Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Fly: 3/5


David Cronenberg directed the 1986 sci-fi horror The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.  It's a re-make of the 1958 Vincent Price thriller, but my understanding is that it only keeps the rudiments of the 1958 plot.  Basic story: Seth Brundle (JG) is a scientist trying to solve the problems of motion sickness once and for all by mastering teleportation.  He invites a reporter, Veronica Quaife* (GD) back to his warehouse apartment for a demonstration.  They fall in love.  One night, she leaves to break things off with her ex-boyfriend, and Brundle gets all nervous and insecure.  He drinks a bit too much and tries to teleport himself.  He succeeds, but (because he was drinking?) a fly came along for the ride, and the result is Brundlefly.  The story then revolves around everybody coming to terms with Brundlefly.

*Weirdest last name I've heard in quite some time.

Three Up

1.  Jeff Goldblum's acting is brilliant.  It's not so difficult to portray a static character; it's not much more difficult to portray a character who experiences some instantaneous cathartic change; it is very difficult to portray a character who changes incrementally. Jeff Goldblum pulls it off.

2.  Subtlety.  In a movie known for being disgusting, maybe you don't think it's very subtle.  But you're wrong.  Take, for example, when Seth Brundle asks Veronica Quaife for something personal to prove that his teleporter pods can work.  She demurely reaches up her skirt, unsnaps her stocking, and pulls it down.  Cronenberg could have gone all fan-service on us, showing Geena Davis pull her skirt up to her waist, showing the audience her undies, and having her slowly, slowly pull the stocking off.  Instead, it's a subtle hint that this girl is more interesting than we at first thought.  Throughout the film, Cronenberg hits some things hard and other things very, very softly.

3.  There might be more to this than we thought.  Watching the film, I kept thinking that the whole thing was symbolic for something.  Technology gone too far?  Maybe.  Man's desperate search for glory and immortality?  Perhaps.  The disastrous effects of trying to re-enter the womb?  Feels a little cozy.  As much as I did not enjoy physically watching the last half-hour, I can't stop thinking about what Cronenberg was trying to tell us.

Three Down

1.  This movie was stomach-churningly disgusting.  I normally have a strong stomach, but, especially during the last half-hour, I had to look away.  But kudos to Cronenberg for his unwavering commitment to showing the disgusting effects of seeking immortality (or trying to re-enter the womb).

2.  Veronica's pregnancy.  A 96-minute movie shouldn't need tacked-on unnecessary conflict.  Cronenberg could have done great things with that pregnancy (the grub nightmare is disturbingly great), but it felt less like "OMG?!" and more like "o. m. g."  I see why (theoretically) it's the catalyst that propels us through the final act, but it felt over the top to me.  Especially since it goes unresolved.  Too much, too late.

3.  Stathis Borans's descent into madness.  Weird coincidence or valuable insight into Cronenberg's mind: both men who fall in love with Veronica Quaife slowly go mad and suffer irreversible physical deformations.  If somebody can explain to me why this is neither simple misogynism nor junior high fear of commitment, this might be one of the more fascinatingly subtle parts of the movie.

Verdict: I recommend it, if only because it's a classic of science-fiction cinema.

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