Recently I have had a couple of instances of re-watching an old movie and discovering that the old movie isn’t about what I thought it was about.
I think that what happens is, I see a movie, it goes into my brain, time passes, and my brain builds a beat sheet for the story – you know, “The first act of this movie is about X, and then the second act is about Y…” – and because there’s no evidence to the contrary, I quietly walk around believing that my imaginary outline for that movie is accurate.
But it invariably, upon rewatching, turns out to be TOTALLY WRONG. For example. You know An Officer and a Gentleman?
I thought that that movie was about the touching father-son relationship between Louis Gosset Jr and Richard Gere. I thought it was about Richard Gere DOING HARD THINGS and BECOMING A MAN. I though that the sequence where Louis Gossett Jr. makes Richard Gere do situps in a puddle and says “Quit, Mayonnaise! QUIT! I WANT YOUR CADET HAT!” is the climax, and then Richard Gere sobs “I got nowhere else to go!” and Louis Gosset Jr. glowers at him and says “Well. Hit the showers, MAYONNAISE.” but basically forgives him for being a douche… And then later they fight again about the friend leaving the Navy and then Louis Gossett Jr. snarls “MEET ME IN THE BLIMP HANGAR!” and they do kung fu and then Louis Gossett Jr. sells him his first salute, and Richard Gere goes off into his future as an officer, the better for having know that dude.
No! That’s wrong. The movie is almost entirely about Richard Gere making out in a kind of grim, 70s way with Debra Winger, who is NINETEEN, and also some girl pretends to be pregnant and then some guy kills himself. Louis Gossett Jr and Richard Gere’s difficulties turning himself into an honorable man are just the B story! THIS MOVIE IS A ROMANTIC DRAMA, YOU GUYS. Ech.
Another example is EXECUTIVE DECISION. What’s EXECUTIVE DECISION about? It’s an action movie where Steven Seagal gets sucked out of a hatch in the first fifteen minutes and then Kurt Russell has to pilot a 747 to safety, right?
NO. In fact the first 45 minutes of this movie are about how Steven Seagal is an inexplicably old and tubby SF operator and there is some nerve gas (“NERVE GAS: THE DIRTY BOMB OF THE MID-NINETIES.”) and a hijacking. And at minute 43, Steven Seagal heroically sacrifices himself to save America and everything it stands for.
What is going on?!? Now I am afraid to rewatch other 90s action favorites. What if, say, UNDER SIEGE isn’t awesome?
Nope… still amazing. (Steven Segal’s hair! The best. I know this is the Navy, but dude.)