desk.  (Yeah, I went there.)

(Also, Caleb looks more like he’s trying to do a moderately difficult Sudoku than like he’s looking at lovely ladies.)

Anyway, Catherine calls Caleb on his “nice-guy routine,” over the past two weeks or so, and Caleb explodes:

Caleb:  YOU NEVER ASSUME I WOULD DO ANYTHING WORTHY OF RESPECT!  ANYTHING HONORABLE!

Not sure how “honorable” it is to make one lousy cup of coffee, but Catherine goes to the internet porn instead.  She points out, oh so correctly, that “defaulting” (heh, is that what the kids are calling it these days?) to internet porn is not exactly honorable.  Then she stalks off.  You go, girl.

Change

Looks how this experience is changing Caleb for the better!

(Note: as I mentioned earlier, the word “porn” is never used.  I guess so parents can bring their kids to this movie about a toxic, abusive marriage.  Instead, it’s “what you were looking at.”)

Caleb, once again disappointed that he can’t just haul off and smack that mouthy broad, heads to the backyard to take out his anger on the innocent trashcan again.  (This time, it’s with a baseball bat instead of his foot.  The situation is escalating, and that poor trashcan is paying the price.)

Elderly neighbor is in his backyard, grilling like a boss, and witnesses the whole thing!  Again!

HA!  (C’mon, laugh, it’s supposed to be funny!)

Caleb then sits in his car, and calls his dad to whine and cry at him.

John correctly calls out Caleb on doing “just enough to get by.”

This is twice in five minutes that Caleb has been called on his bullshit.  Nice.

Then this happens:

Caleb:  I feel nothing.

John:  I understand, son.  But this is not based on feelings.

Yeah, geez!  Who would want to base a marriage on stupid, sissy feelings, anyway???

(What were you, my loyal readers, saying about Fireproof spouses being treated like malfunctioning robots?)

John urges Caleb to keep taking things a day (and a challenge) at a time.

Caleb:  Yes, sir.

Huh.  Looks like some people in Caleb’s life get respect and consideration from him.

The solution to this problem is obvious: Caleb should marry his dad.

***

Meanwhile, Catherine goes to cry on her mom’s shoulder, which is complicated by the fact that Catherine’s mom can’t talk to her.

Catherine:  When did I stop being good enough for him?

This is sad, because this is the hot issue for Catherine.  Not the verbal and emotional abuse, not being treated as a live-in maid.  It’s all about the internet porn.  Look, I’m not saying it’s not a problem, but this problem is competing with the problem that her husband also screams in her face and bullies her into the corner of the room when he gets even slightly ticked off.

***

Musical montage!  (Catherine keeps flirting with a guy who genuinely seems to enjoy her company.  The harlot.)

***

When we cut back, we find Caleb is on Day 18.  (I guess if you want to know what to do to save your marriage on Days 5 through 17, you can buy the damn book, you cheapskates!)

Oh, I take that back.  Caleb is talking to Michael, and mentions that he “kinda skipped” Day 16, which is about praying for your spouse.  And Day 17 is about listening.

I’m guessing Caleb “kinda skipped” that one, too.  (Also, it takes 17 days to figure out you should listen to your spouse?  Yeah, great marriage book.)

So, it’s Day 18, and Caleb is supposed to think about “studying” Catherine, getting to know her again, like he did when he was courting her.  (And I am so sure that Caleb studied Catherine when they were dating.  Because he’s such a sensitive listener and has so much respect for women.)

Hilariously, at the end of Day 18, Caleb is supposed to make a candlelight dinner for Catherine, and “then ask her a whole list of questions.”

 photo 11185rl.gif

Um, yeah, because nothing is sexier and more romantic that being interviewed.

Seriously, how would this even work in this crap marriage?  If he asks her stupid questions (“So, seen any good movies lately…without me?”) then she’ll just be bored and annoyed.  If he tries to ask her deep questions about her innermost hopes and fears, she’ll assume (and who could blame her?) he’s manipulating her.  So there’s really no way that anybody is coming out of this a winner.

***

More “comic relief.”  Caleb confesses to the rookie that he (Caleb) drank tomato juice when Rookie chugged hot sauce.  Rookie is pissed.  Rookie is also easily the most likeable character in this movie.  “There were some serious repercussions!”

***

Candlelight dinner time!  Caleb is waiting for Catherine as she comes in the door, and the table looks pretty nice, really.  Caleb pulls out a chair for her, with a puffed-out chest like a four-year-old who managed to tie his own shoes.

Catherine just walks on by.

YES!!!

Suck It (Psych)

She takes a minute in her room, then comes back to ask Caleb exactly what in the fucking hell he thinks he’s doing. (But she asks, yanno, in a clean way.  Not in my filthy heathen way.)

Caleb:  *all smug*  Maybe I’d like to have dinner with my wife.

Catherine:  Let me be real clear with you about something.  I do not love you.

Caleb heads outside, but instead of beating up the trashcan, he does the other thing he does when he’s angry.

Daa—aaaaaddd, Catherine’s being mean to me.  Tell her to stoooopppp!

John sees the caller ID, giving him the opportunity to say to himself…

John:  Oh, son, this is when it gets hard.

Aww, did Catherine hurt Caleb’s pwecious fee-fees?  Yeah?  GOOD.

Oh, and lest you get the wrong idea, Caleb’s feelings aren’t hurt.  Or, if they are, it is very much secondary to his anger.  He is really, really angry at Catherine for daring to spurn him.

Caleb:  SHE HAS GIVEN ME NOTHING.

Because it’s still all about him.  She’s just the doll who won’t respond the way she is supposed to.

The doll, meanwhile, is crying in her room.  Aww, so she really does love Caleb!  Silly woman that she is, she just said something she didn’t mean to hurt him!

Women, amirite?

***

The next day, John comes over (without Cheryl this time, because John is no fool and now knows that Caleb can’t stand to be around the female of the species), and the two Manly Men take another Manly Walk.

Caleb: Catherine’s not buying any of it.

Gee, asshat, maybe that’s because you’re confusing her because she has no idea why you’re doing any of this crap!

John almost immediately brings up Jesus.  As you would when your abusive son’s marriage is falling apart.

Caleb:  I do not need a crutch to get through life.

John:  Oh, son, Jesus is much more than a crutch.

Okay, um, I think I’ll just file that under “I don’t think he actually realized what he just said.”  Because John just straight-up admitted Jesus is a crutch, though he is also more than that.  Snerk.

John admits that he thinks Caleb will end up in Hell for “violating [Jesus's] standards.”  Given that he thinks that, I’m surprised John is so blasé about the whole issue, given his son’s dangerous profession.  I mean, that Hypothetical Bus Fire could happen at any time!

Caleb argues that “I help people; I am a good person,” the very arguments he fights against as Ray Comfort’s Robin.

Caleb is silenced by the shocking revelation that Jesus’s standards are, like, really high and stuff, because Caleb is totally starting to see his sin.  (As in all Christian movies, the non-Christian doesn’t question why he should care about the standards of one sanctimonious creep who lived two thousand years ago, or why he is supposed to feel guilty about not conforming to the creep’s standards.)

John changes tactics and asks Caleb why he is so frustrated with Catherine.  Instead of telling the truth (she is a woman and she would like me to contribute to the house and acknowledge her existence once in awhile), he starts whining again:

Caleb:  She makes everything difficult for me.  She’s ungrateful.  She’s constantly griping about something.  …  I’m not even welcome in my own home.  …  How am I supposed to show love to somebody over and over and over who constantly rejects me?

Ah-HA, but see, father and son have once again wandered into the old Bible camp, and as Caleb finishes his tirade about ungrateful females, John is standing right next to the cross!

Wow!

(‘Cause, see, ungrateful humans make everything difficult for Jesus.  They’re always griping about shit.  And they reject him over and over!)

So, isn’t Jesus supposed to be better than humans?  Shouldn’t he have more patience and stuff?  John seems to think we should feel sorry for Jesus because of all the crap we ungrateful humans give him, but can’t he just take infinite amounts of crap?

But John’s point is that Caleb, being a non-Christian, isn’t capable of love:

John:  You can’t love her because you can’t give her what you don’t have.  I couldn’t truly love your mother till I understood what love really was.

Dipshit.

Such a weirdly cultish sentiment:  We aren’t like those other filthy sinners.  We have real love.  Not like that fakey love that Jews and Hindus and Wiccans and atheists pretend to have.  We have access to, and true understanding of, the special love.

And the special hell, too!

John pulls the boilerplate John 3:16 and the “atheists are just so easily offended” cards next:

John:  The cross was offensive to me until I came to it.

Exactly how was it offensive to you, John?  I want to know.  Was it like a vampire thing?

‘Cause that’s not really how atheists react.  Just so’s you know.

Kirk Cameron is scrunching up his face like he’s trying to make tears come, and John ends with a final guilt trip of “I love you too much not to tell you the truth.”

So, just like that, Caleb repents (of being a non-Christian, of abusing his wife) and John walks him through the Sinner’s Prayer.

They hug and pray and stuff, which seems like quite a switcheroo from a guy who, not five minutes ago, said he didn’t need the Jesus Crutch.

Fade to black.

***

You might think, after this miraculous conversion, that a man might feel the need to come clean to his wife.  To share his newfound faith and maybe even reveal the reason for his changed behavior (and now, his changed mind).

Oh, silly reader.  Like Caleb would ever open up to a mere woman.  That would be so…womany.

Nope, he opens up to a Manly Man, as God intended.

Caleb:  Um…it’s about your faith.

Michael:  My faith?

Caleb:  Yeah.

Michael:  What about it?

Caleb:  Well, I’m in.

They hug (in the manliest of ways, of course).

Michael:  You’re my brother from another mother and now we got the same father!

brother

Caleb just looks pleased as punch about this.

Once again, instead of discussing the Love Dare with his actual wife, Caleb discusses it with his male companions.  They’re way less scary than the wimmins.

And he learns Michael’s shameful secret: before he was married to his “incredible” current wife, Tina, he was married a first time!

Well.

Caleb is floored by this fact.  I mean, yesterday, he wouldn’t have given two shakes if another person was married one time or two times or six times, but now he’s been infected by the RTC Virus, so he literally turns and checks to see if any other firemen are around as Michael reveals this, divorce being the secret and shameful thing that it is.

Michael:  [We were married] for one horrible year.  I got married for the wrong reasons, then I turned around and got a divorce for the wrong reasons.  Man, I thought I was just following my heart. … It was before I gave my life to the Lord, and, man, I was just only concerned about my rights and my needs.

Ha!  Typical atheist, amirite?

Michael:  Man, I ruined her life.

Wait, what?

Michael:  But when I gave my life to God, I tried to find her, but she’d already remarried.

That SLUT!

Michael:  So believe me when I tell you I got a big scar.  Man, God made marriage to be for life.  That’s why you gotta keep your vows to Catherine.

Ah, I see.  So you poke your nose into other people’s business because you still have a guilt complex about your own divorce.

Also, “ruined her life“?  Sounds like things turned out just fine.  You both found other people to love.  I mean, sorry that she was an independent person with thoughts and feelings of her own, and didn’t sit on the couch, just waiting for you to come back, but them’s the breaks when you’re dealing with a human being.

Unless…by “I ruined her life,” Michael means that he was a husband like Caleb, abusive and neglectful.  Does he mean that?  Or does he only mean that divorce automatically ruins a woman’s life, whether she moves on to love with someone else or not?

Either way, Caleb nods seriously, the message clear: Divorce makes God cry, so the only thing to do, regardless of the damage you’ve already inflicted on your spouse, is to stay together, no matter what.  Catherine will just have to learn to take it and like it, I guess.

Will Catherine take it and like it?  Will Caleb ever get around to telling her anything?  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

TV Alert: Left Behind III and Love’s Long Journey

For those of you who get TBN, tonight there will be not one, but two Christian movies!

Left Behind III is delightfully bad, though not something I’ll be reviewing, since that is clearly in Fred Clark’s territory.  ;)

Love’s Long Journey is the sixth movie chronologically (though only third movie made—it’s like Star Wars!) in the Love Saga, which is based (very loosely) on Jeanette Oke’s series of books.

This is a series I have thought about reviewing–whaddaya think???

http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/thelovesaga/video/Previews/LovesLongJourney

Fireproof: Part 2

The next evening, we get a scene cutting back and forth between Caleb bitching at his coworker about Catherine, and Catherine commiserating with her girlfriends over dinner.  Just to show how unbiblical the girlfriends are, they even offer Catherine a place to stay until the divorce is finalized.  Catherine declines, because “he’s the problem, not me.”  Which I suppose is the movie’s way of telling us that the scene we saw of the yelling and bullying couldn’t possibly be abuse, could it?  Because Catherine isn’t afraid to live in the same house as Caleb.  Sigh.

Caleb once again brings up the “R” word, and (as Catherine simultaneously predicts in the cut) opines that the marriage has been just fine for the last year or so, until Catherine “went off the deep end.”  Being a woman, Catherine is, of course, “emotional about everything” and “way too sensitive.”  (Cut to Catherine crying into her ice water over Caleb’s insensitivity.)

Ha!  Women and men, amirite?

(Catherine never does bring up the whole driving-her-into-a-corner incident.  Guess it’s just not worth mentioning.)

***

The next day, two cars of teens (two boys in one car, two girls in the other) flirtatiously drag race to the local pizza joint…with predictably disastrous results.  The girls (of course it’s the girls; don’t be silly) get their car stuck on the train tracks, and both are too injured to move.

Cue Caleb and his fire crew to the rescue, I guess to prove that he really is a rockin’ hero when he’s not terrorizing his wife.

***

Later, Caleb’s parents, Cheryl and John, visit while Catherine is out, and we really get to the heart of the issue.

Caleb: I mean, I walk in the door, and she’s mad about something.

Cheryl:  Have you given her a reason to be upset?  I’ve never known Catherine to be unreasonable.

Caleb:  I could have saved the lives of two people at work, and if I’m not here helping wash the dishes, I’m a horrible husband.

Cheryl:  But, Caleb, she needs your help here as well.  Doesn’t she help her parents out every week?  She can’t do everything around here.

Caleb:  Now you sound like you’re taking her side.

Cheryl:  Caleb, she’s working every day, and she’s trying–

Caleb:  Mom, I do not need you telling me I’m doing everything wrong!  I’ve got Catherine for that!  I am not the problem; she is.

Cheryl:  All I’m saying is–

John:  Cheryl, Cheryl, let’s hear Caleb out.  I want to know what’s going on with him.

Caleb:  Dad, could I please have a few minutes to talk with you?  Alone?

Cheryl:  Caleb, I just want to help you and Catherine—

Caleb:  *world’s most long-suffering look*  Dad?

John:  Honey, why don’t you let us take a walk?  It’s a’ight.

Cheryl:  Okay.

And so, Caleb and John head out for a walk, while Cheryl stays behind, alone, in Caleb and Catherine’s house.  Guess she can make herself useful and wash a dish or two, Mom, geez.

So, basically, if Caleb isn’t busy yelling at his wife, he spends his time running down his mother.

Two seconds later:

Caleb:  Dad, why did you have to bring her?

Caleb makes his mother sound like a particularly messy pet.

Caleb:  She—she—she just grates on me.

Speaking of grates, Caleb, you are an ungrateful dickweed.

Like I said, now we’re getting down to it.  Caleb hates women.  And feels the need to surround himself with nothing but men, both professionally and socially.  Gee, that couldn’t possibly be because he hates and fears the female of the species, could it?

John mentions that his and Cheryl’s marriage wasn’t always the best it could have been (Caleb agrees), and John, of course, credits God.

John:  The Lord did a work in us.

Caleb isn’t having any of that crap.  And by this time, they’re wandered onto a former Bible camp, complete with wooden cross, and John keeps on with the Jesus talk.  Caleb, making sense for once in his life, cuts off John, stating simply that the religion thing “Is not for me.”

Oh, but Caleb, the love of Jesus is for everyone!

(Because we all know that Christians never have marital problems.  Snerk.)

This is the point at which Caleb’s dad challenges him to hold off on the divorce lawyer for 40 days, so that he can do what his parents did to save their marriage.  John basically guilts Caleb into it, but Caleb strikes me as kind of a lazy-ass, anyway, so I don’t think he was in a hurry to get the ball rolling on the divorce.

(This scene is a bit painful to watch for a whole ‘nother reason, too.  This movie takes place in Georgia and both John and Cheryl speak with Southern accents.  Caleb, who has presumably spent his whole life in the state, doesn’t have a trace of an accent.  Now, I accept that not every actor can do accents, but since Kirk Cameron can’t, you’d think the solution would be to hire actors with his accent as his parents, and drop a line in about the family being transplants or something.)

***

Brief scene of Catherine and cute Dr. Keller having lunch together at the hospital cafeteria.  He’s coming on just a bit strong, though Catherine has ditched her wedding ring…

***

In most Christian films, there is a Smug Christian Jerk to help our hero on his path to the salvation of Jesus Christ.  Often, this Smug Jerk is a woman, like Noella Wright or Joella Ratchford or Kristin Reed.  Or even Jesus himself (sorta).

In Fireproof, the role is split in unequal parts between Caleb’s dad, John, and Caleb’s coworker, Michael Simmons.  Caleb’s dad isn’t so bad, really, but Michael’s smug jerkiness is almost on the Ratchford level.

Caleb explains (damn, you’d think by this time his family and coworkers would be so sick of hearing how awful his wife is) that he and Catherine are too different now to reconcile.

Michael:  Caleb, salt and pepper are completely different.  …  But you always see them together.

To illustrate his point, Michael superglues together the station’s salt and pepper shakers.  Ooookay, dude.  You just…do whatever you feel is right, I guess.

Michael:  Caleb, when two people get married, it’s for better or for worse.  For richer or for poorer.  In sickness and in health.

Yadda yadda.

Caleb, who, for once, might be thinking of somebody other than himself, tries to pull apart the shakers.  Michael stops him.

Michael:  Don’t do it, Caleb.  If you pull them apart now, you’ll break either one or both of them.

Wow!

Caleb switches gears.

Caleb:  I am not a perfect person, but better than most.

RAYFORD STEELE??????

Nah, Caleb, for all his faults, has actually contributed to saving lives.

Michael pounds the point home yet again, finally pushes Caleb to snap at him not to “abuse” the privilege of being able to speak so freely to his boss, and stalks away.

Well, yeah, Caleb, you are the resident expert on abuse.

I’m on the fence on this exchange.  On the one hand, Michael is being a smug jerk.  On the other hand, Caleb is the one who keeps yammering on and on and on about his marriage, so I can hardly blame Michael for having an opinion.

***

John’s gift for Caleb arrives in the mail.  (Question: why didn’t John just drive it over if it’s so important?  They live in the same town, after all.)

Looks like John handwrote this book, and it’s really kind pretty.  (Looking, I mean.  Not sounding.)  The Love Dare challenges Caleb to go one day at a time for 40 days, new challenge every day.  The first day’s challenge is to say nothing negative to your spouse.  Which I’m thinking shouldn’t be hard for Caleb to achieve—he should just call Day One a day when he’s on his 48-hour shift, ha-ha!

Naturally, a Bible verse accompanies the Day One plan.  James 1:19.

Day One

Heh.  “Slow to anger.”  Caleb will have a great time with that one.

But no, Caleb plays fair and does Day One on a day he’s at home.  He asks Catherine to take his clothes to the cleaners’, and she asks why he couldn’t have taken care of it himself.

And, um, yeah.  First of all, even if they were “together,” he had two days to do it himself.  And hell, they’re basically separated, living in separate rooms, and prepping for divorce.  Why does she still have to run his errands?

So, following the letter of the Love Dare, Caleb just stalks out in a huff, but doesn’t actually say anything.

What a man.

Day Two challenge is to do one unexpected nice thing for your spouse.  Caleb goes ALL OUT for this one and pours Catherine a cup of coffee before she gets to the kitchen.

Catherine:  I don’t have time for coffee.  *hurries out the door to work*

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…

snl animated GIF

I kinda love Catherine at this moment.

Day Three is to buy something nice for your spouse.  Caleb cheaps out on a half-assed bouquet and bitsy box of chocolates.  (Though I have to say, he way overpaid even on that.  The flowers alone here cost twenty-five dollars.  I could have gone to Trader Joe’s and got something much prettier for less than half of that.)

Flowers

Catherine doesn’t give a shit, anyway.

***

Comic relief at the fire station.  Hot sauce contest.  Caleb cheats because he is a dirty cheating cheater who cheats.  (He drinks tomato juice out of his hot sauce bottle and fools the rookie.  Big man.)

***

Caleb calls Catherine at the hospital to “check on you.”  Catherine is understandably confused and I am creeped out, but it is, of course, the Day Four challenge.

Call your spouse!  Damn, this Love Dare does not let up on the excitement!

Surely this will piece back together this horrible marriage.  I mean, who isn’t rooting for these two by now?

What will the next 36 days bring?  Stay tuned!

 

Fireproof: Part 1

You guys, my very first Kirk Cameron movie!  Mike Seaver!  Buck FREAKING Williams!  Robin to Ray Comfort’s Batman!  (If Batman was an ignorant blowhard with no understanding of science or research.)

Okay, so we know right away that a movie starring Buck Williams, dealing with Christian marriage, is going to be screwy, right?  Right.  And we get started in the very first scene!

Little Catherine (we never see her, we just hear her voice as the camera pans across the stereotypically little-princess room, complete with “Daddy’s Little Girl” pink placard on the wall.

Little Catherine: I want to marry Daddy.

Okay, I get that little kids say weird things, but when Little Catherine’s mommy explains that Daddy is her husband, Little Catherine presses the point, and finally settles on a plan to marry someone “just like daddy.”

Daddy is a fireman.

I think we all know where this is going.

Sure, enough, 25 years later, Catherine is stuck in a joyless, loveless marriage with an abusive jerk.  But hey, at least he’s a firefighter!  So, Mission Accomplished, eh?

Said abusive jerk is one Caleb Holt, fire captain (*snicker*) in Athens, Georgia.  He is introduced with the theme of the movie: he scolds a firefighter under his command that “you never leave your partner.”

Ha, bet Caleb won’t learn that the same principle applies to marriage!!  :D

Catherine, meanwhile, has grown up to become a PR person at the hospital.  She is introduced by expositioning to a friend about the fact that her mother had a stroke a year ago, and needs a new hospital bed and wheelchair, which insurance won’t cover.

I wonder how most conservative Christians feel about the fact that some people can’t afford medical equipment…

On her way out, Catherine literally bumps into cute Dr. Gavin Keller, leading to a knowing look from the two nurses nearby, who theorize that Gavin has a crush on her.

I hesitate to even bring this up, but here goes: the two nurses are black.  And the black women in this movie seem to be written just a tad stereotypically, addressing Catherine as “Cat, girl,” and ending many sentences with “mmmm-hmmmm.”  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate seeing people of color on the screen, given how incredibly white Christian films tend to be.

But still…

***

Quick scene of Catherine visiting her parents.  Mom hasn’t regained any speech since the stroke.  That’s sad.  Catherine’s dad was a firefighter and also a nice person, and in marrying a guy “just like him,” Catherine only opted for the former characteristic, not the latter.  That is also sad.

***

Back at Casa Holt, we see that Catherine and Caleb barely even acknowledge each other’s existence.  This is at least partially explained by the fact that Caleb work on a 24-hours-on, 48-hours-off schedule, which basically translates to husband and wife seeing each other for about one hour per week.

They argue about breakfast, with Caleb immediately setting the tone by telling Catherine “Don’t get smart with me” when she suggests that if he wants some groceries, he could always, yanno, go to the store.

Caleb and Catherine are about my age.  “Don’t get smart with me” isn’t even a phrase I associate with my parents’ generation.  I can picture my grandfather saying it.  Maybe.

More exposition reveals that Caleb has manages to squirrel away $24,000 over the years, and is planning on buying a boat.  Catherine argues that they could use the money on the house, but it’s hard for me not to agree with Caleb that the things she suggests (painting a door, putting shelves in a closet) are minor preferences.  Hell, I even agree that if they’re important to her but not to him, why not use her paycheck on them.

(This all made me curious, so I did some very quick and general research.  An experienced firefighter in Georgia could make $50,000-60,000 per year, possibly more since he’s the chief of the station.  And a hospital PR specialist could make roughly the same.  That is a very comfy household income, especially for a childfree couple.)

***

A pointless scene at the gym (oooo, so manly, Buck!) where Caleb complains that he gets no “respect.”  Again, very…old world complaint for a man.

Or maybe the men in my family are just too progressive, who knows.  ;)  They do tend to run to more successful marriages than the Holt marriage, though.

Not that that’s saying a lot.

Hell, it’s not saying much of anything.

***

Sweaty and stinky from the gym, Caleb berates Catherine for not fixing him any dinner (she assumed he was eating with his gym buddy), then starts into a general complaining rant about their marriage.  Naturally, it sets him off when Catherine states that she feels “pressure” from taking care of the house all by herself, plus helping her parents.  Because nobody feels pressure except for firefighters.

Catherine brings up Caleb’s porn addiction.  (The words “porn addiction” are never used, to the best of my memory, but I’ll keep my ears open as we go along.)  Instead, she calls it “looking at that trash” online.

The movie considers this to be Caleb’s Big Problem.  The one worst thing about his behavior as a husband.  But I think they’re overlooking the real Big Problem, which occurs about three seconds later…

Caleb slams a cupboard shut and starts shrieking in Catherine’s face.  Flinging an accusing finger at her face again and again, he bullies her into a corner of the kitchen, still screaming at levels that would cause some neighbors to call the cops.  (They don’t in the movie.  But if I heard a man screaming at a woman like that, I sure as hell would consider it.

Caleb:  SHUT UP!  I’M SICK OF YOU!  YOU DISRESPECTFUL, UNGRATEFUL, SELFISH WOMAN!

Catherine:  *murmurs*  I’m not self–

Caleb:  YOU CONSTANTLY NAG ME AND YOU DRAIN THE LIFE OUTTA ME!  I’M TIRED OF IT!  IF YOU CAN’T GIVE ME THE RESPECT I DESERVE– *Catherine’s face is turned away in fright*  –LOOK AT ME! –THEN WHAT’S THE POINT OF THIS MARRIAGE?

Caleb finally takes a breath and turns away, giving Catherine enough time to whimper the magic words:

Catherine:  I want out.

Damn straight.

And that is fine with Caleb.

Oh, excuse me…

Caleb:  THAT’S FINE WITH ME!

With that, Caleb storms out of the house, leaving Catherine sobbing and shaking.  Since actually striking a woman is the one line he hasn’t crossed, he instead takes out his feelings on a poor, innocent trash can that never hurt anybody.

Seriously.  After screaming at and berating his wife and driving her into a corner, he still has unexpressed rage.

Oh.  And this also leads to one of the “running gags” of the movie, which is that every time Caleb storms out of the house to beat up inanimate objects, an elderly neighbor just so happens to be standing there, watching.

Ha.

Yanno, I want to make jokes here, I really do, but I just find myself coming back to one question: would this movie ever come right out and say that Caleb has abused Catherine?

I’m betting not.  Indeed, if you check out the Fireproof website, it says only that Caleb and Catherine have “regular arguments.”  And that both are ready to “move on.”

But that’s really not what’s going on here.  Caleb is abusing his wife.  Emotionally, verbally, and physically.  Sure, he’s not actually striking her with his fist (which I am willing to bet is the technicality the movie wants us to always bear in mind), but he backing her into a corner, literally, shaking a finger in her face, jabbing it at her, and using his greater height and weight against her.

How is that not physical abuse?

Does a worldview that states that the only true grounds for divorce are adultery, abandonment, and abuse…admit that Caleb is abusing Catherine?

I’m betting not.  I’m betting this is all meant to show us not an abusive relationship, but an unbiblical one, where the wife is not sufficiently respecting the husband.  (This is the second time Caleb has brought this up, and though it seems a ridiculous idea to me, in light of his behavior, I don’t think this is what the movie wants me to think.)

For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.  He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.  In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.  No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.  And we are members of his body.

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.  So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Ephesians 5:22-33

See?  Caleb only wants what is right and proper in his marriage.  Sure, he doesn’t Know Christ yet, and he’s going about this in the wrong way, but his thoughts are only natural, right?

Phew.  That’s actually a lot of ground covered in the first fifteen minutes of the movie.  No worries, though: once Caleb starts trying to repair the marriage (har), things start to drag.

Like, a lot.

CALEB1

Can this marriage be saved?  Should it be saved?  Discuss!

 

 

Coming Soon to a Heathen Critique near you!

So I was leafing through my collection of Christian movies.  (Yes, I have a whole collection.)  And I still want to make this a summer full of movies, including Pamela’s Prayer (my own personal One That Started It All), as well as at least one more Teenage film and maybe another (very early) Christiano work.

But I was feeling the need to do something a bit more modern, a bit more…Kirk Cameron-y…

I have never seen this before and just got it into my DVD player today.  So looking forward to watching Kirk “Buck Williams” Cameron pretend to be a tough-as-nails firefighter!

Teenage Conflict: Part 2

Well, guys, here is some interesting news: Teenage Conflict can be found on the Internet Archive!

(I didn’t know this before simply because I never tried to find it: I have the Teenage series on DVD from the fine folks at Something Weird.)

And, back in the Teenage world, Doctor George Cooper is here!

george

Flattop and all!  (I know, I know—it was the fashion back then.  Still looks dorky as hell.  Nice jacket-and-tie combo, too, btw, Doc.)

Joe all but physically drags George away from a conversation with Meg, to get him into the basement and discuss the satellite tracker.  And by “discuss the satellite tracker,” Joe means “make sure George doesn’t bring up skepticism in front of Meg.”

But…

IT IS TIME FOR THE BIG REVEAL

Doctor George Cooper…is not an atheist after all!

George:  I know it comes as a shock, but several years ago, I came to know Christ.  I accepted him as my personal lord and savior.

But, as you may remember from Part 1 of this critique, George had the rep of a skeptic.  Turns out, he was misquoted!  (No doubt by an eeeevil librul newspaper.)

George:  I said there’d be conflict [between science and religion] until each side could see the other’s viewpoint, and realize that under God, there can be but one ultimate truth.

Ha!  I love that, I really do!  “There will be conflict until people accept that I am right!”

Look, I believe that there will always be conflict between science and religion, too.  Because, when you get right down to it, they are two completely different ways of viewing the world.  Though I obviously fall on the opposite side of eminent Dr. Cooper.

Of course, I doubt Dr. Cooper will be relying on God to install the electronic brain at the research center.  Is he going to pray that God magics the computer into working, or is he going to use his own two hands and his own training and education?  Just wondering.

George has a few basic apologetics points to lecture at Joe, but before he gets to that, Doctor George Cooper, eminent scientist, needs to get in a dig at…educated people?

George:  One of my troubles was that I failed to realize that the discovery of the whole truth must come from mankind’s total experience.  Not just from our so-called “intellectual approach.” *makes face*

Yeah, if there’s one thing scientists just hate, it’s an intellectual approach to a problem!

Who wrote this, honestly?

Whoever it was decided that what this highly educated, eminent Christian scientist would throw at a skeptical high school kid would be…boilerplate apologetics!

George builds his case slowly, but is sure to hit every emotionally sensitive place that he possibly can.  (Remember, Joe just told George about Meg’s health issues, and George has no qualms about using this against Joe.)

George:  Tell me, Joe: do you love your mother?

Joe:  Well, sure.

George:  How much?

Joe:  A lot!

George:  How much is a lot?

Joe:  Well, it’s just…um…a lot, that’s all.

George:  In other words, you know you love her, but there’s no way you can measure it with a scientific instrument.

Joe:  Yeah, I guess that’s right.

George:  Well then, just because science can’t measure things like love, faith, and hope, doesn’t mean they aren’t real.

Okay, let’s stop right here.

First of all, George is right that emotions are real.  Not just because we feel them and say we feel them, but because they really can be observed by scientific instruments.  Sadly, George and Joe are still a few decades away from brain scan technology showing us lasting love.

But even so, does George really want to go down this road, the “emotions are really real” road?  Because I am happy to concede that people really do feel faith.  But that doesn’t mean the object of their faith is a real thing.

Is God an emotion, George?  If it’s “real to you,” is it actually real?  Because most Christians I know get quite upset at the implication that God is just an idea, a state of mind, an emotion.  To most believers I have met, God is a real being who actually exists.

Not to use the oldest example in the book or anything, but plenty of little kids really, truly believe in Santa Claus.  That emotion is real, those feelings are real.  Does that make Santa Claus what those kids believe he is: not an emotion or a state of mind, but a real, living person?

Next note: Joe has a good argument that he can present to George in 1960: just because something cannot be quantified, doesn’t mean it can’t be qualified.

How much do you love your mother, Joe?  A lot.  How much is a lot?  More than I love most other people in the world.  Enough that I can’t sleep at night, worrying about her health.  So much so that I dash home from school every day to help out around the house, so she can nap.

Science hasn’t come up with “love units” yet, to measure quantitatively our love, but really, we can describe anything, even scientific things, in qualitative terms.

How tall are you, Ruby?  Five feet, seven inches.  Okay, now: how tall are you, without referencing measurement units?  I’m taller than my mother, shorter than my father.  I’m tall enough that “petite” clothes don’t fit me, but short enough that “tall” sizes are too tall.  Okay, but are you tall?  I am tall enough to do most of the things I want to do.  I am tall in comparison to dogs and cats, but very short in comparison to skyscrapers and mountains.

Dawkins

But no, quantitative and qualitative measurements aside, George really does want to go down that path of arguing that because emotions are real, God is real:

George:  You see, Joe, there is more to this world and to human life than demonstrable physical realities.  There’s a world of the spirit, which is just as real as the world of chemistry and physical science.

Joe:  But how can you prove that it’s real?

George:  The overwhelming evidence of 2,000 years proves it.

George, are you seriously ducking this question with an argumentum ad populum?  Because that is petty lame of you.

George:  God speaks directly to the human heart.

Oh, no, it’s just another piece of wishful thinking from George, who goes on for a bit about Jesus.  No attempt at argument here, just a bunch of “Jesus, man!”

George:  Well, can you imagine trying to put together [your satellite tracker] by placing all the parts in a barrel, and shaking them [sic] until you had a perfectly working set?

Joe:  Hardly.

George:  Well, isn’t it even more difficult to imagine that this wonderful universe, about which we still know so very little, could have just happened by accident?  *doesn’t give Joe a chance to answer*  The more I see of the universe and its wonders, the more it becomes obvious that behind it all is the supreme intelligence we call God, the creator.  And that our every attempt to understand the facts of our existence draws us closer to him.

Heh, it’s kinda funny to think that the watchmaker argument was old even back then.  And they’ve changed it to the Satellite Trackermaker Argument.

(In case you can’t tell from this and other posts, I am a big fan of the fine folks over at The Atheist Experience.  Also, check out The Non Prophets—love listening to them as I walk to work!)

And that is it, you guys.  George throws Joe a nice guilt trip (can you prove to me that you love your mom…with science?), some wishful thinking, some boilerplate “Jesus, man!” and the watchmaker argument…and calls it a day.41:22

Joe, by the way, has sat in silence since saying that he could “hardly” envision shaking his satellite tracker in a barrel to make it work.  That’s almost a full minute of George blathering on, until he cites John 3:16 and we fade to the next scene.

And Donna, of course, being A Girl, is not fit to hear firsthand these “arguments” against science.

I find it very sad that this is the best that Christian youth films have to offer doubting teens.  The watchmaker argument.  Do-you-really-love-your-dying-mother?

The filmmakers have also painted themselves into a strange emotional place, and I don’t think they did it intentionally.  Here’s why: Meg is having a health scare.  Honestly, it kinda sounds to me like she’s dying.  So it makes complete sense to me that two impressionable teenagers, still feeling their way towards skepticism in their incredibly fundagelical church, would revert back to the extreme faith of their childhood when confronted with this kind of crisis.  Especially because Meg’s faith is so important to her.  As Joe so astutely puts it, “it’s about all that’s keeping Mom on an even keel right now.”  Not only would sticking with their newfound skepticism be difficult for two kids facing sudden tragedy, with no like-minded adults to help them, but they might feel that the skepticism itself is a very personal betrayal of their mother.  Christianity is good enough for mom, and what, are you saying that your dying mother is wrong about something?  Wrong about one of life’s Big Questions?  What kind of ungrateful, unloving children are you?  I have seen this before.

In other words, the film is ultimately implying that none of these apologetics have any power in comparison to a good old-fashioned guilt trip.

The next scene features Joe and Donna hunkered over the satellite tracker again.  I guess Joe relayed the apologetics to Donna second-hand, because she now feels all guilty about ever doubting her faith.  As well she should, little hussy!  What’s next, Donna, thinking you have the right to ask questions in church???

Joe’s loyalty, meanwhile, has turned on a dime:

Joe:  I can hardly wait to see Sid’s face when he starts in on George tomorrow at the science club meeting, and George gives him a blast of facts!

Huh.  Yanno, Joe, I heard a lot when George was lecturing you in the last scene.  But facts weren’t what I heard.

Also, I get that you’re going through a tough time, I really do, but that is no excuse for such a nasty attitude.  Sid is your friend, who has never been anything but good to you.  And now you’re smirkily looking forward to his public humiliation?

Which, by the way, I am not convinced will happen.  First of all, Sid doesn’t seem the kind of guy to “start in on” anyone.  He is way too chill for that.  As well, I can’t see him being too cowed by this computer scientist he has never met before.  Sid’s already stood up to his own parents on this issue, and come out healthy on the other side.  George will just be one more fundy adult Sid has to endure until he escapes this stupid, repressive town.

For the first time all movie, Meg and Raymond descend into Joe’s favorite dwelling, just in time to hear the satellite!

Satellite:  Beep.

Raymond, just to cement his reputation as resident blowhard, closes with this:

Raymond:  Yes, when you get things connected right, you can hear the most wonderful message of all: the one God sent this old world a long time ago.

Oooo, Raymond, what message is that?

God:  Hey, kids, here’s a surprise for you: cancer!  Enjoy!

Eh, probably not.  But we don’t get  definitive answer.  Instead, Meg and Raymond wander out of the shot, towards Joe’s dank study corner, and Joe and Donna gaze at each other, and the camera lingers so long that it starts to feel creepy.

creepy

THE END

 

 

Teenage Conflict: Part 1

This one is by request!  Yet another in the Teenage series of movies, chronicling the trials and tribulations of white, upper-middle-class teenagers, circa 1960.  And by trials and tribulations, I mean such pressing issues as how much to proselytize to the customers of your aunt’s malt shop and how much to proselytize to the kids who steal from your Nativity Scene.

And this is the creationism one, so the question is: how much should I proselytize to the kids in the science club?

Sorta.

As usual, cutouts introduce us to the theme of the film:

title1

Science and religion…

title2

…and how they really do go together after all.  Who knew?

Meet Donna and Joe:

joe and donna

Two clean-cut American Christian siblings…

OR ARE THEY???

(Um, I mean “are they really Christian?” not “are they really siblings?”  Because they are definitely siblings.  I suspect they might even be twins—they look very much alike and get along really well.  At most, Joe is meant to be a year older than Donna.)

That thing Joe has in front of him is his home-built “satellite tracking device,” which he can’t quite get to work.  Joe is quickly established as a physics nut, and also cheerfully helps Donna through some homework on molecules.

Their little study session is interrupted by Fred, a fellow youth group member.  He’s been tasked with tracking down the siblings, and beinging them back into the fold, since (gasp!) they’ve been skipping out on meetings lately.

Fred:  Remember, these meetings are important.  Or did you forget?

Fred is a snide jerk, though we are clearly meant to see him as the voice of reason.

Joe and Donna both plead “too busy” for youth group just now, but hey, Fred, get back to us sometime next decade.  Joe, indeed, lays the blame at youth group itself:

Joe:  Look, Fred, just between us, this youth fellowship stuff down at the church is just taking up too much time.

Fred’s reaction is priceless.  He actually leans backwards, with a look on his face as though Joe had just revealed his secret wish to dismember a litter of puppies.  “Too much…” he trails off, as though the very thought cannot be repeated in full.

Nothing daunted, Joe continues.  Sid, president of the school science club, has been helping Joe with his satellite-listening thingy, and they’ve been talking about the conflict of science and religion.

Joe:  Shouldn’t our religious ideas be able to stand up, even under a scientific approach?  I mean, either a thing is true or it isn’t.

I like these kids already.  Donna, girl that she is, has barely said a word so far, but she gives a decisive nod at this line.

Frankly, there’s not much to say to all this, and despite a vague suggestion that they “talk” with the youth pastor, Fred largely gives up.

***

That evening, over dinner, the kids’ mother, Meg, mentions that good ole George Cooper is coming back to town, to be “installing some kind of an electronic brain down at the new research center.”

So the guy’s a 1960s computer nerd!  That’s kinda badass.

The family reminisces over George, the neighborhood science dork who has now made good.  (He is some years older than Joe and Donna, and it seems that even as a little kid, Joe recognized a kindred dork in George.  But apparently George also a bit of a rep as being anti-religion.

This makes dad Raymond very upset, because he is the kind of guy who is personally affronted when anyone he has ever met has a different viewpoint.

Raymond:  *sneering* Doctor George Cooper.  Eminent scientist.  How can a man with a mind like that be so blind to the very Creator Himself?

Joe:  Well, maybe he found something in his research that made him believe like that.

Raymond:  Well, it’s probably the same old story.  In spite of everything he learned, he missed the main thing: the fear of the LAWD* is the beginning of all wisdom.

*Yes, Raymond says it exactly like that.

Meg also comments that she is happy that Joe and Donna never “got to questioning things” like George did.

Asking questions?  Noooooooooo…

Man, you never know what could happen when people ask questions, right?  I mean, they might examine things in a deeper way or even learn something new!

Can’t have any of that.

Joe and Donna, knowing a losing battle when they see one, wisely keep their mouths shut at Raymond’s assishness.

***

The next day, Joe and his pal Sid, referenced above, are enjoying a break at the malt shop.  (Presumably not Gertie’s malt shop, for reasons which will become clear in a moment.

I’ll put something out there right now: Sid is the true hero of this story.  A true, realistic, awesome atheist kid.

I highly doubt the writers intend him to be so, but Sid is intelligent, cool and collected, and has a dry sense of humor.  As Joe whines about his parents and their “old-fashioned kind of faith,” Sid talks him down, pointing out matter-of-factly but non-condescendingly that schools today teach kids a lot more science than their parents ever got.  It appears that Sid went through a bit of a tough time when he “came out” to his parents as a skeptic, but given his manner now, we can assume that the family reached some kind of compromise and position of mutual respect.  Sid completely rocks.

Not that I identify with him or anything.  Not that I know what it feels like to be the nonbelieving kid in a hyper-religious town.  Nope, not at all.

Sid

Sid Thorpe: President of the Science Club, and Our Big Damn Hero

Donna shows up and the three discuss asking George Cooper to speak to the science club when he’s in town.  Again, Sid rocks, treating Donna with plenty of respect and good humor.

(Now I’m inventing a scenario in my mind where, ten or fifteen years down the road, Doctor Sid Thorpe, eminent scientist, comes back to his hometown…and meets up with Donna Burton, his old friend’s sister.  Sparks fly…)

Don’t mind me—it’s just that Sid and Donna really seem to get along well, and Sid is awesome.  (And yes, I am making up fanfiction in my head about characters in a 50-year-old Christian youth film.  Shut up.)

Anyway, Donna gets the idea to invite George to stay at their house during his visit, instead of at a hotel.  That way, she explains, he can talk about about science over the dinner table and “wake our folks up.”

Later that evening, they lay it out for their parents.  (Well, Joe primarily lays it out, even though it was Donna’s idea.)  Meg is cool with it right up until Joe and Donna leave the room, and Raymond wonders if Doctor George Cooper will start “spouting off some of his *chuckle* scientific theories.”

Meg:  You don’t think he really would, do you?

She sounds absolutely appalled at the very idea.  I mean, a person talking about his chosen profession in the home where he is a guest???  That bastard!

Strangely enough, after his snide remarks last night, Raymond is okay with the idea of Joe and Donna talking with George about science.  He thinks their religious upbringing will keep them good little Christians even in the face of George’s dirty, god-hating scientific electronic brain talk.

Well, something will keep them good little Christians, though it’s not quite what Raymond assumes…

*ominous musical sting here*

***

Later, in the basement in which Joe always seems to be dwelling, Donna breaks the exciting news: George will be staying with them.  Aw yeah, the kids are FRAKKING PSYCHED.

Suddenly, though, Donna has second thoughts, afraid that they’ll “hurt” their parents by bringing in a “real brain” like George who can challenge their beliefs properly.  Joe talks her down though, explaining that this is really all “a real favor” since Meg and Raymond are both “pretty intelligent people” who just need to get with the times.  With a literal shrug, they agree that sometimes you have to break a few uptight, snide Christian eggs in order to make a nice nonbelieving omelette.  Or something.

***

Later, Joe decides to dwell at the malt shop instead of in his basement, and bumps into a few kids from the youth group at church, including good ole jerk Fred from the first scene, some girl who has nothing interesting to say, and…CHUCK FROM TEENAGE TESTAMENT!!!

chuck

I’m assuming that all these Teenage movies take place in different worlds, since we see some of the same faces—playing different kids—in different movies.  But I now amuse myself by imagining that Roy’s endless preaching to the customers really did drive Aunt Gertie out of business, and that’s why Chuck is patronizing a malt shop instead of working in it.

Anyway, Fred is his usual dickish self and mutteringly asks Joe how George Cooper can “explain away God.”  And since Joe doesn’t know, since he hasn’t actually spoken to George yet, don’tcha know, he just invites them all to the science club meeting so they can hear George for themselves.

Y’know, I take it back about the nameless girl: she expresses surprise that George would stay at Joe’s house, with “the way your folks believe.”

Remember, these are kids from the church.  Which tells me that even in the obviously incredibly repressive church of this film, Raymond and Meg are well-known as especially fanatical and pigheaded.

Wow.

***

When Joe gets home, it’s time for the big plot twist.  See, for the past couple of scenes, a couple of hints have been dropped that lately, Meg has not been feeling up to par.  Kinda tired and stuff.  Well, her doctor thinks it just might be something serious and has scheduled an exploratory operation.

Well.  Holy crap.  He even needs her to rest up for a week or two beforehand and get on a special diet.

Dude, that blows.  It also sounds an awful lot like it might be cancer.  Of course, it’s 1960, so you better believe they won’t be saying “the C-word” in a Christian youth movie.

Joe and Donna, because they’re good kids, immediately volunteer to tell George not to come.  But Meg really wants him there (frankly, it also seems that she’s in a bit of denial about the seriousness of what’s going on).  So, the kids just volunteer to help out a lot more.  Noticeably (okay, noticeably to me), Raymond doesn’t volunteer to do more around the house while Meg is prepping for her operation.

That night, down in Joe’s favorite dwelling place, he and Donna agree that they need to do something about George, so that he doesn’t shake Meg’s faith.  Then Donna retreats to the logical place to study—her room, while Joe stays in the basement.

study nook

Worst study nook ever.  Just look at that uncomfortable chair!
And the earwigs he must deal with!  My god!  The earwigs!

As he’s heading up the stairs to go to bed, Joe overhears his parents talking about the 23rd Psalm.  Meg is playing it pretty cool about the health scare, but has a nice condescending remark for us:

Meg:  Oh, Raymond, what do people do who have to face a problem like this without a living faith in the living god?

Well, Meg, I can’t speak for all nonbelievers, but personally, I’ve faced the death of my best friend and major orthopedic surgery.  It was probably much the same as a Christian, minus the time spent in prayer and stuff like that.

So, screw you.

Ah, now, Ruby, don’t be mean.

I’ll try another way:  Meg, y’know that strength and patience that you think come from God?  That’s coming from you.  Just so’s you know.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Daniel Dennett’s excellent piece on this very problem.

But lest I end Part 1 of this critique on a down note, I will mention something odd about the Burton household, that I noticed in the next scene, featuring Joe and Donna having breakfast the next morning.  Instead of making toast with the toaster in the kitchen and then taking it to the dining room to eat it, the toaster is moved from the kitchen, set on the dining table, and everyone makes their own toast there.

toaster

Weird.  It’s not just me, is it?  That’s weird.  Also, where the hell is that thing plugged in?

Oh well.  Stay tuned for Part 2 and Doctor George Cooper’s visit!

 

 

 

 

 

Belle and the Beast, Part 4

Creepy stalker that he is, and unable to seal the deal with Belle, Craig/Gaston tries a new tactic: whining to his cousin.  He catches Anna at work, where he reveals that he just knows that Belle is “The One,” “who can stand by me in everything I’m supposed to do in life,” (In the brief reaction shot, I would like to think that Anna has a sort of “uh-huh, yeah, keep telling yourself that” look on her face, but the movie doesn’t really care what Anna thinks.)  She still trusts her cousin way too much, though, and when he whines about Belle always being at Eric’s place, she explains the whole sordid deal about Belle’s dad.

In a rare moment of sense, Craig opines that it all “sounds like extortion,” which it kinda-sorta does, though it’s almost more like indentured servitude, to my way of thinking.

Anyway, we cut to Eric, who is just getting in from New York.  I like this guy more and more, because he’s like me and needs to shower the instant he gets home from a plane trip.  The omnipresent Mrs. Haygood unpacks his suitcase, noticing the Bible or Book of Mormon that Eric took to New York with him.  Just as she did when he and Belle were getting cozy, she does the Wise and Satisfied Nod.  Sticking her nose into Eric’s business as usual, she plants in his head the idea that he release Belle from her obligation, but invite her to stay on as his (presumably paid in real money this time) assistant.

Craig/Gaston heads to Belle’s house to do some more creepy stalking.  He invites Belle on a date “whenever,” and Belle finally decides it is time to stick a fork in this relationship and call it done.  She simply and directly tells him that she is “just not interested in you like that,” but of course, being the creepy stalker that he is, Craig isn’t having any of that.

Craig:  When you change your mind…I’ll be here.

Belle:  Craig, I’m not going to–

Craig:  *puts his hand in front of her mouth in a classic, “hush, you silly little girl” motion*

hand

(In all fairness, Belle is suitably freaked out by this action, jerking away as he does it, so he never actually touches her mouth.)

Craig heads to his car, and Belle gets a nice “whoa, I knew he was weird, but…” look on her face.

In his car, Craig cements his Gaston cred by calling Belle’s dad’s work and pretending to be Eric, lodging a complaint.  (Hilariously, it appears Craig has memorized the phone number of the chimney repair place, punching it cheerfully into his phone like he’s calling his local pizza place.)

I feel like it’s been a good month since the accident with the vase, so I find myself wondering if Belle’s dad’s boss would take such a complaint seriously at this point.

“Yeah, four weeks ago, your repairman broke an expensive piece of decorative art at my home.”

“Sir, may I ask why you didn’t tell us when this happened?”

“Um…”

***

Inspired by the gossipy wench who works for him, Eric calls Belle.  He is absolutely adorable as he does it too, cheerfully punching the keys with flourishes, then self-deprecatingly laughing at himself.  He asks her to come over, not to work, but just so he “can talk to you about something.”  Given Belle’s smile, she seems to Get It.  In a nice touch, both Belle and Eric then go and change their clothes into more date-like.  Belle lets her hair down from its ponytail and puts on a sparkly sweater (the first sparkly thing she has ever worn in this movie) and some lipstick, and when we next see Eric, he has changed from jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt into a collared shirt and nice pants.

sweater

Belle has such a great sweater collection.  I want this one, too–I could totally rock that color.

All the sparkly sweaters in the world are for naught, though, as Belle’s loser father slouches home just as she’s leaving, having been fired because of “that horrible, horrible man.”

Well, at least Eric can keep a job for longer than three months, bozo.  Just sayin’.

Outraged, Belle storms over to Eric’s, where she gives him a good slap on the cheek and a “How could you?”  As with any romantic Big Misunderstanding, Belle does not say exactly what happened, so Eric remains utterly confused.

And of course, her parting shot is, “You really are a beast.”

The Musical Montage of Sadness plays, as Eric tries several times to call Belle.  After a few days of this, he tries the home phone instead…and Kelli picks up.

Kelli:  I don’t think anyone here wants to talk to you.  *long, regretful pause*  Sorry.

Aww, they bonded!  That’s…actually kinda heartwarming.

In the rest of the montage, Anna tries to comfort Belle, but Belle blows her off, and Eric tries to comfort himself by playing basketball outside in the snow, but he sucks.

Eric decides that the direct approach is best, and heads to Belle’s house, only to be blown off by her father, who is “busy looking for a job.”

IT’S ALL COMING TOGETHER NOW…

Eric, unlike Craig, has not memorized the chimney repair company’s number, and actually has to go home to find the number.  Ha!  (I guess we should give Craig his due—man’s got one hell of a memory!)

Eric gets Belle’s dad his job back (the chimney repair company’s administrative staff must be thoroughly confused by now), and tries once more to call Belle, but she’s still not having it.

Belle’s dad actually has a moment of decency, and thanks Belle for everything she’s done—moving back home, working for Eric, etc.  And he tells her that it’s finally time to do something that will make her happy.  And Belle finally takes one of Eric’s calls.

Sadly, as must always be the case with the Big Misunderstanding, Eric doesn’t say the pertinent detail quickly enough.  Had he read more romance novels, he would have known to spit out something like, “ItWasn’tMeWhoComplainedAboutYourDad.”  But when he only characterizes what happened as “a mistake,” Belle has all the ammunition she needs to point out (correctly enough, but still), that he should never have made the deal with her in the first place.

The Musical Sting of Apprehension plays, as Eric hangs up with Belle…and spies his commenmorative liquor bottle.

And we learn that although Anna might not characterize Craig as the creepy stalker he is, she does support Belle in not wanting to see him anymore, because “I know how he can be.”  I doubt that she does, but at least her heart is basically in the right place.  In fact, she urges Belle to forgive Eric, but Belle’s not having any of that, either.

It’s been awhile, but…

Beauty vs. Belle Change!

In Beauty:

*Eric is at his nightstand, putting on his watch.  He see the Book of Mormon sitting there, picks it up, changes his mind, puts it back down.*

In Belle:

(Apparently, no complementary scene was shot with a Bible.

Odd.

(Also, I didn’t see this until now, but Eric’s Book of Mormon has the name “Sarah Landry,” emblazoned on the corner of the cover.  Nice touch.)

***

True to his creepy-stalker word, Craig shows up at Belle’s work to say how sorry he was to hear about her dad, and that he’s there if she needs him.  Belle blows him off.  Good girl.

***

Meanwhile, the last little bit of temptation-through-frustration hits Eric, as he fumbles and spills a bunch of files.  This is actually a pretty good crap cherry on the shit sundae—that one final, minor, stupid thing that makes a person lose it.

He goes to pout in his living room, and suffers from that unfortunate acting problem wherein “heartbreak” is largely indistinguishable from “moderate gastrointestinal discomfort.”

sad

The result of driving away the love of his life, or eating some bad tacos?  You decide.

He eyes the Bible or Book of Mormon (which, in the latter case, apparently teleported from his bedroom to the living room), and then tries to pray but can’t).

Okay, that’s what it looks like to my atheist eyes, at least.

SO IT’S TIME FOR BOOZE

Eric beelines for his commemorative liquor bottle, which, you’ll remember, is in a nice commemorative case.  He punches the glass to get at the bottle, which seems dramatic and all until you see that the commemorative case is one of those display boxes for sports memorabilia that you get at Michaels, which means that all Eric really had to do to get the bottle was slide the glass upward.

bottle

See?  Look at the upper corner of the box.  All he had to do was slide the glass!

But hey, yanno, it’s dramatic, innit?

(Also, that is the weirdest-looking booze bottle I have ever seen.)

***

The next morning, Belle and Anna are meeting Craig for breakfast.

Anna:  Look, Craig begged me.  He just wanted to see you one more time, and he swore that if you still felt…whatever…that he’d back off.

Anna, I am very disappoint.

Craig hasn’t “backed off” even when Belle told his straight-up that she Just Wasn’t Into Him, so I don’t see what a chaperoned breakfast will accomplish.

Very disappoint, Anna.

Belle’s primary complaint, however, is that Anna told Craig about her dad being fired.  Anna, of course, did not tell Craig any such thing…

IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW!!!11!!11!1!!!!11!!

Just at that moment, Craig arrives, and Belle puts it to him.  Like a sociopathic idiot, Craig lies about Anna…to Anna’s face.

Craig:  Anna told me.

Anna:  No I didn’t!

Dude.  That takes balls.  Not good balls, mind you, but balls.

Belle immediately discerns that it was Craig, not Eric, who called the chimney repair boss, and shoves Craig out of the booth onto his ass.  Anna follows, snorting at him, “You are such a loser.”

True dat.

craig1

Gaston’s ultimate fate in this movie is not quite as dramatic as this:

Or this, for that matter:

Belle rushes to Eric’s but of course he is not there.  She and Mrs. Haygood find the smashed commemorative box.

Oh, he didn’t!” gasps Belle, because we all know the single worst thing a man can do in a moment of sadness is to have a drink.

(I know, I know, I know that Mormons aren’t supposed to drink ever, at all, and I know that Eric was a problem drinker.  I just don’t personally sign onto the idea that if anyone has ever had a problem with alcohol, they can never have a drink ever again.  Personal observation.)

But Belle knows just where to find the missing Eric: the snowy wilderness where they had their “bad things happen to good people” conversation.  Sure enough, there he is, because if there’s one thing we know about Eric, it’s that he loves to hang out in the snow for hours on end.

He’s sitting around, holding the bottle, prompting the following exchange:

Belle:  Eric?  What are you doing here?

Eric:  Thinking.

Belle:  Just thinking?

Geez, Belle, police people much?

Turns out that Eric was just thinking, not drinking, and he throws the unopened (but still weird-looking) bottle into a pond.  “I was tired of it hanging over me,” he explains.  Makes sense.

They actually have a nice little heart-to-heart, standing there in the snow, with Eric leading off by apologizing for everything to do with Belle’s father.  Unfortunately, it is at this point that the writers remembered that this is a Beauty and the Beast movie.

Eric:  I’ve seen the way you treat others and how you treated me.

That sounds very Beauty-and-the-Beast-ish, and all, but really, Belle berated Eric from the get-go, and it’s a wonder he didn’t go back on their deal.  As for others, Belle was awesome to move back home and help raise her siblings after their mother’s death, but I haven’t really seen too many examples of her being extra-specially nice and kind to others, like strangers.

The writers also remember that this is a Christian movie.

Eric:  I realize now…I was never alone.  I just wasn’t listening.

Yep, that’s right Eric, it is your fault for not “listening” to Jesus.  You poor, silly sap, thinking you were all alone after your wife died next to you and you sat with her body for three hours by yourself…and your friends deserted you and the town started using you as a Sunday School lesson.

Yeah, Eric had tons of support.  He just wasn’t listening for it.

Eric:  You were right—God wants me to be happy.

I gotta figure those are easier words to say when you’re talking to a beautiful woman in a gorgeous natural setting, but more difficult to say when you’re trapped in a car with your dead wife.

Eric adorably asks her to stay on as his assistant, then self-consciously backtracks and admits that is “just an excuse” for asking her to stay in his life.

Damn, guy is just too cute.  I mean, he sucked as a mean guy, but this is really his strength.

Eric:  I’ve only cared about myself for a very long time…

Well, since no one else cared about him, can’t say as I blame him.

Eric:  …and it’s awkward…now that I care about you.

Okay, this is not the end of Sense and Sensibility or anything, but I’ll admit it like the honest person I am: I’m picking up what this guy is putting down.

Finally, Eric declares he will try as hard as he can to deserve Belle.  Calling back to her father’s suggestion, Belle responds:

“Well, you don’t have to try very hard.  You make me happy.”

That…doesn’t make too much sense to me, as far as the trying part, but it’s still pretty sweet.  Damn shame that the women in these Christian romances never seem to be as well done as the men.

So, they kiss, of course, and—

WAIT A SECOND

They kissed!

An unmarried man and woman have just locked lips in a Christian movie, and we’re seeing it happen.

The kiss is not hidden behind lockers and random dudes!

We need proof of this momentous event.

kiss

Proof

Wow.  Mind blown. (And it’s not even the world’s most chaste kiss, either.  I mean, they’re not sticking their tongues down each other’s throats, but they’re clearly both into it, with the grabbing of the jacket and the neck.)

Heading back out over the mountains, we hear again from our chipper narrator lady:

With Eric’s transformation and his renewed faith, the people in the land discovered the Beast was gone.  In his stead was a kind and gentle man, whose heart had been changed by the power of God and the love of a woman named Belle.  And while their world wasn’t perfect, they still lived happily ever after.

I know I say this a lot, but I did not see much power of God in this movie.  Not saying that’s a bad thing, just that I don’t see where the narrator is getting this.

Then again, perhaps I, like Eric, was “not listening.”

And these Christian towns suck.  I am reminded so much of Christmas Town, and our conclusion that the people of the town were way worse to Jordan Scoville than he ever was to them.  Same here.  I mean, Eric was a jerk to a few individuals, but it’s not like he ever taught a classroom full of children to hate and fear anyone.

Ah well.  Belle is not the greatest, but certainly a big step up from Joella Ratchford.

NEXT UP…

By popular request…

1950s kids take on science and creationism!

 

Belle and the Beast: Part 3

Okay, so things have been pretty routine so far: not a great, but not (overly) bad movie.  Only light mentions of the Bible/Book of Mormon.

But now, shit is about to officially get real.  Jordan Scoville territory here.

Eric has to go out to a local business dinner, and invites Belle.  The asking is pretty cute: typical rom-com “I’m asking for ‘business’ reasons but it’s really because I want todate you.”  Eric’s nervous smile when he asks says it all.

(Not for nothing, but this is good direction here.  Not only is Eric slowly staring to think of Belle romantically, but he asks her…almost like a teenager would.  And considering that Eric was widowed in his early 20s, this makes sense.

smile

This actor is MUCH better at playing nervous/happy than he is at playing mean/heartbroken.

It also says it all that although Eric introduces Belle as his assistant, the other two women are the wife and girfriend of each of the other businessmen.  ;)

dress

This dress, though?  Not feelin’ it.

The dress: First of all, it should be gold (as an homage, don’tcha know?).  It also really doesn’t show off Belle’s (excellent) figure.  Then again, and t o be totally fair, it doesn kinda look like something Belle found on clearance, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.

At the dinner, Belle is, natch, the only person with compassion at the table, suggesting that the company NOT fire most of its employees when they switch to “a new model.”  Belle talks these seasoned businessmen into keeping their old employees and re-training them.

(Nothing more clearly telegraphs the Mormon-ness of this movie than this restaurant scene: despite being the fanciest joint in town, every single person at every single table is drinking water.)

After dinner, Eric takes Belle on a drive up into the snowy mountains.  They trek about a hundred yards away from the car, to a snowy field where they sit on a log and chat.  (Belle’s dress and shoes love that, I’m sure.  Plus, damn, Eric loves being out in the snow.)

They chat about Eric getting into consulting, and Belle opines that he’s “better off” doing that than he would be running his own business (again alluding to Mrs. Higgin’s gossip, and, of course, adss that “there’s someone watching out for us.”

This prompts Eric to tell Belle the details of the night his wife died.  They were out for a leisurely drive, when a tire blew and they went off the road…

“There wasn’t a single other person on that road—no one to help.  For-for a highway like that, that’s pretty unusual.  It-it was as if God knew exactly what he was doing, and I couldn’t do a thing to stop him.  By the time I woke up, she was already gone.  I prayed and I prayed, but it didn’t make a difference.  So I sat, trapped, unable to move, in that car for three hours until someone even noticed.”

Stopping here because THREE HOURS.

That poor man.  That poor, poor man.

We’ve seen a lot of tragedy that God has meted out over the course of the books and movies critiqued here, but there is something especially horrifying about this one, at least for me.  It’s the helplessness, I think, the being alone and trapped with your tragedy and pain, with no one to talk to.  And I have a sneaking suspicion that in the ten years since it happened, this may be the first time Eric has told the whole story to anyone.  Though I hope that his detox and rehab featured some good old talk therapy.

Anyway, back to his story…

“But I didn’t stop praying.  I figured it was the only thing I could do.  I was stupid enough to think that she might actually be okay; she might actually live.  So, no, I don’t think God cares for me.  And I don’t believe he wants me to be happy.”

Well, makes sense to me.  Hell, I’m surprised that Eric believes there is a God at all, but as we’ve seen, writers seem to find it easier to work from deism to Christianity than from atheism to Christianity.

Let’s see what sensitive Belle, who “brightened the day of all who knew her,” has to say to this tale of heartrending loss.

“This happened such a long time ago—do you still feel this way?”

Wow.  Okay, first of all, ten years is not “such a long time ago.”  Second of all, idiot, he’s been speaking in the present tense about his feelings.  Dammit.

“What about getting stronger and growing from your experiences?”

Yeah, dude, it was only the sudden and traumatizing death of your wife, and sitting next to her dead body for HOURS.  Suck it up and grow, asshole!

Eric, uncharacteristically, is mildly perturbed and confused instead of just angry:

“Growing?  I lost everything.  I became a drunk, had to put my life on hold.”

True dat.  And Belle has a pithy response:

“Sometimes bad things happen to good people.”

What?

Animated gif from Firefly or Serenity of Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), speechless

I just…WHAT???

THAT’S what you’re going with, Ms. Mature Christian?  “Bad things happen to good people?”

Animated gif from Bridesmaids of Annie (Kristen Wiig) saying "Are you fucking kidding me."

Unbelievable.  Mind blown.

Hey, Belle, how about keeping your big yap shut and just giving the man a hug, huh?  I mean, has anyone hugged this man since his loss?  Holy crap.

Honestly, no wonder people are leaving the church in droves, if this is the best they have to offer grieving people.

Oh, but I will say that Eric handles this idiocy damn well, with a nod and a…

“I better get you home.”

But Belle’s not done yet.  As they pull up to her house, she asks him why he went it alone, when there must have been someone he could have go to for help.  I expected a Poor-Little-Rich-Boy response as Eric explains that no, he actually didn’t have anyone (and that seems to be true—he has no family that we’ve seen, and only fair-weather friends), but he simply responds that he did have comfort, from “a bottle.”

Belle, ever the soul of sensitivity, says:

“Not the strongest solution.”

I hate her.  So much.

Eric, to his everlasting credit, doesn’t take her up on the fight she is trying so very hard to pick.  He just sort of avoids the point by pointing out that there was nothing else to do, and asks:

“What else did I have?”

Belle has been waiting for her chance:

“Maybe more than you realized.”

Oh ZING!  He had GOD, don’tcha know!  A God who let his young wife die and let him sit with her corpse for hours and who let him become a drunk for five years!  THAT God!

Man.  Again, Belle’s delivery sucks.

She just lets Eric ponder this as she wanders to her house.  And the bittersweet Music of Coming Back to God plays, as Eric heads home, gazes out his window, then picks up and leafs through the Bible/Book.

A day or two later, Belle asks for permission to do a quick cram session at Eric’s house.  I guess she just wants to study by his bitchin’ hot tub.  And, of course, that means he is around when she gets a call from Kelli’s school, that Kelli is in trouble and needs to be picked up, now.  Belle can’t, because she needs to get to her exam like, now, so Eric volunteers to get her.

What follows is actually the most enjoyable sequence of the movie, featuring (with a nice, light touch) a childfree person navigating simple school logistics (Eric to the secretary: “Do I have to sign for her?“).  Then, of course, he is mistaken for Kelli’s father by the principal (a much less funny scene, mostly because the principal overacts and has a terrible sense of comic timing).

Then, Eric takes Kelli home, but she wants to talk to somebody, and Eric is there, so she simply stops in the schoolyard and begins to unburden herself.  After all, she wasn’t really cheating, but just forgot something that she knew, so she double-checked herself on someone else’s paper.

The dialogue here is quite good, with Eric managing to strike an appropriate balance between being an adult, but not an adult with any authority over Kelli (he doesn’t scold her, but mildly comments “You might want to rethink your definition of cheating.“)

Another nice touch: Kelli asks, “Do you ever feel like your life is over?” and it is a moment of humor (Eric being amused by her tweenish angst), and not pathos (Eric thinking of his dead wife).

Maybe I’m making too much of this because so much of this movie has been dull, but I like that they show Eric’s growth through a scene with a minor character, and not with Belle.

Nice callback to earlier scene of Belle being horrible:

Kelli: [Belle] will probably tell me some other deep thing like—

Eric:  –“grow from it”?

Kelli:  Yeah.

Ha!

(My admiration for this scene aside, this particular bit called for a reshoot—both actors rush their lines and I could barely understand them.)

Kelli mentions her dead (and idolized) mother and Eric, sweetie that he is, draws her out and just lets her talk.

Kelli also reveals to Eric that Belle was in school in California when their mother died, and she moved back home to help out.  Which was already implied, but I guess Eric didn’t know this for a fact.

Later, Belle is nice(r than she was before) and thanks Eric for helping with Kelli.  They share a fast food meal and discuss her dead mother.  Belle, of course, handled grief in a much healthier way than stupid Eric did, because she trusted God not to give her anything she couldn’t handle.  To give her credit, Belle actually gives Eric some credit for strength in this scene, complimenting the strength it took for him to stop drinking.  Eric, who apparently took Belle’s snide remarks in the car to heart, points out that he started drinking.  Perfect Belle, of course, did not.

I don’t mean to play Tragedy Olympics here, but I will point out their situations were quite different.  Belle lost her mother as a young adult.  That is incredibly sad, but Belle had her family and friends to comfort and support her, and a job to do (to focus her energies) as she helped raise her brothers and sister.  Eric, OTOH, had nobody to help him through the shocking and incredibly traumatic loss of his wife RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM.

Plus (and I’m probably going to sound like a jerk right now) Belle’s mother died young, but predeceased her children, the normal and expected course of events.  Eric was widowed (widowered?) at something like twenty-three.  That certainly adds an extra level of shock and horror.

Anyway.

Eric heads to New York for a consultation, and rather cutely calls Belle as soon as he lands, much like a boyfriend would.  (I love his nervously awkward attempt at conversation: “So, um…how are your classes going?” and his self-conscious geez-what-a-dork-I-am head shake as he hangs up.)

Back in Utah, Anna and Belle chat.  Anna is picking up that Belle likes Eric, but she still kinda wants Belle to pity-date Craig.  Belle, for her part, is feeling womany pangs of conscience for no reason (“I was kinda rude to him the last time I saw him…I mean, not really, but still, I shoulda been…”).

Quick refresher: last time Belle saw Craig, he scolded her for not being at his beck and call 24/7, then repeatedly insulted a man while standing in that man’s own yard.  So Belle can give herself a break any time, now.

But she doesn’t, and they have lunch together.  The sound in this scene is horrible—it sound like they stuck a boombox under the table to simulate restaurant music playing.

Belle is miffed by the fact that after having lunch with her, Craig wants to spend more time with her.  I know, right?  Shocking.  Almost as though when she acts like she likes dating him, he wants to plan the next date.  Creepy stalker that he is, he is almost charming (expressing wishes for her happiness), but then overplays his hand by caressing her hands and waxing on about how special she is.  Belle, of course, does not see this behavior as grounds for just cutting off the relationship.

creepy

Can this relationship be saved?

Then Belle decides to play creepy stalker herself, wandering around Eric’s house at night, contemplating his commemorative liquor bottle, etc.  She considers calling him, but decides against it.

So, we know that with Belle and Eric careening towards mutual admissions of affection, we need a final conflict!

Next time.

 

 

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