Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Purge...More like The Blergh

This post is a part of my summer blockbuster series. I'll be tagging the whole thing as 2013 blockbusters

So I saw The Pruge last Friday and I have avoided writing about it for this series mostly because I just don't feel like it. Not only was there really nothing of note to mention on the gender side, but it was also kind of a sucky film. But here goes...no promise that I won't write spoilers.

The premise is...interesting, at least, I guess? It takes place in 2022 in a "new America" where there is less than 1% unemployment and crime is at an all time low. One time a year, for 12 hours, there are no laws, police, or emergency services. People can roam the streets and do whatever they please without repercussions ("the purge.") The idea promoted is that people are inherently bad so they need the opportunity to cleanse their systems once a year, and the rest of the time things can be hunky-dory.

Soon after the film starts, we learn that while things are "better" for everyone, there is, perhaps, a more vast divide between the haves and have-nots than ever before. A commentator on the TV news in the background mentions that critics of the purge say that it's not really solving problems; it's that many of the "undesirables" of the society are killed every purge.

The film follows the Sandin family, who are a super rich, white, stereotypically "perfect" family as they prepare for the lock down that their affluent lifestyle can afford them. Their plan is to be squirreled away safe and to just wait out the purge. However, the inciting incident is that the young son (Charlie) lets in a desperate, beaten, black homeless man who is searching for help (unnamed in the movie, so I'll call him The Man). This brings the Sandin family under scrutiny from a group of white, prep school, young adult murderers who are clearly enjoying their annual opportunity to kill. They even call it their right to do so. They're searching for who they refer to as "the swine" (The Man) and demand that he is turned over to them. Unless the Sandins immediately comply, the preppies promise to murder the Sandins as well. However, The Man has hidden somewhere deep in the Sandin home.

From a pure, "How did you feel about this movie?" perspective, I will go with "blergh," as listed in the title. It didn't really pull me in, I didn't feel connected or invested in any character, and I just wasn't entertained.

From a, "Did they make an interesting commentary on our society?" perspective, I was similarly disappointed. I think that they subject matter that the filmmakers were tackling was rich with possibility. There's a lot that could have happened between the Sandin adults and The Man, but it was set up such that they didn't really interact...I can't recall any meaningful dialogue between them. Instead they are fumbling around in the darkened house trying to kill each other and then (spoiler) in a seemingly random moment, Mr. Sandin decides not to kill The Man or turn him over to the preppies to save his family. And similarly randomly, The Man tries to offer himself for sacrifice, but then they all become allied together against the preppies.

I mean, at one moment they are trying to kill each other and the next they work together without any kind of reason for this change. The Sandin's good-natured son, Charlie, who ties to help the man is definitely supposed to be a reason that Mr. Sandin changes his mind, but it just wasn't convincing and I just didn't care.

This subject matter seems to be a cautionary tale about how class divisions (which often intersect with race divisions) could play out in our future, at their worst, but it doesn't really take a strong stand on conveying that message. I'm not asking to have a moral be spoon fed to me, but some meaningful dialogue between various parties shouldn't be too much to ask. It's like the movie was too "on," for lack of a better word. Once The Man was in the house, there were no down moments where we could connect with the characters and them with each other. They were just fighting, fighting, fighting, and flip! like a light switch going on, they're now allies.

I did read some concerns last week, prior to seeing it, that this movie could be another case of "rich white people save poor black person" and that's not really how it plays out...but it also doesn't play out much better either. Like I said, at the beginning The Man is fighting for his very life and won't give himself over to the preppies to save the Sandin family, but then suddenly, later, he cares about them, offers to sacrifice himself, and defends them.

I don't know. Maybe I missed something because I slipped out for 2 minutes to go to the bathroom. I hope I did, so that this mess would make more sense.

As I mentioned, there wasn't anything particularly interesting about gender in the movie. Mrs. Sandin seems to be your average stay at home mom and their daughter is a stereotypically defiant teen girl. Various other women in the movie aren't leaders, but they do play the role of villains/murderers along side the men.

I guess if I was to summarize how I feel about this film in one word, it would be the one I think I've used most often: disappointed. Not sure what else to say!

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