Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Other Guys

This comedy, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as a pair of unlikely cop partners, tells the story of their rise to glory, all amid a stream of jokes and improvised silliness. Identified from the start as 'The Other Guys', compared to a pair of macho, god-like figures in the cop world, (Samuel Jackson cameo-ing as one), who soon jump to their death (?) leaving a vacancy for them to fill.
The dynamic between this mis-matched pair is quite funny, where 'tough-as-nails' Terry, is often taken at his literal word by nerdy, paperwork fiend, Allen. Everything about Allen annoys Terry: his humming as he works, his car, a Prius, which he terms 'vagina', and his unlikely ability to attract very beautiful women, his current partner played by Eva Mendes.
They end up pursuing a British financial operator, Ershon, involved in stealing billions from the public, which doesn't offer much hope of the glorious conquest they were seeking. Yet as predicted, by the end, all's well that ends well, leaving the credits to show a series of graphs, and stats, apparently detailing the ratio of CEO to employee salaries. So there you go: this film is really built on the noble cause of raging against the white-collar machine! Could have fooled me!
While I wasn't blown away by any manner or means by the film, some scenes were funny. The narrative was weak and didn't seem to gel with many of the comic scenes, which were superfluous, but probably more enjoyable than the actual story, which was too long! The improvisatory nature of the comedy was well done, Allen's spiel about a tuna overcoming a lion, setting the tone for many more such meanderings. Ferrell was definately the stronger of the two characters, his deadpan gait coming across very well.

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

Right from the opening of this book, I was arrested, and had to force myself to read slowly to savour the delicious language, intriguing storyline and enigmatic characters that comprised this first novel of talented New Zealander, Eleanor Catton.

The story describes the fallout of a sex-scandal in a teenage girls' school, but the description was neither clear-cut, nor one-sided, which was to the story's credit in that it mirrored the muddied reality of the event. The local acting academy take up the story as a project for production, and in the course of the novel, the lines become blurred between theatre and reality, so that often we are not sure which is which. This is an effective device to describe the confusion and turmoil that teenagers and young adults often grapple with, often exploring multiple personas through which to view the world.

There is a further subplot, which explores the life of the saxophone teacher, who is a dark and intriguing character, who often acts as a foil for her students. Her life is paradoxically explored through witholding direct information, and instead offering fragments of conversations with parents of her students, the students themselves and Patsy, a confidante with whom she had a very intimate relationship. In fact two of her students, Julia and Isolde, re-enact an episode from her past, their relationship mirroring that which herself and Patsy once had. The saxophone teacher comes across as a very powerful character, one who really sees, and who weilds a strong influence over her students. The intimacy of the one-to-one music lesson, acts almost like a therapy session, the body and voice of the saxophone offering a velvety, seductive atmosphere. The saxophone teacher reminded me of another memorable character from a novel by Paulo Coelho, that I read a few years ago: 'Eleven Minutes'. The character was the librarian, who, like 'the saxophone teacher', remained known just as, 'the librarian'. The librarian too acted as a foil and something of a confidante for the main character, and came across as mysterious and interesting.

The nearby acting academy has a crucial role in the novel in making 'public' the 'private' scandal, and in so doing, exposing the falsehood of public and private lives. The stage is a metaphor, often overused in day-to-day life, but one that is used to incredible effect here, and calling to question what we accept as reality versus reality itself.

This is a must-read novel, one that looks at truth from multiple perspectives, as the characters experience it, toy with it, avoid it and confront it.