Monday, September 13, 2010

Heavy Handedness in Movies

When I think of a movie as heavy handed, I typically am meaning that the movie in question is so explicit in its theme or underlying message, that it hampers the viewing process of the story. A good example of this was the movie The Triplets of Belleville, in which I recently watched in an animation class.

It's a French animation that is about a mother trying to rescue her kidnapped son. In the movie, the mother travels to this New York-like Metropolis, called Belleville, and the first sight we see is of a mockery of the Statue of Liberty, where Lady Liberty is represented as obese and in her hand she holds a cheeseburger. The message is so clearly heavy handed that it actually overpowered my sense of story, trying to show me that Americans are obese. Okay, I got your point, do you have to consistently show me obese American-looking people eating burgers and standing before a mockery of the Hollywood sign where it says Hollyfood instead of Wood.

Another example of this I watched recently was The Graduate, the Dustin Hoffman-starrer about a recent college grad who has an affair with his father's business partner's wife, to only fall in love with her daughter. The movie is essentially about Hoffman's character, Ben Braddock's indecision as to where he plans to go in life, which is represented in the visuals so beautifully by director Mike Nichols, but why did they feel the need in order for Braddock to constantly remind us through dialogue that he has no clue what to do in life? Is the visual message not enough? This, and the fact that the movie kind of got muddled up a bit in the second half in the attempt to try and tie up all of the plot lines introduced early on in the story, presenting a very unclear, perhaps even rushed sense of time passing, are the primary detractors for such a classic for me.

To me, an overexplanatory line of dialogue that we've heard thousands of times before, or the incessant use of a similar image over and over again, simply to drive home a point, just ultimately detracts from my viewing pleasure of a movie. Is it wrong to include such explanatory lines of dialogue or images? I think, no. Once or twice in the movie I feel is never bad, but when you're constantly reminded every ten minutes or so, it just hurts the experience. Maybe I'm too sensitive, but to me, that's what heavy handedness is.

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