The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Negotiating Her Own Conditions? Really?

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Hey Kathryn,

So as I write this, I know you are prepping yourself to head out to see Eclipse.  Tyler and I went to see it last night at the Drive-in with some friends (a setting that doubles any movie’s enjoyment level). With the third book being my least favourite of the series, I didn’t have the highest expectations for the film…which is possibly why it wasn’t that disappointing.  I mean, it’s a pretty bad movie.  But there were a few things to think on that made it worthwhile and fun for me.

First, and I’m not the first to comment on this, I am infinitely amused by Bella’s extreme flaunting of her charged relationship with Jacob in front of Edward.  Now I think it’s great that we’ve got a heroine who is playing the field (sort of) and who can admit that we all might have more than one love in our lives.  This, I think, is very positive.  And I have loved in both the book and movie how her friendship with Jacob gets Edward to loosen up a little on his tightly controlled reigns on her…even if he’s only loosening up because he realizes Jacob can share the (frustratingly paternalistic) burden of ‘protecting’ Bella (although in the books I got the sense more that Ed was actually coming around to like Jacob as a person, not just an extra body in Bella’s guard).  Furthermore, I’m all for Bella exploring her various desires and trying to figure out what she really wants in life (as she points out, her choice isn’t between two guys, but rather is between versions of herself she is trying to negotiate).  But seriously, if you’re with one guy, you don’t hug, kiss, snuggle up to generally flirt with guy number 2 in front of him – it’s just unfair on both guy 1 and 2!

And it could, quite annoyingly, turn a feature length film into a pathetic pissing contest.  Ed hugs; Jacob kisses.  Ed eyes her emo-ly; Jacob takes her on a motorcycle ride.  Jacob gives her a handmade bracelet; Ed hits up Tiffany&co.

But it’s so over the top, I just had to laugh!  I’m not sure she’s negotiating her own conditions, as she likes to think she’s doing.  And she’s definitely not Switzerland!!  She’s a little pot-stirrer, playing with the jealousy of her suitors while bemoaning the attention they pour on her.  She’s kind of a little brat, and it’s actually one of the few interesting things about her!

And that’s because the majority of her power is performed passively – seriously, what was with extended scenes of Jacob carrying her shirtless through the woods?  I get it – cover the scent and all that.  And I like to see Lautner shirtless as much as the next person, but that was a bit silly.  Her passivity perhaps reached its heights though with she lay in the soundest sleep ever while the boys bantered back and forth about their love for her and their growing appreciation for each other (there is a solution here, kids – Gossip Girl tried it this season…it makes all three of you happy and helps you figure out which one Bella really loves…aren’t tents in the mountains all about sexual experimentation anyway?  At least that’s what the movies thus far have taught me!).

And not for nothing, but when I’m going camping, I take more than a light jacket!  I know they couldn’t predict a snowstorm – I mean, who gets the weather channel is the backwards third world nation of the American NorthWest?  But she brought a cute little hat – why not bring a warm coat too?!?  Useless!  I mean, I was at the Drive-in in Tennessee on a balmy July night and I brought a sweater with me about the weight of Bella’s…how is she ever going to get out from the dependence that supposedly frustrates her so much if she can’t even pack her own bag?

Oops, so back to talking about what I did like.  Yeah, after all that, I do like the love triangle.  And I liked how Victoria’s relationships with James and Riley contrasted Bella’s own confusion.  Bella – the one who can admit she has multiple love(r)s – is the commendable one.  Victoria, the one who can’t be honest with her lover about her past relationship is the bad guy.  There’s something in that, I think, to the idea of being honest about one’s desires with those whom one desires.  In the midst of all her weak, mumbly annoyingness, Bella gets something right…and for those of us who have read the books, we know where that is headed and how very right she’s got it (I will refrain here from all the thoughts and feelings this movie prepped in me for the fourth which was, contrary to popular opinion – my favourite of the four books).

A few stray thoughts – is it just me or were the vampires almost useless in the fight against the newborns?  For the first little while, it seemed that only the wolves were making any kills, while the vampires just dramatically flew through the air and punched people to no effect.  Finally Carlisle knocks a head off and I feel like they’re at least making a minimal contribution – but for the most part, they would have been screwed without Jacob and his crew!  And speaking of Jacob, did you notice how tamed down from the book that first kiss between he and Bella was?  I guess they want to keep us liking him and the assault connotations from the book wouldn’t help with that, eh?  And finally, I continue to be intrigued by how this vampire lore is infused with Mormon theology – the more Bella degrades “paper marriage” the more the theme of eternal marriage comes to the fore.

Ok, what did you think? Can’t wait to hear!

xoxo,
Natalie

—–

Hello Natalie,

Now that we have to pay a babysitter in order to see a movie in the theater, I have become a lot more discriminating about what I am willing to see. The fact that I talked my husband into seeing Eclipse as a date night proves just how promising we both found New Moon. We saw that movie back in the carefree childless days, when he tagged along on a lark. Then that movie totally knocked us out of the water with its campy, semi-ironic, teenage panache. It was not a great movie, but it was fun. Really fun, even. Part of what made it so delightful was the audience we saw it with – a lot of other late 20s, early 30 somethings who were able to laugh out loud whenever Edward’s pasty emo bod appeared. It was actually one of the best communal movie experiences I’ve had (I wrote about this some in our conversation about NM).

Maybe the difference in this film can be summed up in our changed audience. Somehow we ended up with the much older crowd. I’m not talking swooning soccer moms. I’m talking multiple couples that appeared to be in their 50s and 60s, and even a few stray individuals in the same demographic. What they were doing there I don’t know, but they were prepared to have a great time and were all audible laughers. As they guffawed their way through the previews, my hopes soared for another outstanding audience experience. But as the movie wore on, there was less and less to laugh about. In fact, the only person who consistently got out-loud chuckles was Charlie, with his deadpan parental blundering. The fact that everyone around us could probably relate more to the parent than the teenager was surely telling, but let’s be honest, Charlie’s wry one-liners were a desperately needed break in the endless parade of expository scenes.

I never thought I would say this, but I really could have used more of Bella’s inner monologue. Perhaps if she had just been allowed to narrate what was going on they could have streamlined the plot and prevented the tedium of each character getting four minutes to narrate their back story in an effort to provide cohesion to the fragmented story. For instance, in the books Bella listens to the story of the Third Wife and continues to reflect on what that level of sacrifice means. It becomes an example of a kind of selflessness she knows she isn’t capable of, and a foil to the selfishness she indulges in her manipulations of Jacob. Clearly, the movie writers wanted us to hear that story so we would know what Bella was doing when she cut herself on the snowy mountain. But she doesn’t actually cut herself in the book, so why make this plot innovation? Especially because they don’t even discuss what she did, what it meant, why she did it. It is just a visual throwback to a story told around a campfire that isn’t organically related to anything else. The whole movie felt this way to me, each scene potentially interesting if only I could figure out why I was supposed to care.

I agree that what we are really supposed to care about is the love triangle, and I am right there with you in applauding Stephenie Meyer for taking on the reality of multiple loves and conflicting desires. Even though I also found this book the most frustrating, largely because of the masculine posturing over Bella’s safety, at least there was something poignant in Jacob’s misery and Bella’s own reflections on her selfishness. In the books it feels like something is at stake – Jacob’s heart at least – and Bella’s character. In the movie, it just felt like a game of one-ups-manship. Come on, isn’t Jacob even going to take off running like a wounded, angry animal to wander the woods alone? He’s really just going to lie there and look eternally cheerful, if a little depressed, at having lost the “game” over Bella’s heart?

There is another reason I could have used more monologue from Bella and it has something to do with the audience’s reaction to Charlie as well. One of the things many commentators have pointed out about the books is how old-fashioned Bella’s life is, more like the life of someone twice her age. She cooks and cleans and doesn’t own a cell phone, much less Facebook or Twitter. When marriage is suggested, sure it seems a bit intense, but not out of keeping with the basically domestic life she’s already leading. But Kristen Stewart in her faded Levis and hipster tennis shoes really doesn’t look ready for what is coming. In fact, as I watched her and Edward kissing in the final scene, all I could think about was how were they going to pull off what’s coming for them? In making her choice between Jacob and Edward, or as you rightly say, between two versions of herself, Bella is entering a new phase of young adulthood. Perhaps what the movies do best is capture just how foreign those choices are to your average North American 18-year-old. If 30 is the new 20, 18 is barely entering adolescence. It is no wonder my audience clung to Charlie’s comic wisdom – this is turning into an adult story and adults are scarce to come by.

All that said, I know better than to expect too much or too act too wounded when the movie doesn’t deliver. And there were some deliciously great moments – like Emmett’s rare wise-crack and Jessica’s graduation speech (“I know, right, I’m a born leader”). I too loved the fourth book best (I didn’t realize we were the minority there). It is hard to talk about why that is without spoilers, so I will just have to wait until we can blog about it together. And I still remain hopeful that this movie franchise can recover some of the good humor, light irony, and fun camp that it is capable of giving us. Here’s hoping we get more of Emmett’s one-liners, Jessica’s optimistically wounded banter (and wow, I hadn’t placed Anna Kendrick from Up in the Air until this movie), and some seriously hyped-up werewolf/vampire sarcasm. Oh, and I’d be excited to see Leah and Seth come front and center. The more I think about, the more excited I am for the next movie – there is so much material to work with! Which proves that despite my frustrations, I’m pretty much a sucker and will definitely keep coming back. Kind of like Jacob. Let’s hope I’m as rewarded as he will eventually be (sorry, sorry, my lips are sealed).

xoxox,

K

One Response

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  1. Great discussion. I agree with just about everything, especially the nauseating paternalism. I’m sick of Bella needing these guys for her safety. And please don’t get me started on the absurd implications of needing to be brutalized to be with your mate…but that’s a different book.

    Anyway, I just have to add that my most favorite part of the movie actually was from the audience. [SPOILER WARNING] It was when Jacob had just learned of their official engagements in the mountains, and Bella’s calling after him, trying to keep him from leaving. “No, Jacob” or “Jacob, wait” she says. Then…and this was the best, she yells, “Jacob…STAY!” after which someone else yelled “Jacob, HEEL!”

    Enjoying the absurdity of this series is what brings me such delight. Can’t wait for the next one.

    Oh, and I also noted that, between workout sessions, the actors must’ve taken some lessons or something. They were noticeably better, don’t you think? (Or is that an overstatement?)

    KRS

    July 12, 2010 at 11:03 am


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