First of all, and this is totally unrelated to the larger review, but who in the fuck told Hollywood it’s okay to hit women in the face again? Because I have a golf club with the name of every single one of their teeth on it. We get it, you think hitting women is edgy and cool. Well, I’ve been hit a lot in my life, and it’s not nearly as awesome as it seems in the movies.
Two things I never did after someone hit me in the face: 1. smile rakishly at them 2. nod demurely and do as I was told. Mostly I covered my face with my forearms and cried in a ball on the floor until the person hitting me decided they were done doing that. Then I let him die alone in a nursing home where he begged to come home every day and claimed the nurses were abusing him. It was all I could do to never visit or I’d have paid them to be even meaner.
This review has spoilers, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So we saw Hail, Cesar! tonight, and it was totally a Coen Brothers comedy, so if you like that kind of O Brother Where Art Thou, Burn After Reading story as journey, but mostly un-mapped type of shit you will eat this up. And I did. I loved every beat. It’s a good film. Aside from the fact that I will punch every Coen Brother in the dick and Periscope it if I ever meet them because for serious, please stop hitting women in the face.
The major tension is not, as the trailers suggest, the kidnapping of movie star Baird Whitlock. An offer for more money, better hours, and stock options at Lockheed is facing main character Eddie Mannix, a fixer for the studio who seems to spend 24-hours a day image-policing a revolving cast of disposable beauties in order to increase profits for an unseen corporate head in New York who has all his respect and loyalty for absolutely no reason that I can discern. Ultimately, Mannix defines the struggle as a battle between what is easy and what is hard, but good. Here in the present, we all have the knowledge that Lockheed as a company is the turd that couldn’t stop turding. They’ve “suffered” wave after wave of crushing staff reductions, even as their stock rose and their CEO pay soared on the wings of foreign slave labor. Meanwhile Hollywood looks practically robust, but only because they never had any employees to lay off, just an itinerant herd of contractors who can be thrown away or called up like comic book minions without a second thought.
The reason that Mannix ultimately decides to stick with the studio, which means 24-hour plus work days, unhealthy habits, and absentee parenthood is the same reason for Whitlock’s kidnapping, and the reason that we in the real world will continue to eat this shit up with a spoon whenever they dish it out. If you can sell someone their own fantasy, they’ll follow you to the ends of the earth to buy it from you. And we have been selling the fantasy of Western exceptionalism for so long that it’s become a moral failing to even suggest that we can’t work 24-hours a day, 7-days a week for little money and only the suggestion of dream that’s not even ours, but a faceless corporate head somewhere a continent away.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel guilty for wanting to take care of themselves, who hasn’t been shamed for asking for a raise in a company where the boss makes hundreds of times what their lowest paid employee makes. Time after time, studies come out admonishing us for working more than 12 hours a day, and advising us to take breaks, but do we do it? And how many of us work in companies where that sort of behavior is encouraged? How many of us work for ourselves and wouldn’t be caught dead slacking off? Despite professional business management advice that directly contradicts the way we’re acting.
Ever since I started trying to honor my weekends, my anxiety levels have gone through the roof Friday and Sunday nights. Friday because I’m worried I haven’t done enough, and Sunday because I’m worried about the tidal wave of unfinished work that will be waiting for me first thing Monday. And then Monday comes and I’m clear-headed and able to solve problems that would have taken be hours if I hadn’t taken a break. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because something is good, doesn’t mean it has to be hard.
Doing the good thing and following your passion will always be simultaneously easy and hard. It’s easy to take a job offer you know you don’t want, if it makes your life more comfortable in the short run. It’s hard to try and fit a round peg in a square hole, and if you’re the peg it gets increasingly more painful the longer you try. It’s easy to have a dream and make deep and meaningful proclamations in the heat of the moment. It’s even easy to work grinding, long and unforgiving hours for nothing in return for the first three to four years. It’s hard to look deep inside the most desperate part of yourself and decide you’ll spend a lifetime paying out more than you get back, and that you belong so completely to the thing you love that you’d give anything, suffer any indignity just to keep it going. Harder still to know and accept your own drive so completely that you would never do anything to damage the instrument of your enjoyment for any price. It’s hard to stop working when work is all you are. It’s beyond hard to watch everything turn to shit because you’re too exhausted.
I love oblivion. Most people do. But don’t you get tired of watching the protagonist skip effortlessly across its surface? Don’t you ever want to leave a movie feeling like more than you are? Don’t you want to take a nap without feeling like a fucking communist?