I don't watch many movies. Almost none, in fact. On one hand, I wear that distinction with pride; half convincing myself that I'm saving myself untold wasted hours of terrible pop-culture drivel. On the other hand, when I do manage to see a great film that really gets into my brain, I get a glimpse of how much I'm missing and wonder why I don't watch a few each week. I also fall into the trap of assuming that it was just about the best one ever made.
Myron set up the projector in his living room last night and invited me over for a late-night movie session. After everyone else was asleep, we cracked a couple of beers and some zotes, then settled in for A History of Violence.
I'm not even sure why I'm writing this, because I'd hesitate to recommend this film to anyone -- I found it psychologically difficult to watch. The juxtaposition and intermingling of quiet, small-town life and bloody violence shocked my mental systems, and not in a pleasant way. It raises more questions than it answers, and all reach in to what we believe about ourselves: when is violence justified, how do we really become who we are, what holds families together under extreme pressure, do nice guys really finish last?
There are a few weak moments early on, and some of the scenarios don't seem entirely plausible, but these shortcomings don't at all dull the impact of the whole package. As Ebert says, "This is not a movie about plot, but about character." And the characters are fantastic, both in how the roles are written and how they are played.
William Hurt and Ed Harris portray their mob heavies with hilarious menace, and I couldn't take my eyes off of them. I actually loved most of the supporting cast, but Viggo Mortenson could have almost carried the whole thing by himself. As great as he was as Aragorn, there's more depth in the inner conflict here, and even more tension between his own desires and history's intrusions into his present life.
So, the best movie ever? Probably not, but it will likely stick in my head for a while and keep me thinking about choices, family and destiny. And it already makes me want to see more great films. What more could you ask from an hour and a half of entertainment?