So, the Big Kiss (with the actress who is not Catherine) is not the end of the movie! Nope, because just like all good little almost-RTCs, Catherine wants “what happened to you to happen to me.”
Yeah, never mind that Catherine was fine the way she was. She wants to be like Caleb.
Because Caleb is just that awesome.
So, to a musical montage-y song, Caleb takes Catherine to that old church camp where his own father converted him. In fact, he tugs at her hand when she hesitates, literally leading her to the cross!
Montage continues: Caleb’s dad is informed of the
bad good news, and even calls his wife over so she can vicariously celebrate the marital victory of the son who loathes the sight of her.
Caleb and Catherine head out to church, waving at the awesome older couple. I still want the movie to be about them.
Finally, Caleb and his dad take yet another walk outside, just two manly men being manly men together. And John drops the big secret: he didn’t do the Love Dare on Cheryl.
CHERYL DID THE LOVE DARE ON JOHN.
That sounds kinda dirty when I put it that way.
This completely blows Caleb’s tiny mind. I guess from the RTC perspective, I can see why: a woman took charge of things and tried to institute changes in the household, and we know that’s not how a Good Christian Wife should behave.
Though, honestly, I think the bigger deal here is…honesty. John’s been making out like he was the one doing the Dare. He’s been bearing just a bit of false witness, methinks.
But it’s all okay, as John had correctly determined that Caleb would never accept advice from a mere woman.
Caleb: Dad, I have treated her so wrong.
Gee, no shit, Sherlock.
John: Caleb, she deserves your respect.
GEE, NO SHIT, SHERLOCK.
John is just so mild about all this, too. I tell you, my atheist father would not be nearly so mild blasé about it if I treated my atheist mother with half the scorn and derision with which Caleb treats his.
So Caleb jogs back to the house and hugs his mommy.
Caleb: Mom, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…I didn’t know…
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES KNOWING MAKE??? No matter which one of his parents did the Love Dare, Cheryl has always loved Caleb and been nothing but good to him. This had nothing to do with Cheryl doing the Love Dare and everything to do with Caleb being a misogynistic prick.
And finally, the real last scene: the “reaffirmation of vows” of the Holts.
Because it’s a covenant marriage now, you see!
Covenant marriages are pretty gross: the only grounds for divorce are physical abuse, adultery, or a felony that results in jail time. So the kind of emotional abuse that involved Caleb screaming into Catherine’s face, and wagging fingers in her face but never actually smacking her? Probably not an out for Catherine. She just needs to forgive him and love him, like the Bible tells her to.
And I’m totally sure that a person desperate to leave his or her marriage would never engage in the forbidden activities (like, say, adultery) as a way to get out.
The one bright spot in all this is that Georgia doesn’t even have covenant marriage laws. So this is all through the church, and presumably means nothing in a legal sense. There is nothing about this ceremony that would prevent Catherine getting out if she still wanted to.
Just the pressure from her newfound church, where she is a baby Christian. And from her smug father-in-law. And from her abusive husband, who has managed to make it several weeks without yelling at her.
And from the super-glued salt and pepper shakers, now sitting atop the wedding cake.
It’s really just compounding the tragedy: now nobody will be able to properly season their food.
Do all these wedding guests have to get Catherine and Caleb another wedding present? If so, it’s a pretty good scam: they should renew their vows every year!
Oh yeah. This marriage has been saved by the love of Jesus. Fer sure.
Today we have a special treat, everyone! Inquisitive Raven has volunteered to tell us everything that is wrong with the firefighting aspects of Fireproof. So, without further ado…
Hi, Inquisitive Raven here. After Part 4 of our Hostess’ deconstruction of Fireproof, I offered to do a critique of the fire/rescue incidents in the movie. As a result of it kind of exploding out of control, this looks like it’s going to be a three part critique.
First, a little about me, and why I think I’m qualified to offer such a critique. From 1994 to 2005, I was a volunteer EMT at the Manoa Fire Company in Haverford Township, Pennsylvania. Although I was never a firefighter, I did participate in some firefighter drills, and I have some idea of how a fire company operates.
I also have a sister who is a professional firefighter in a small town (population approximately twenty thousand). If I need information on how pros do things differently from vollies, I can ask her. Actually, I did ask her one thing. I sent Isis-sama’s question about how fire chiefs are chosen to her because I didn’t think it was likely that professional companies elect chiefs the way the volly company I was a member of did. Her response was as follows:
We’re civil service so follow their laws:
Every 2 yrs a promotional exam is offered. You have to pass to be eligible for promotion, then they look at actual scores, yrs experience, degrees, certifications, vet status, oral interview… But traditionally civil service puts the most emphasis on exams.
So yes, you have to display some degree of knowledge if not actual competence though hopefully, years of experience point to that. I’d kinda figured out most of it, but I hadn’t thought about fire service as civil service ergo exams. It seems obvious once that detail is brought up.
One other point: Caleb is not a fire chief. The chief is in charge of Albany’s entire fire department; Caleb is in charge of one shift at one company out of eleven. The characters in the movie are pretty consistent about addressing him as “Captain.” I think the Haverford Township volly companies each having their own chief is a historical artifact from a time when they were completely independent fire associations. Even with unified dispatch and township controlled equipment purchasing, they’re still more autonomous than professional fire services which are municipal departments. My sister’s town has a chief in charge of the whole shebang, and a deputy chief in charge of each shift. Philadelphia’s organization is more complex, but then Philadelphia has a population a couple of orders of magnitude larger than any of the other communities mentioned in this post (1.5 million vs. 20 thousand, 48.5 thousand, and 77 thousand).
On to the main critique: Fireproof is available on Netflix, so I watched the scenes that involved actual fire/rescue activity, fast forwarding through most of the rest of it. I’ll start with some general comments before going on to the specific incidents. I’ll also be linking to websites of some of the five companies in the township I used to run in, and the Philadelphia Fire Department when I think it might be helpful. I currently live in Philly, so it seemed like the obvious professional fire service to refer to. I also looked up Albany, Georgia’s real life fire department, so I could put things seen in the movie in context.
I’ll start out with some general observations. One has to do with cops. Cops show up at incident locations for various reasons. Even if there’s no actual law enforcement required, they can direct traffic and handle crowd control. EMS isn’t supposed to enter an incident location until it’s declared safe by the cops. I didn’t see any cops at all at the fire scene, and they show up late to the accident scene. In fact, the protagonist ends up doing the initial crowd control. In all my time as an EMT, I think I remember at most two occasions when we beat the cops to a scene. They usually got there first. Admittedly, the movie is about firefighters, well, one firefighter, but the occasional shot of a cop at the scene helps paint a picture of a richer world. I can think of three factors affecting who gets to the scene when and why the cops would tend to get there first. One factor only applies to vollies while the other two are applicable to everyone.
The factor that’s only applicable to vollies is the fact that vollies aren’t required to be at the station at all times, so you have factor them getting there into the response time. The firefighters don’t have specific shifts, and while the EMTs do have specific shifts, it’s not always possible to get a minimal crew (EMT and driver) to sign up for them, nor are they required to be at the station as long as they can get there in under five minutes. In fact, the difficulty of getting people to cover day shifts during the work week is the reason that Manoa started having the day shifts covered by paid paramedics. The issue here is that vollies have jobs outside the fire service. They’re doing this in their free time. For pros, the fire service is their job and they’re expected to be in the station or with their vehicle whenever they’re on duty and not doing something on a call that requires them to leave the vehicle.
The factors that apply to pros as well as vollies are a) the fact that firefighters need to gear up before responding and cops don’t, and b) unless a call comes in before the firefighters get back to base after a previous call, they’re starting from their HQ while the cops are likely to be on patrol somewhere and often have a shorter distance to cover to get to the scene. In fact, in Philadelphia, the cops are first on scene so often that they’re authorized to transport patients under certain circumstances, although it should be noted that the circumstances in question tend to involve gunshot and stab wounds. Basically situations where the patient is in danger of bleeding out, and you know you don’t need to protect the patient’s spine.
Another thing I noticed is that the company in the movie, or at least the protagonist’s shift seems to consist of five people: Caleb, the rookie, the two black guys our hostess mentions, and one more white guy. In Philadelphia, that’s a ladder crew. An engine crew is four people. Note, that’s in Philly. The town my sister works in puts three people on a crew, maybe four for their single solitary ladder. Haverford Township’s apparatus* is capable of carrying anywhere from five to eight crew members. I’m not sure what the minimum crews for any of the vehicles are, but Manoa routinely puts more than the minimums into the field. The company in the movie has two engines and a ladder. One engine and the ladder get dispatched for both calls, with five people total. Sorry folks, that doesn’t work. The Albany Fire Department runs eleven companies with 166 firefighters. That’s not counting administrative, fire prevention, or training personnel. They also have twelve engines and two ladders. By my calculations, assuming the shift structure described in the movie is accurate, they can put three person crews on the two 500 GPM pumpers, and four person crews on the rest of the apparatus for three shifts and have a battalion chief for each shift plus one extra person who I imagine either fills in gaps when people are out or works at the busiest company in the department. With two engines, there should be eleven or twelve people on a shift at any given time at the company in the movie. Even if there’s no crew for the second engine, I’d expect there to be eight people in the company, so why do we never see more than five? Okay, there seems to be more than five firefighters at the end of the big house fire, but there also seems to be another company present, so I’m assuming any firefighters other than the five known guys are from the other company.
If anyone is wondering why a ladder is being dispatched to an MVA and a fire in a one story building, AFAICT, it’s being dispatched as a rescue. At least one of Haverford Township’s ladders seems to carry a lot of rescue related equipment although it doesn’t seem to function as a full on rescue unit. In fact, it seems to be optimized for high angle rescue, hence things like the Stokes Basket. Makes sense for a ladder, right? And real life Albany doesn’t seem to have a specialized rescue unit. Well, the ladder in the movie seems to be doing the job of a light rescue.
During the opening credits, the camera pans around the fire house finally tracking down the gear rack to show us the protagonist’s helmet with name and rank, then drops down toward the floor. The first oddity I notice is that the toes of the boots are pointing away from the wall. At Manoa, the boots are placed with toes pointing toward the wall. That’s so firefighters can come into the engine house**, stick their feet in their boots, and start pulling on the rest of their turnout (aka bunker) gear in the shortest possible time. There’s more weirdness with the disposition of the turnout gear later.
For example, at each of the calls, there’s one firefighter who isn’t wearing turnout gear. At the fire scene, he’s at least in uniform, but at the accident scene he’s wearing a blue fire company T-shirt, which tells us who he’s with and all, but probably doesn’t count as in uniform. I didn’t spot him as crew, the first few times I watched the MVA rescue scene. At Manoa, the actual uniforms are saved for special occasions, that volly thing again, but if you’re on a call, you’re in turnout or you’re in an EMS jumpsuit which you don when the call comes in. The only exception is if you respond directly to a scene and are waiting for the apparatus to arrive with turnout gear. In which case, the turnout goes on as soon as it arrives. Fire scenes and extrication scenes aren’t always safe, so it’s a good idea to wear protective clothing… like firefighter turnout. The ambulance also carries helmets and protective coats even if the coats aren’t quite as heavy as turnout, specifically for scenes where our jumpsuits might not be enough protection. So, vollies need to wear turnout at the scene, both for protection and identification. At a scene with pro firefighters, I’d expect everyone to be in turnout except maaaybe the highest ranking officer who would be there purely as an incident commander. Since the IC is staying back and giving order, zie can get away with it. The guys in the movie can’t.
Next post, I discuss the car on the train tracks.
*”Apparatus” is the official term for vehicles used by fire services. I use “vehicles” in these posts a lot, because “piece(s) of apparatus” is more of a mouthful than I want to deal with.
** The engine house is the part of the fire station that actually houses the apparatus.
We all seem to be on the same page re: the weirdness of Caleb confronting Flirty Doctor, not, yanno, Catherine, about the workplace flirtation. It’s yet another example of Caleb treating his Marriage as a machine that needs to be fixed, not a relationship between two sentient humans.
All of which made me wonder something, so I went back and counted: it has been twenty full minutes of movie time between instances of Caleb and Catherine talking to each other. The last time was their terse exchange at the hospital after Caleb was injured. The next time is happening right now.
Following the montage, Caleb wakes up to see Catherine’s purse on the couch, instead of at the hospital with her, where it belongs. Catherine isn’t feeling well and is taking a sniffly day in bed.
Caleb asks if he can get her anything, and she answers (firmly, but not unkindly) that she is fine.
Caleb nonetheless heads out to get her the two things everyone needs when they have a cold: medication and Chik-fil-A (Caleb no doubt started to like it the moment he converted).
Oh. Yum. Good thing Catherine didn’t get sick on a Sunday.
Catherine asks him the obvious question: why is he doing all this? You would think the obvious answer would be, “Because I love you,” or “Because I care about you,” and/or, “Because I can’t stand to see you in pain.” But oh no…
Caleb: I have learned that you never leave your partner. Especially in a fire.
Gosh, that’s…sweet? Is it supposed to be sweet?
And so personal, too! Nothing here about Caleb rediscovering his love for Catherine, loyal, big-hearted, funny Catherine. Who has terrible taste in furniture upholstery, but that only makes Caleb love her more.
Nope. Don’t leave your partner. It makes Jesus cry. Marriage is an institution, don’tcha know.
Caleb actually fesses up about The Love Dare (granted, I suppose he couldn’t keep it a secret forever), but Catherine…found the book yesterday! And read it today, while sick in bed!
So, now Catherine knows that Caleb has been secretly manipulating her all these weeks. Making nice not because he wants to, but because he was dared to by his old man.
She must feel so flattered.
Catherine: What day are you on?
Catherine: There’s only forty.
Caleb: Who says I have to stop?
I’m sure you’ll all be shocked, but there’s an undercurrent of smarmy in Caleb’s tone here. I mean, he really wants a cookie for being almost-bearable to live with for three extra days.
Catherine: Caleb, I don’t know how to process this. This is not normal for you.
Caleb: Welcome to the new normal.
Catherine also calls Caleb out on the fact that he was faking it till he made it for awhile, and Caleb owns up to that, because he “didn’t know what love was.”
Which also must make Catherine feel so flattered. They both got married for a reason, yanno? And now Caleb is telling her to her face that when he said he loved her and when he proposed to her and when he married her, he didn’t know what love was.
In other words, their whole life together has been a sham from the start.
What an unbelievably smug prick he is.
[SPOILER ALERT FOR BREAKING BAD]
(Actually, this scene reminds me quite a bit of the last scene between Walter and Skyler, when he tells her that his meth empire was the only thing that ever made him feel alive. Except that we were meant to see Walter as a sociopath who was incapable of loving another human being.)
Anyway, Catherine takes this disgusting admission pretty well, all things considered, though she does tell Caleb that she is not ready to trust him yet.
And THEN the movie actually does one thing right. One of the things we have been hoping for from the start.
No, Catherine doesn’t throw the bum out. No, Caleb doesn’t get repeatedly smacked in the face.
What Caleb does do is get down on his knees and beg Catherine’s forgiveness. I’m going to give you the whole thing, because never say I don’t give credit where it’s due:
Caleb: I am sorry. I have been so selfish. For the past seven years, I have trampled on you with my words and my actions. I have loved other things when I should have loved you. In the last few weeks, God has given me a love for you that I had never had before. And I have asked him to forgive me. And I am hoping, I am praying that somehow you would be able to forgive me, too. Catherine, I do not want to live the rest of my life without you.
Damn. That is a pretty good apology. Not best ever, but pretty good.
It is also too little, too late. Not just for the Holt marriage, but for this movie. Up until now, Caleb has treated this relationship like an object to be fixed. It isn’t even Caleb and Catherine’s marriage, it is The Marriage. Do the right things, follow the instructions in the book, and Generic Spouse will respond in the proper way because God wills it. Caleb has changed his ways: where before he abused and talked over Catherine, now he simply works around her, maintaining the Marriage as he would a car, but never focusing on Catherine, the person.
If this speech had been the culmination of Caleb realizing that he has never really communicated with Catherine, it might have more power. As it is, I suspect that the Day 40 Dare, which Caleb is a few days late on, is “Give Spouse Passionately Sincere Apology.”
(Speaking of, what have the Dares been for the past two weeks? Isn’t Caleb supposed to be doing something new every day? We haven’t seen any new stuff in the long time. Unless “Sweep the Floor” and “Wash a Few Dishes” were on two separate days. Guess we have to buy the book to find out.)
Catherine needs time to think. As you would.
Recovered from her convenient cold, Catherine heads back to her favorite hangout, the hospital supply store, where she buys some sheets for her mom’s new bed. This gives an opportunity for the receptionist to mention the Big Revelation: though Flirty Doctor contributed $300 to the Mom’s New Bed and Wheelchair Fund, Caleb paid the other $24,000. And he did so two weeks ago.
Gotta say, it is still nice of Flirty Doctor to donate any money at all towards this cause. And hey, why didn’t anybody ever think to organize a fundraising effort at the hospital to get Catherine’s mom the stuff?
Catherine once again walks out of the store in a daze, and dashes home to find her wedding ring. Then she fixes herself up all pretty for Caleb. Because once you spend money on your lady, she will reward you with the putting on of makeup and the fixing of hair.
Catherine shows up at the fire station, and tells Caleb she loves him and has forgiven him. (Happily for us, if any happiness can come out of this trainwreck of a relationship, she does not use the word “respect.”)
But damn, it is such a quid pro quo view of marriage. I’d reproduce the entire reconcicliation conversation, but it makes me ill. I mean, he just paid for his marriage to continue. They had $23,000 in savings, he spent it on his mother-in-law, she takes him back. And isn’t this their money, not just Caleb’s? Why has the thought of spending their savings on her mom never occurred to Catherine?
Biggest plothole in the movie.
Oh, and there is one more bit of grossness in this movie, but I’ll save it for next time, as I have a lot to say about it.
So we’ll close on this: Kirk Cameron infamously won’t kiss any woman but his wife. Even though he’s, yanno, an actor. So for the firehouse scene (the only time Caleb and Catherine kiss in the whole movie), they flew in Cameron’s wife (Chelsea Noble, who played Hattie Durham in the Left Behind movies), and shot the kiss part of the scene so that you can’t really see the actress’s face.
Not actually Catherine.
What more disgustingness could there possibly be? Stay tuned–same atheist time, same atheist channel!
Sorry, all, that I’ve been lingering on with this dumb movie—this summer has been incredibly busy for me.
Following Caleb’s triumph of conquering his alleged porn addiction by destroying the computer, and the delivery of the divorce papers, Catherine heads off to the medical supply store. (Conveniently located in the same mini-mall as Bobby Lee Duke’s Lollipop Shop and the Biscuit Barn. I wish I was making that up.)
I’m honestly not sure why Catherine goes to the medical supply shop—I guess she just hangs out there for kicks. As we discussed in Part 1, Catherine’s mom needs a new hospital bed and wheelchair, but insurance won’t cover them. Catherine and Caleb have the exact needed amount in their savings, but it never crosses either of their minds to use it for the equipment. Caleb because he covets a boat, Catherine because…I don’t know why.
I also don’t know why Catherine is even there, except that it gives the receptionist the opportunity to tell her that all the equipment has been paid for and delivered that morning. Catherine wanders out in a daze.
Yanno, we discussed how weird it is that Catherine never even thought about using their family savings on her parents, but it actually becomes even more pertinent now that they are actually divorcing (or so she thinks…sigh). I mean, Caleb and Catherine’s assets would be divided, their nice big house would probably be sold. Or Catherine’s parents could move into the house with her…or she with them. Just sayin’, there are more options here than seem to appear in her mind.
Catherine, of course, thinks Flirty Doctor paid for all the equipment. She thanks him for “giving money” and they hold hands.
Let’s get one thing clear, here: the movie wants us to think that Catherine is blinded by this shameful lust, and not seeing the Changed Man that is her husband. But if memory serves, Caleb is the guy who never discussed Catherine’s parents with her and accused her of being selfish. Flirty Doctor is the guy who listened to her problems and complimented her devotion and love.
So it’s not like Catherine is drawing unreasonable conclusions here or anything.
Meanwhile, Caleb is actually doing a chore around the house—collecting the trash. (Well, it has been a few days since he last whalloped that poor, innocent trash can. He’s probably just looking for an excuse.)
And he finds an excuse when he
stumbles upon opens up an envelope and reads a card from Flirty Doctor to Catherine. The envelope is in Catherine’s room, on her dresser, so I’m not sure what business it is of her separated husband who happens to live in the same house until the divorce goes through. Anyway, it’s all quite sweet—Flirty Doctor just writes how much he enjoys talking with Catherine and seeing her at work every day.
Proving that he is, indeed, a totally Changed Man, Caleb sits down with Catherine when she gets home, and they discuss the matter.
HA! Almost had you there, didn’t I? Of course Caleb doesn’t talk to Catherine about this—that would involve…talking, and we know Caleb doesn’t do that with the wimmin-folk. Nope, instead he calls the hospital like a stalker, inquiring after a “Gavin…I only have a first name.”
Caleb stalks over to the hospital and confronts Flirty Doctor in his office, sticking a finger in his face, just like he always does when another human behaves in a manner of which Caleb disapproves.
Caleb: I know what you’re doing! And I have no intention of stepping aside as you try to steal my wife’s heart.
Caleb ends his little challenge (for “going after” Catherine) with a lovely little threat: he makes a fist and thanks Flirty Doctor for helping him with his hand.
What a horrible person he is. Seriously. Violence is still how he wants to solve all his problems. Let’s just see how long it is until he bullies his wife again, too.
But don’t worry—the movie knows who the real villain is. It’s Flirty Doctor…who was married all along, and takes off his ring every day when he comes to work.
Color me doubtful that a doctor could keep his marital status a secret in the workplace, especially in this pretty small city. Ooo, but hey, it’s dramatic, right?
Frightened by Buck Williams’ fist of doom, Flirty Doctor blows off his lunch date with Catherine. Catherine ends up eating lunch with a
terrible actress random volunteer or possibly nurse that we have never met before.
The woman prays over her cafeteria lunch then dispenses this amazing wisdom.
Terrible Actress: Catherine, you’re so young. I would encourage you to make your choices carefully.
Hell, the woman is making Catherine’s case for her. I mean, Catherine is young, her marriage sucks, and she has every chance to find someone who isn’t an abusive asshole!
Terrible Actress is apparently quite the busybody, noticing that “a certain young doctor” is trying to “woo you while you’re still married.”
Hey, lady, she really couldn’t be much more separated. The papers have been served and they’re sleeping in separate rooms and have for weeks.
Catherine tells Terrible Actress to fuck off in the nicest possible Christian Film way, and we head into another Christian Song Musical Montage!
Caleb sits on the fire engine and contemplates his wedding ring! Catherine sits on a bench and contemplates the middle distance! Caleb sweeps the floor! (Changed Man Alert!) Caleb fights a fire! Caleb trains his men! Caleb takes a jog! Caleb gazes at the door to Catherine’s bedroom! Caleb prays! Caleb sits in a tree and contemplates the middle distance! Caleb lifts weights! Caleb contemplates the abandoned church camp cross! Caleb trains his men some more! Caleb reads the Bible! Caleb washes a couple of dishes! Catherine notices that Caleb has done a few dishes! Caleb fights a fire! Caleb takes a walk!
There’s lots of Caleb and not much Catherine in this montage, is what I’m saying. And man, but that montage took forever.
Did Flirty Doctor pay for all that stuff? Will Catherine do the right thing and stay with her violent husband? Stay tuned! (More this week, I promise!)
Time for Caleb to tackle his porn addiction!
Now, as I’ve said in the previous parts, porn addiction is not cool, and certainly not conducive to Caleb trying to fix his frakked-up marriage. But his marriage is frakked up primarily because he is a selfish, abusive asshole who hates women, not because he looks at internet porn. The movie has (against it’s own intentions, I think) shown this to be true. The littlest thing sets Caleb off, and he screams in Catherine’s face, overpowers her, and then heads out into the backyard to beat up a trashcan.
I’m sure this is the line the movie wants us to see—Caleb hits a trashcan, not his wife, so it’s not really abuse! I honestly would have though that in this day and age, there wouldn’t be a need to explain to people that there are such things as verbal and emotional abuse, but I guess not.
Caleb is once again sitting at his (rather outdated) computer, looking at pictures of the boat he covets. Up comes the porn pop-up ad, but it’s sedate enough for a Christian movie: just the girl’s face, with the words “Wanna See?” below. Caleb would have to click to see more.
Caleb is totally ready to click to see more, but he suddenly remembers that he is now a RTC, and as such, is not allowed to jack off to porn ever again.
He wanders around the living room for almost a full minute, and because Kirk Cameron’s acting is not sufficient to show us what he is feeling, he has to tell us.
Caleb: Why is this so hard?”
(Heh, don’t mind my dirty mind over here.)
Actually, watching this, I am reminded of a much, much better movie (and one of my favorites) that I just saw last week: Rio Bravo, in which Dean Martin’s character is going through alcohol withdrawal. To demonstrate that the addiction is a matter of the mind as well as the body, Martin has a habit, which we notice as the story progresses: every time he thinks about how much he wants a drink, he quickly rubs his mouth. It’s simple, effective, and shows us Martin’s inner turmoil, instead of just telling us he feels bad.
Finally, Caleb goes to the most holy of books: not the Bible, mind you, but his dad’s handwritten Love Dare. Miraculously, it is Day 23, and Day 23 is just the passage he needs!
Watch out for parasites. A parasite is anything that latches onto you or your partner and sucks the life out of your marriage. They’re usually in the form of addictions like gambling, drugs, or pornography.
Question: Did John know (or suspect) that Caleb was a porn addict when he wrote this book?
Othe Question: So, which parasite(s) infected Caleb’s parents’ marriage? Was Cheryl a bit too fond of the penny slots? Did John shoot up? Inquiring minds want to know!
They promise pleasure, but they grow like a disease and consume more and more of your thoughts, time, and money. They steal away your loyalty and heart from those you love.
Eh, no worries there. Caleb doesn’t love anybody but himself.
Marriages rarely survive if parasites are present. If you love your wife, you must destroy any addiction that has your heart. If you don’t it will destroy you.
Caleb knows now that he has to destroy his addiction.
So he destroys his computer.
Caleb isn’t addicted to his computer, he’s addicted to porn. Destroying his computer isn’t going to cure him of a porn addiction.
Besides which, does Catherine never use this computer? What the hell gives Caleb the right to destroy family property?
Oh, and as usual, whenever Caleb destroys something, he is witnessed by the neighbor. Except this time, his wife is out in the yard, too, as they both work on the garden. Fun note: Caleb addresses the man, as he always does, and completely ignores the woman.
Mr. Rudolph: Irma, I don’t want you talking to that guy. He is weird.
Mrs. Rudolph: Takes one to know one.
Damn! Why isn’t the movie about this couple? They seem way more fun than Caleb and Catherine.
Catherine comes home from work (wearing the coolest charcoal suit!) only to find the computer in the poor, abused trash can. Nothing daunted, she heads into the house only to find a bouquet of roses where the computer used to live, along with a note that says “I love you more!“
Why do I fear that this gesture of alleged selflessness will be thrown back in Catherine’s face the nest time they have a fight? “I gave up my computer for you!”
Seems Caleb and Catherine don’t talk for the rest of the day, because the next morning, all Caleb hears is Catherine leaving. He wanders into the kitchen, and she has left an envelope for him on the table. Caleb gets all smirky, because surely his crafty plans are working, and Catherine sees that she couldn’t possibly get along without him!
This will never stop being amusing to me! Hang on, there’s even more fun!
I hate their decorating scheme, too. Just sayin’.
Damn, that is the ultimate SNAP. It does not get any better than this!
I mean…um, poor Caleb. After all his hard work and effort: making a cup of coffee, giving her one call at work, she still wants to divorce his abusive ass!
I love you right now, Catherine. Never change. I mean, I know you will, because the movie will make you, but I’m just going to pretend for now.
Caleb calls his parents (well, his dad, but his mom gets to hear about it second-hand). John is understandably shaken to hear just how badly his son failed in his manly duty to keep his failed marriage together at any and all cost.
Oh, if only the movie ended here…
But it doesn’t.
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.”)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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!
(‘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.
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?
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!
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!
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.
Michael: But when I gave my life to God, I tried to find her, but she’d already remarried.
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!
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. ;)
This is a series I have thought about reviewing–whaddaya think???
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.
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.
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.
Caleb switches gears.
Caleb: I am not a perfect person, but better than most.
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.
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*
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Can this marriage be saved? Should it be saved? Discuss!