Bright Lights Film Journal

Take this unborn child and shove it!


Is it just me or is there a distinctly pro-life vibe seeping into our once so “liberal” cinema? This JUNO business has all us population control enthusiasts worried sick, and now LIFE BEFORE HER EYES profers the notion that the best way to atone for an abortion is by sacrificing yourself in a Columbine-style massacre. The word “slut” is used in the film as a cross of light that leads Wood to realize the one who needs to survive is the fundamentalist virgin gal pal not her pot-smokin’ free-lovin’ self. Oops, did I spoil the ending? I could be wrong, but the one bumper sticker in the film conspicuously reads “Choose Life.” Uma Thurman is the older version of the sinner lady, and Evan Rachel Wood is the younger. Both are magnifique! But oh brother.

The movie itself is quite well-done in its nonlinear fashion. The editor has a field day slowing down the speed as Wood dives into pool after pool, her hair slowly undulating in the clear blue water. Her lithe body in red bikini taut in her dive, arms akimbo in eternal crucifixion stance. It’s a fine old high school chick version of JACOB’S LADDER, but the pro-life sediment never really settles to the bottom, leaving a weird haze over everything. Am I too quick to smell the dystopian HANDMAID’S TALE-style neo-con funded backwards slide into female oppression taking root, as it always does, in our cinema? Am I as foolish in wanting to protect our women from slavery as they are foolish in presuming that smother-love is at all ennobling? Self-denial is, in the end, always the grossest form of indulgence. The only truly free spirit in the film, the young daughter (Gabrielle Brennan) laughs in mama Uma’s face for being so martyr-ish and worried all the time. It’s a cool scene, as the film is clearly divided as to whether Uma’s skittish mom is right or not to fear losing her perfect little small-town grip, but it ultimately can’t atone for the sinister subtext.

Adding to the unsettling sense of foreboding, one of the previews before LIFE was for THEN SHE FOUND ME, a Helen Hunt vehicle where she’s pregnant though looks like she’s pushing 50 and miserable and pinched you sense the kid cringing in the corner a priori to even being born. The issue is not her health or her deep-set frown lines, but the fact she really loves “perfect man” Colin Firth but its slovenly Matthew Broderick’s baby. As in the odious STEEL MAGNOLIAS, it’s the child that comes first; moms don’t mind sacrificing themselves if it means their man can have a little baby to look after with their new, younger wife. In fact it only increases their value in the eyes of God… and Oscar.

Far more inspiring was THE FALL preview, about a man who tells psychedelic bedtime stories to a little girl in exchange for opiates. They show more rapport in their couple of seconds worth of exchanges than all the hand-wringing worrying mommyhoods and daddynesses in all the rest of this namby pamby stuff out there. I’m not saying drugs make you bond better with your kids, only that no kid likes a parent to be a whining, over-protective martyr. Cinema, give us back our 1970s dads!