zustifer: (comics: hold on tight kids)
[personal profile] zustifer
The Glass Key (1942), Stuart Heisler. Jan 18, 9pm. View count: One.
Up in the Air (2009), Jason Reitman. Jan 19, 6:50pm. View count: One.

The Glass Key is supposedly based on the same Dashiell Hammett book as was Miller's Crossing and Yojimbo, which is an interesting thing. It's been too long since I've seen Miller's Crossing. Anyhow, this is an early noir with a semi-baffling plot; I needed a program to list the players. The characters are clear enough, but their official roles aren't, necessarily. (I've looked them up, since, but here is what I got via a first viewing.) There's a guy called Madvig, who has some kind of dirty past, but is now doing something in politics, teamed up with another guy (in a way I didn't get) who seems to be a career politician, Henry. Madvig has a kid sister, who's dating Henry's rich gambling son, and Madvig himself wants to date Henry's daughter, who's Veronica Lake. Madvig has a right-hand man, named Beaumont, around whom most of the movie revolves. Then there's also some sort of criminal (mob?) guy, who has thugs in his employ. All of these people are very grey (except maybe the criminal, who we never get to know very well); I suppose that's Hammett for you. The greyness is what makes the movie, for me -- everyone's sort of a mess in their own particular way. Even (especially) Beaumont makes a lot of decisions that are pretty questionable, all while having very little facial expression.

It's a whodunit, structurally, and for once the Law of Economy of Characters doesn't arrive at the killer after the viewer does. It's a fun movie, with some hardcore segments; supposedly there were several unpulled punches on the set, which lends some shots additional credibility.
The ending rang false to me, but 1940s Hollywood probably insisted on it.


Up in the Air I found fairly good, with the exception of the soundtrack, which was wishy-washy indie boy blah blah containing obvious Lyrics With Bearing on the Action. It felt inappropriate for the cast and for the actual mood. I also didn't think that George Clooney's side job, the not-very-believably-popular motivational speaking thing, worked particularly well; it was too directly up the character's alley, without bothering to explain how his advice could help others (or how they could believe it could help them, really).

Otherwise I found it a reasonable piece, seemingly about the importance of hope. I've read a bunch of people's reviews, and I haven't noticed anyone taking this viewpoint, but I think that's as close as I can come to the heart of the matter.


I think that Clooney, who's the hopeless one, has adjusted to his hope-free situation; while firing workers contractually, he tries to impart them with hope for their future. He may or may not actually get anything out of this. He meets someone who seemingly has as little hope as does he, but she turns out to have his kind of existence in addition to a more normal one; behaving like him is a change of pace for her, and possibly more like role-play. Clooney's right-out-of-college coworker embodies a false hope; she wants to check off boxes on her list of Life Items, even though she talks an okay game about love and companionship. Her value system was what Clooney was specifically rebelling against, the hollow kind of promise of life with other people. His family is more real, but not much more successful at relationships. However, for him, regardless of intent, it looks like he does regard his sister's wedding with some kind of hope. Experiencing it with his ladyfriend (more hope) shows him that another way is possible, and he becomes hopeful, only to have it crushed by his ladyfriend's home situation. The end.

It's established multiple times in the movie that Clooney isn't very good at empathy, at understanding other people's perspectives. He manages with the people he's firing presumably because it's always the same perspective, and it's emphatically not a long-term relationship with them that he's seeking. Short interactions he has down; longer ones give him trouble. He's surprised when his sisters resent his presence, and when people want something other than what he wants.
You could also read him as believing every word he says. He never lies; he never really even omits, because there isn't anything to omit. His most personal thought is his aspiration toward ten million frequent flyer miles. So when he pep talks his sister's fiance into going through with the wedding, he says words, believes them, and changes his own mind. (Or arguably, he's already changed his mind, but has to put his new feelings into words.)

Regardless, the ending is gutsy enough, whether pointing toward a continuing effort for Clooney, his 'loyalty' toward his way of life, or just a 'sorry, friend, no matter what your new state of mind, it still takes two to tango,' I thought it was a good choice.


Overall, the movie was a little muddy, with some things tending to happen for unknown reasons, but it's not a bad final product.
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Karla Z

February 2012

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