"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hanna and World's Greatest Dad

Most people know about Hanna. It's been reviewed all over the place and gets full or almost full star-age from everyone.  The film is really exciting and fun. That's it. And that's why I'm a blogger and not a world-renowned film reviewer regardless my penchant for watching 5 or 15 movies each week! It's about a girl of 14 or so being trained by her dad to be a killer much like Kick-Ass and Leon the Professional - both excellent movies. It's not particularly thought-provoking. It's nice to have a friend. We can never be too sure who we can really trust. Typical fare, yet done in a very edge-of-your-seat way. The ending left us with a LOT of questions, and is a perfect set up for a second film.

I think most people (I'm guessing based purely on my own ignorance here) don't know about World's Greatest Dad though. It's a couple years old. The title and the fact that it stars Robin Williams might throw people off if they think along the lines of Mrs. Doubtfire. WAY off. The only similarity between the two films is it's about a dad. This one has a pushover single-dad struggling to connect to his son who is a total douche bag played by Daryl Sabara. (Who? He's Juni from Spy Kids!) The son is into asphyxi-masturbation and obsessed with obnoxious porn, but of course has never touched a real live girl. What would Mrs. Doubtfire say about that?! Even worse, the dad teaches high school English at his son's school, so getting a call from the principal about your son being obnoxious again is more profoundly embarrassing because it's your boss. I relate to that one first-hand being a teacher at my kids' school, but, touch wood, my kids are generally delightful.

This is a funny, light-hearted, and very thought-provoking, movie about teen suicide, sort of. That makes it sound crass and offensive, and it is a bit, but in a way that actually works. The characters are stereotypes of people we all know, and it's relatable in that sense, if a bit over the top in places. We immediately know whom to like and hate, but it's a comedy, so two-dimensional secondary characters are allowed.

The dad makes some bad decisions and gets swept up into a web of deceit, but we can at least understand his motives. What do you do if you really can't find anything to like in your kid despite trying very hard for years to connect, and then he's suddenly dead. You grieve, yet it's also a bit of a relief. We're not allowed to think and say things like that though. We're supposed to have unquestioned unconditional love for our little ones. But what if they're total jerks? (Doris Lessing does an excellent job of tackling this issue in The Fifth Child, by the way.)


The son doesn't actually kill himself; he dies accidentally while masturbating with a tie around his neck. The dad makes it look like a suicide to give him a somewhat more honourable death, and he writes a note as if from his son. The dad writes novels on the side that nobody will publish; all he wants in the world is to be read. Suddenly, with the publication of this profound suicide note, everybody's reading him. So he writes his son's journal. And it just snowballs from there.

And I wonder to what extent we judge the morality of his actions by the extent he benefits from them.

There's a sub-plot about the dad's relationship with a female teacher. At the beginning of the film, he worries about being alone. By the end, he says, "The worst thing in the world isn't ending up alone. It's ending up with people who make you feel alone."


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