"What would we really like to see if we could stand outside ourselves and look at us?"
Okay, fuck this movie. I know that I should maintain some modicum of journalistic integrity, but this isn't an academic pursuit, so I feel comfortable in saying that everyone involved in the making of this film can fuck right off. I should have known better. Within five minutes a four year-old kid is killed. I should have just turned it off. I wanted to, but I decided, okay, let's see where this is going. It actually went somewhere pretty promising, and then took a big giant shit on any hope I had for it to turn around.
I haven't been this angry about a film since I walked out of AI.
Rhoda (Brit Marling, who also co-wrote <shakes head>) is a seventeen year-old girl about to go to MIT when she does what any seventeen year-old brainiac would do. She gets drunk and decides to drive home. The hip-hop dj on the radio informs us about some news that's off the chain. Scientists have discovered another planet exactly like earth just to the east of the North Star. Drunk and gazing at the star, Rhoda plows into a car carrying John Burroughs (William Mapother, Ethan from the good season of Lost) and his family. John's wife and son are killed, actually his son is thrown through the windshield and into the street, and John lapses into a coma. Rhoda goes to jail and four years later gets out and everyone is going crazy with Earth 2 fever. Apparently Earth 2 is an exact duplicate of our planet, so everyone on our planet has a counterpart on Earth 2.
Now, this aspect of the story is fascinating and the implications are worth being explored. However those implications are relegated to a few radio and television sound bytes, and instead we're stuck following the story of Rhoda. Rhoda finds out that John is out of his coma, looks up where he lives and goes to apologize, but chickens out and says she works for a cleaning service and is offering a free trial to clean his house. Now, rather than being a decent human being and just leaving, she ends up cleaning his house several days a week. You can't really blame John, he has no idea who she is because he says later in the film that he never wanted to find out who the driver was for fear he would do something horrible to her. Rhoda however knows full well what she's doing and actually ends up falling in love with John. Okay, fuck her. How fucking dare she! Who does she think she is? Yeah, everybody deserves redemption and a second chance and all that, but go fuck some guy who's family you didn't kill you twisted bitch.
Okay, sorry. So Rhoda enters this contest being held by a very thinly veiled Richard Branson-esque dude to win a seat on a shuttle to Earth 2. Of course she wins, because why else would that contest exist? Now, Earth 2 continues getting closer and closer, and I'm no scientist, but isn't that sort of impossible? I mean, it starts out only being visible at night, but before long it's huge in the sky at all times of day. Wouldn't that affect our gravity or the tides or do something drastic to our planet? If the film wants to be taken seriously as both a human drama and science fiction, the science needs to be rooted in plausibility at the very least.
But I digress... so Rhoda wins the contest and becomes so consumed, I would assume, with guilt that she finally confesses to John who she is. Now he actually tries to choke her, but he doesn't, and this would be where I lose sympathy for him. So here comes the truly unbelievable part; Rhoda goes home and sees a man on the news (I'm not making this up, his name is Ari Gold, but it's not Jeremy Piven) talking about his theory of how the moment when we discovered there was another earth, our symbiosis with Earth 2 ended, and all of our counterparts diverged from us and everyone on Earth 2 would now be on a different trajectory from us. So Rhoda reasons that since the moment Earth 2 was discovered was mere moments before she plowed into the Burroughs family car, maybe they're still alive up there. When she goes back to John's house to sell him on this theory, her impassioned speech consists of her saying "maybe they're alive, maybe they're not." I'm paraphrasing, but she does a piss poor job of selling the dude on it, that's for sure.
Anyway, flash forward four months and we see that she gave her ticket on the spaceship to John and he's the one going to Earth 2, not her. She comes home from work and finds her counterpart from Earth 2 standing by her garage waiting for her. Roll credits. Fuck that noise! Her letter that got her on the space ship dealt with her seeking redemption as an ex-con, so her responsible Earth 2 counterpart wouldn't have written the same letter and wouldn't have gotten the ticket. I know it probably means that John got to Earth 2 and tracked her down and sent her to meet her counterpart, but if that's the case, fuck him for doing that to her. Was he trying to ruin both versions of this girl? I mean, I don't blame him if he was, but the film has a higher opinion of him as a character than I do, so it doesn't add up for me.
Man alive, this one was a doozy. I think the main reason it made me so mad is that it seemed like two separate screenplays they mashed into one when they couldn't make either of them work. The Earth 2 stuff is cool, but it's almost an after-thought in the film they ended up making. It's a plot device and that's a cheat. There was so much cool stuff they could have done with that, but they focused instead on a horrible woman and her horrible plan and it just made me furious. There's a great movie in here somewhere, but director/co-writer/cinematographer/editor Mike Cahill was clearly not the guy to mine it. He fills the film with so much self-important nonsense, slow motion, fast zooms, more slow motion, even more slow motion, that it makes the whole endeavor that much more ridiculous as a result.
Tasha Robinson of avclub.com compared the film to the vastly superior Moon, and she couldn't have been more off the mark on that one. There's nothing redemptive about these characters, Rhoda's a selfish asshole, John's a dickhead with a short fuse (granted he lost his family, but he's not a very nice dude), and nobody else has much of a character to speak of. I was even sad to see Wes Anderson regular Kumar Pallana show up in a thankless role as a janitor who's given nothing to do except pour bleach in his ears off-screen. Don't worry about why, it's just another hollow attempt to make you care
about characters who don't deserve our sympathy.
Tomorrow I'll be looking at Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story with John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer.