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Monday Movies: One Flew Over The Coochie’s Nest

Credit for the title goes to Leigh, who exclaimed it during our viewing of Sucker Punch.

Hanna is a fairy tale about a girl who has grown up in the forest and longs to return to her kingdom. When she was just a baby, her stepmother murdered her mother and she fled to the forest with the man she calls Papa, who, like Snow White’s woodcutter, defied his orders to save her from execution. Now that she is of age and her father has taught her the art of violence, she must leave her home in the forest and kill her stepmother before her stepmother kills her. (The stepmother is played by Cate Blanchett, who, you should know, was created in an experimental lab that got stuck in the middle of morphing Gwyneth Paltrow into Tilda Swinton.)

Hanna is a dance musical, somewhere between Flashdance and Footloose, about a girl who has never heard music and yearns to know what it is. On her journey, she will encounter music and find it captivating, as in flamenco stomps by a bonfire in Morocco, or ominous, as in the haunting whistle of the man sent to find her. But the important lesson is that the music is already in her (what a feeling! I am music now), which we know because of the dance sequences, stylishly lit, staged and choreographed, during which people hit each other, shoot guns and run instead of, strictly speaking, dancing.

Hanna is not a great action movie per se. The fight sequences don’t build in quite the right order. But it is stylish without being overly stylized, and if superhero movies were more like it, I would like them better. It works very well as a fable and as a musical. By the time it is over, it seems as if the stakes have become much smaller than we originally expected. That is because ours is a fallen age, and there is no kingdom for Hanna to return to.

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There is a strong case to be made for Sucker Punch as an important movie about an important topic. I cannot improve on what Alyssa Rosenberg says here: That kind of thing was true. It happened.

The case for seeing Sucker Punch is slightly more difficult to make. I liked it, but I like everything, and there’s just only so much WTF one man’s suspension of disbelief can hold without breaking.

The conceit makes sense. A group of girls trapped in an asylum come up with a plan to escape. Because executing the plan requires such superhuman effort, and inspired by the methods of the asylum’s sympathetic but unhelpful shrink, the girls experience their fight for freedom in a dreamspace they conjure. At one level of the dream, they are dancers and prostitutes; then, when they have to execute a piece of the plan, the central character Babydoll starts to dance, and her dance is so mesmerizing that the girls find themselves in some kind of medieval-WWI-outer-space video game.

You can see how this would work — they need to steal a lighter, so the person they steal it from becomes the corpulent mayor watching the show at the brothel (“kiss the neck” is the new “sweep the leg“), and as Babydoll dances before him, they enter the videogame world, where stealing the lighter becomes extracting the fire crystals from the neck of the baby dragon.

But it doesn’t really work that way. We never see Babydoll’s dance! She just sways a bit. A good thing to include, if you’re building an allegorical world in which things represent other things, are things that correspond to other things. There’s only the barest of connections between the videogame world, the dance dance brothelution, and the asylum, and they are only hinted at in the coda. Scott Glenn appears as the folksy sensei/field marshal in the videogame world, offering inspiring non sequiturs like “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything!” and “If you don’t eat breakfast, you’ll be hungry later” (okay, my friend Leigh offered up that last one).

Still, there’s a five-minute stretch of plangent beauty in the finale, and almost enough eye candy to weather the rocky road there. I saw it in a friend’s living room at an impromptu pajama party with adult-size footie PJs on loan (precipitating a spontaneous dance break that resembled nothing so much as this), and if you have a good bunch handy who want to take the piss (one more from Leigh: “The Hero’s Journey means, if someone tells you have to go fuck the unicorn up the ass, you have to find a better way!”) while eating burrito slices with little American flags stuck in ’em, I unequivocally endorse Sucker Punch.

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On hand, DVD: Howl.

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The coming attraction before Hanna was The Debt, a/k/a “I Know What You Did Last Shoah.” Are there any movies you’re looking forward to, or backwards upon?

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April 11, 2011 - Posted by | Monday Movies | , ,

6 Comments

  1. I love this post because I’m in it so much. Your thoughts on Hanna are lovely. I think I wanted it to be more of an action movie and less of a “coming of age” story.
    You can find my thoughts on heroes, unicorns and Sucker Punch at http://leighbardugo.wordpress.com.

    Comment by lastleigh | April 11, 2011

  2. 4/04/11 – Go-hime – Teshigahara
    4/05/11 – Shin heike monogatari – Mizoguchi
    4/07/11 – Mishima – Schrader
    4/08/11 – The Munekata Sisters – Ozu
    4/09/11 – Manji – Masumura
    4/10/11 – Boy – Oshima

    Comment by bob mcmanus | April 11, 2011

  3. We’ve been so preoccupied with the Roku that our Netflix have been languishing. This weekend, however, we watched Road to Perdition — a movie that is beautifully shot but also incredibly, incredibly dull. The Tom Hanks character has no actual personality. The son’s voiceovers are terrible. As The Girlfriend says, if you’re going to do it at the pace they do it, you have to make it a psychological thriller — but Tom Hanks has no psychology.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | April 11, 2011

  4. Hooray, LB is here!
    I watched three-four French comedies, most notably the Bunuel’s last one, _La Boûche_, _Pauline at the beach_ and an Italian comedy _Catherine in the big city_
    I am not sure when I’ll grow out of the movies about people’s growing up, end up always watching those, new discoveries trivial ones too and relateable are what keep them interesting for me, I guess, though it’s getting pretty embarrassing, maa, such is the phase.

    Comment by read | April 11, 2011

  5. I think the only movie my wife and I saw this past week was Tangled, which we saw with our nieces (aged 7 and 11). I remember trying to make mental notes about it specifically for the purpose of Monday Movies and “forgettable” was the word that kept coming to mind. Today, it is mostly forgotten, so I guess I was right.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | April 11, 2011

  6. I had forgotten about the read-LB connection.

    I actually went to see Tangled without the excuse of entertaining children. What can I say, I’ve had good luck with animation. Can’t add a whole lot to Matt’s entry.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | April 11, 2011


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