Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Words Fail, and things get interesting.

Just saw Little Miss Sunshine, which is an very rewarding film, mainly about the limitations of language.

Please note: If you happen to be going through any sort of personal rough patch – family bickering, career disappointment, parent/child sadness, romantic loss – I might suggest that you wait for the video. This may not be the ideal film for you to see.
(On ‘date night.’)

(I’m just sayin’.)

But if you brave it, if you can hang in through some undeniably uncomfortable moments, you may have a fairly lovely and cathartic experience. It’s a bit like Napoleon Dynamite – words fail, and that’s when things get really interesting. There are no weak performances; Steve Carrell especially distinguishes himself, and especially with his physical work; it’s really excellent.

I’ve also been watching Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip, which I have begun to suspect is not excellent. I wanted very much to like it – I’m fond of Sorkin, my INSANE LOVE of Sports Night is well-documented. This show has theatre history jokes. Fatty Arbuckle jokes. (And not the obvious ones!) Gilbert and Sullivan parodies!

Really, I am the target market for this show. Me personally.

What’s good: well, the fact that there’s a show on TV that wants to make a non-dirty Fatty Arbuckle reference. The female characters seem smart, and when male characters who treat them otherwise, it’s evidence of untrustworthy character and bad judgment.

But by far the best thing – here’s the best thing about Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin understands something important.

He understands that work is more fun than fun.

This is the best thing about Sports Night, and it’s by far the best thing about this latest show. It’s a beautiful artistic tribute to adrenaline, to that moment when you’re working hard and surrounded by stimulating people who really care about what you’re doing and you are fairly confident but if we’re really honest NOT REALLY 100% SURE WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE NEXT 60 SECONDS….dude, that’s when you know you’re alive. Seriously.

When Sports Night was on broadcast, I used to cry every week as I watched it. Because someone got it.

So that’s good.

Here’s what, so far, seems pretty bad – one of the characters is a comedian and a Christian, not to mention a beautiful smart woman and a romantic lead. So far, I kinda like her, and I like that various men admire/love her. But honestly – I am in the God industry, and I don’t have as many conversations about Christianity in a week as this woman does. It is too early, for me at least, to tell how this peculiar bit of writing is going to work out.

And here’s what’s really bad already. The show is about the producers, and production, of a late-night sketch comedy show on a broadcast network. (But not Saturday Night Live! And you can tell its not about SNL, because people refer to SNL, to actual events in SNL history, by name. Matthew Perry’s character namechecked Wayne’s World on Monday. SNL is the competition for the show-within-a-show.)

If you’re going to have a show about a comedy show, and you’re going to make the very risky decision to include parts of the comedy show in the script….honestly, it has to be funny.

The parts where the producers are arguing about ratings are funny. The parts where the comedy writers are struggling to write jokes are funny.

The parts where the comedians are telling jokes on TV should be at least a little funny.

If they’re not, then nothing else makes sense. All the talk about the ratings, the focus groups, the switchboard lighting up, even the long (long long) montage of the studio audience laughing and applauding…complete nonsense.


Rev. April said...

i guess this shows my lack of insight, but i never thought of miss sunshine that way i read this. now it totally makes sense.
i loved the movie... just for the bizarro factor... the bizarro/all-too-real factor, really.

betsy said...

I loved it too, which I expressed by crying, not only though parts of the movie but most of the way home in the car. I started about the time that the brother freaked out and the sister went down the hill in her cowboy boots and put her head on his shoulder. After it was over, it occured to me that everything damaging in that world happens when people talk, and everything redemptive happens when they shut the fuck up for a minute. (With the exception of the talk on the pier.) The body what's redemptive - Is that the opposite of Origen?

--- said...

I started to write a comment and saw that Betsy beat me to it. I thought my heart was going to literally break in two when the little girl went down the hill to "talk" to her brother and just put her arm around him. That's the perfect picture for all those times when there are no words to heal a situation. This movie was so wonderful and I wish I could see it again for the first time.