The Decline of Western Masculinity
The Full Monty, Hoodlum, and She's So Lovely.
The Full Monty
Directed by Peter Cattaneo
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Bill Duke
United Artists Pictures
She's So Lovely
Directed by Nick Cassavetes
Robin Wright Penn does amusing tipsy schtick, tottering around, black and blue, on those long, skinny legs. But it's hard to say if she's supposed to be a drunk, a junkie, a moron, a schizophrenic, or all of the above. The actress, pre-Penn, played the title character in The Princess Bride (1987), and has been cast against type with a vengeance. The vengeance rebounds on her. Casting against type doesn't work in a John Cassavetes script, in which the principal interest lies in watching actors plumb their already well-entrenched personas. Wright plumb doesn't have a persona to pen. I mean, Wright Penn doesn't have a persona to plumb. She can't begin to make sense of this character, not even poetic sense. "She doesn't love you, she doesn't love me. She's de-lovely," says Eddie to Joey in what's meant to be the wisdom, by way of Cole Porter, of a simpleton poet.
I'm tempted to applaud the film for its perversity, for the fact that the wife doesn't do the responsible thing, that family values are unsanctimoniously flouted, that the ending is less programmatic and more open-ended than anything I've seen on-screen in years. Having said that, it behooves me to add that Cassavetes' script must have been written in the final throes of delirium tremens. It's impossible to know how to take this woman who up and abandons her three little girls for a man newly sprung from the booby hatch and still demonstrably nuts. Yet the ambiguities aren't rich, because so much has been left out--the meat of both relationships, along with a coherent point of view. Betraying my traditional masculine possessiveness, I found myself dreaming of an alternative ending, in which Travolta puts a bullet in Penn's brain. Then, in the final shot, he lowers his pistol and submits to an interview with Susan Faludi.
"Love is so difficult ..." Eddie (Penn) explains his theory to Shorty (Harry Dean Stanton) in She's So Lovely (54 seconds):