Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hawkes and Handsaws.

Recent posts on Pygmalion In A Blanket have forced me to confront my past, deep-seated issues (you know, like they always do!)--this time, about the actor Ethan Hawke, whose filmic adaptation of his angsty bildungsroman of Hawkean weltanschauung, The Hottest State, is about to hit theaters.

My first experience with Ethan Hawke was the same as most people, the movie Dead Poets' Society. This was a film the high-school me LOVED greatly for reasons that make no fucking sense to me now. Once I became an actual literature student, I soon realized that all that bullshit about hiding in caves and getting wasted and reading Coleridge and barbaric yawps and kicking soccer balls was perhaps even a more bullshitted way of approaching the study of literature than charting the emotional impact of similes on graphs or undertaking a socialist-lesbian dialectic on Gilgamesh or anything related to post-structuralism. And don't get me started on the whole, "Waaah. My daddy won't let be an actor so I'm totally going to poetically kill myself!" thing. I mean, grow a pair, Robert Sean Leonard's character! Graduate from high school, move out of your parents' home, get fucked by actual grown girls or boys and if you still want to off yourself after that--fuck it. Be my guest.

While none of this bothered me when the movie came out, Ethan Hawke's character did. Mainly from the way the motherfucker finally stood on his damn desk at the end of the movie, when there was nothing whatsoever at stake, to finally support his idiot English teacher after several of his colleagues had actually placed their academic futures at risk by doing so. Something about that part seemed fraudulent, and, I guess from the get-go, I attached that blame to Hawke.

Of course, after DPS, Hawke went on to play a part in some of the most relentlessly asinine movies in the history of the known universe. And not just Mystery Date, which held back the career of the fetching Teri Polo for a decade. Millions of people positively swooned over Reality Bites, which I experienced as a painful resection of two hours of my life at the hands of the Forces of Stupid-Ass. Such a dizzingly crapulent movie--which still has its defenders today: though I promise you that anyone's spirited defense of the movie is inversely proportionate to their recency of having seen it.

Then there's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, which sound on paper to be as rigorously annoying as a plateful of taint sandwiches. If one of my friends showed up at my house and told me, "Man, my trip to Europe was great! Let me tell you about how I swanned around with Julie Delpy, just--you know--talkin' about life man, and growing as an individual, dude. Like a bunch of frozen, quotidian moments in which I could just feel the whole universe smiling just for me," I'd smack that guy in the face, feed him a fistful of Roofies, and toss his unconscious body in the bathtub. And when he woke up, groggily wondering what happened and how the last thing he remembered was being about to launch into his Before Sunrise schtick, I'd day, "Yes, yes. You told me all about it. Fascinating. Hey, I know what! How about you shutting up for the next six hours or something?"

Also: Gattaca. Could I be any clearer?

Which brings us to The Hottest State. Ten pages into that fucker, I had to put it down and walk away, mainly because of the way it managed to combine the unreadability of the worst DeLillo with the utter stupefaction of the dullest therapy sessions ever transcribed. I understand that in the movie, which Hawke directed, he also plays the character that's supposed to stand in for his own father, which is such a Moebius strip of fuckedupedness, that the Entertainment Weekly critic described it as "going up his own keister."

And yet, despite it all, I have to say that I nevertheless like Ethan Hawke, because friends of mine who have worked design on some of the theatrical productions he's worked on have reported back that he's an absolute first-rate guy to know and to work for--and if you're out there, treating designers right, then you are a prince among men in my book. So, my advice to Hawke is this--find a good analyst, get over your dad and your divorce, stop trying to make feature films out of psychological minutiae, and good luck with that vampire movie--they are so hot right now.

1 comment:

Red State-Blues City said...

You're sooooo right. It's all about how you treat your designers. They are such a fabulous sub-set of humanity, and should be showered with praise and glory and buckets and buckets of cash. And never, ever fed taint sandwiches. Ever. Unless they like that sort of thing.
DPS=Emo before we knew what it was.