Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tyler Laughs

by Jessegirl

Can we dispel Tyler Hawkins’ brooding persona? Does the moody and morose young man in Remember Me ever break that barrier to complete joy? Is it in him when we get to know him? When we leave him? Because an ear-to-ear laugh, eyes crinkling, mouth open, chest shaking, would put any doubts to rest, wouldn’t they?

I thought I’d track the range of Tyler’s smiles and see what I can come up with. But before that, let’s remember what joy the actor who plays Tyler is capable of. Inside Robert Pattinson is a huge love of life and it is apparent by his ubiquitous, spontaneous broad grins and laughs which show us Joy. Infectious, full-throttle beaming things. Would Tyler ever get there, to that hilarious and radiant place? Had he lived, would Tyler have laughed like the actor does?

One can see a progression in Tyler’s general demeanour. The first time his father bails him out his expressions after the meeting are of frustration.

Contrast this with the second time Charles springs him after the vandalism episode at the school. This time Tyler smiles, but still only at his Dad’s back as Charles is leaving, because Tyler was surprised by his Dad’s approval.

So, only when Charles is out of sight, does Tyler really smile fully.

The contentment has begun, but Tyler keeps it to himself, can’t let his Dad in on it yet because it is too new.

Another such comparison can be made in his treatment of the receptionist. After his first bail-out, while he waits for his father in the reception area, he smirks at her in defiance when she upbraids him for smoking and he apparently wonders why he can’t use the decorative bowl as an ashtray. “Guess it was just here to tease me.” This instance of entitlement is disingenuous in tone and comes through with his mocking snicker. But that last morning Tyler grins boyishly in greeting, hands in the air like truce flags.

Here he is all play, almost giggly. She turns her back on him, not in the mood for or trusting his games, but we know he has come a long way emotionally.

Other things indicate the enormous internal journey he has made. Right from the beginning he stumbles into his room. Later he stomps out of the sweets shop. Coming out of the bar with Aiden and the girls, he wobbles unsteadily. (One his first date with Ally he walks backwards to face her, which is interesting, because inside he is actually making forward progress.) He stumbles around trying getting his bicycle to go to his Dad’s office the night of the boardroom fight, and when he returns, he staggers even more. He clumsily steps out of the bathtub, albeit in good humour, after he and Ally have their water squirting game. After his beating at the hands of Neil, he slips and flails at the stool, crumpling in defeat.

But by the end, Tyler skips down the hall to his father’s office. He moves serenely in the room. The troubled youth who stumbles through life transformed into the happy boy with a spring in his step, looking forward to seeing his father.

As we all do, Tyler behaves differently with each person. For his needy mother, the
smile is dutiful, as she adjusts his collar at Michael’s grave. It is the sombre tone of the meeting partly, but also his way of warding off her expectations. A lot is riding on him now that his older brother is gone.

At the sweets shop a bit later, he gives Caroline a genuine and broad, loving, lingering smile.

Another day, on the Alice statue, he smiles at her ‘yuletide homicide’ joke.

Again with Caroline, when he picks her up from school, both when he relates his pleasure at the book he and Michael shared, and when he explains his battered face with a joke ,

his smiles are playful and teasing.

On her last day of school, Caroline gets his big smile and outstretched arms in welcome.

He is her shelter in the storm. Brother and sister exchange more full grins when he agrees enthusiastically to go to her art show –“abso-freaking-lutely!”

He would not ever let her down.

When Tyler smiles at Aiden’s S.L.U.T. idea and later makes up a joke about ‘authors who have slept together...’ it is as one buddy to another.

However, other guys might have laughed full-out about the ladies’ tote, in the spirit of male bonding. Not Tyler. And other guys wouldn’t zone-out while shelving books immediately after tossing out a joke about writers. Reacting to Aiden’s intervention, Tyler grins at Aiden’s expense. “When was the last time you had just one drink?” he asks, smirking.

Then, at the bar, cigarette in mouth,Tyler chuckles at his friend’s unsuccessful attempt to make time with Megan. And, in the jail, when Aiden is lambasting him for not taking their situation seriously, Tyler sneers at his buddy’s use of the word ‘nihilistic’.

Not only did he dismiss his companion’s concern, Tyler did it with insult. Not his finest hour.

When Ally enters the picture, things change. Tyler oozes charm with what I’ll call ‘pick up smiles’. Interacting with her in the student lounge, he smiles and grins a lot, but it’s all part of the game, and, in my opinion, at this point, shallow and artificial.

On their first date at the Gandhi restaurant his smile reflects his candid confusion over her dessert first philosophy.

Then, at the fair, as he’s about to attempt to win her the panda, his lopsided smirk and raised eyebrow indicates good-humoured determination.
“You’re not 21,” he contradicts, his brittle smile showing us he knows he’s been duped.

Then, as she’s about to leave in the taxi, he smiles sheepishly after she’s rebuffed his attempted kiss.

Their next date, at his place, is the next step in getting to know each other and it is full of flirting and self-conscious behaviour. Tyler wants Ally to like him.

As he presses raw spaghetti noodles into the pot, he smiles, telling her he comes from a long line of Irish falconers. After dinner, he smiles when she comes to the sink to do dishes because his incompetence annoys her. This amuses him and one wonders whether it’s yet another move in the game.

He sprays her. Naughty boy, all big eyes, he wears a fatuous grin on his face as he watches for her reaction
Then the bathtub scene ratchets the date- teasing up a couple of notches and Tyler sports a full toothy grin as he tries to retrieve a wet cigarette from his pocket and then shoots her a goofy grin with the drenched ciggie dangling from his mouth.

Tyler is actually having fun, and the smiles are frequent and genuine.

And now Janine. Tyler and his father’s executive assistant seem to be in tune with each other’s moods. In the first bail out scene Janine asks after his health but, after looking him up and down, draws her own conclusion from his battered face and his breath. It seems like these two have a short hand. In a later scene, after Tyler and Ally have made love and he goes to the diner to write, Tyler encounters Janine, who is making a morning coffee run. She smiles at him with tender care and he returns this.

This is one of those scenes brimming with unspoken and deep affection and I have gone to it a number of times before. It nurtures this broken boy, and I’ll warrant Tyler knows Janine’s routine, looks forward to these encounters and to words about his father. Janine brings out the boy in Tyler; his smile in this interchange is full of long-standing goodwill. A very touching scene, played perfectly by Burton and Pattinson.

Smiles are not always indicators of happiness, of course. We all know it’s more
complicated than that. When Tyler blows out the candles on his 22nd birthday cake, although he is in shadow, he smiles. This is one of those complicated expressions. It is dutiful. His Mom is there, as are the others. They expect that of him. But his smile is so very wistful, almost sad. He is thinking of his brother and of the significance of the twenty-second year of life. For me, this is one of the saddest moments in the film. The foreshadowing was screaming at the viewer in its blatancy. The candles lit flames, snuffed out by his breath, and leaving the screen in deep shadow. Tyler is darkest of all, his charcoal form and the smile I talked about barely visible after he blows out the light.

There are two distinct opposing trajectories operating here, the destiny which pulls
Tyler closer to his death, and his inner path towards happiness. Ironically, after this foreboding birthday scene, Tyler’s smiles are more frequent. This is how the two paths clash.

From this point, we see Tyler’s growing contentment, his healing. At the beach house, with Ally and his family, he grins lazily at Aiden’s silly charades moves.

A moment later, he is subdued and reflective as he puts his hand tenderly on Ally’s head. Tranquil. Then, on the train ride home with Ally and Aiden, Tyler is all smiles. He is HAPPY!

True enough, the whole issue with Neil, Tyler’s confession to Ally, her rejection, his move to forgiveness, all derail this achievement and they sink him back into a big brood all over again. But by that time his destiny rams in, he has retrieved that hard-won contentment.

Tyler does nothing but smile on September 11th:

Tells Ally he loves her.

Big smiles as he leaves Ally and Aiden in the apartment.

Crinkly smile while he talks to his Dad on the phone.

A secret smile on the elevator on the way up to the office.

A boyish, playful grin for the receptionist.

A serene smile while he looks at the screensaver.

A peaceful smile as he’s about to go to the window. He keeps it as he approaches. He is content.

And then destiny’s trajectory hits its target.

Tyler was on the cusp of laughing the way Pattinson does. He never achieved that level of pure, spontaneous, unadulterated bliss, or levity. It was coming. Joy was on the horizon, But as we all know, so was something else. The point is, he was a man in motion, battling inner demons and winning because he’d forged alliances. Tyler could brood with the best of them, but even when he edged towards despair, his sense of self-preservation kicked in. His brooding was not fatalistic but antagonistic. He had the heart of a fighter. He seems to have had to fight for every
smile, or at least it could be said that every smile was like a victory.

No, Tyler never laughs in that infectious way, spilling his joy into the air around him and sending it to those around him in a big booming way. He does not seed the air with exhilaration. His serenity is good but it is still not the intoxicating relish of a young man. But, given a bit more time, he would have made it so. The promise was right there, in the language of his body and face in those moments with Janine, before. It was a promise one could count on.

And at the end, joy is an embryo, tucked inside his healing soul.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remember Me and 9/11: Too Soon? - 10th Anniversary of September 11th Post

-jessegirl- September 11, 2011

Blue sky day
Ten years ago, to the day, the U.S. suffered the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, and on the Pentagon. The heroic efforts of the passengers on board flight #93, who sacrificed their lives to abort another planned attack, prevented further carnage. At the end of the day, 3,000 people had perished people from many nationalities and faiths.

Those of us, who witnessed the events, whether live or on TV, have the images burned into our brains and we will always remember where we were when that second plane hit. Although this loss affected us all, I would like to express my condolences to the families and friends of all of the victims, for your losses are personal and huge. I am so sorry. And I will hope you understand the spirit in which my words are written, lest we forget.

I revisit, yet again, the film Remember Me, and its place in memorializing this enormous loss. It has become even clearer to me that since it was released in March of 2010, this film is one of the best tributes to every individual who was lost that day.

Too Soon?
Was Remember Me made ‘too soon’ after the event? Some detractors criticized it for that. Well, first of all other films preceded it. World Trade Center, with Nicholas Cage, 2006, for example, was five years after the fact. And Adam Sandler’s Reign Over Me came out in 2007. The lauded From Here to Eternity, about Pearl Harbor, was out in 1953. When is the right time, after 10 years, 15, 20, 25, after a generation has passed?

People thought it was too soon because, as I read it, the wound was still too raw.
“I left the movie theatre feeling like I’d been psychologically assaulted because I did not choose to see a film on that subject. That is not what I signed up for...Maybe a scant 8.5 years had dulled the memory of the masses, but it’s too soon for me...I wasn’t prepared to be unwillingly made to relive that day.” [Sara. March 16, 2010. –Brevet]

Remember Me’s Power
Let’s backtrack. What does Remember Me actually do to some people, to a lot of people?

It has the power to tap into our grief in a big way. It ferrets out our memories of 9/11 and brings them back in painful detail. It also seems to root around the wounds in our hearts and makes them bleed again. We are brought right back to our own personal losses in a visceral way. We suffer, yet again, the loss of a husband, wife, child, and others dear to us. We start pondering other types of loss, divorce, rape, and so on. Unhealed wounds come to the surface to hurt again. Remember Me is like a trigger for any trauma we have experienced and perhaps trips us up, forcing us to experience PTS symptoms. It is all very personal and strong. When you think about it, so many people are the walking wounded, for so many reasons, having suffered various types of personal trauma.

“...this was supposed to be an assault on the senses. It is a wakeup call to everyone to not take each day for granted...My mother was murdered very similar to the scene in the subway...Films can’t disclaimer everything. We all have had things happen to us that we probably would rather not remember...but sometimes we need to be reminded so that we can grow and change for the better.” [Tamara. March 18, 2010. –Brevet]

Indeed, one big reason people were commenting so passionately about the film was to
share their pain with others. Those of us who read learned this fellow commenter had had a miscarriage, that one was abused, another had lost a child, yet another survived a terrorist attack. The stories poured out of hearts, couldn’t be contained. The pain kept coming. It was astounding.

People are shaken to the core. It is not just a sad movie, a tear jerker. It is a tragedy, and I don’t think our society makes us really ready to accept tragedy into our lives. Under our society’s influence, we do not see the benefits of tragedy. I have discussed Remember Me as a tragedy in past posts and I don’t want to go over old ground again here. [The Tragic in Remember Me and
Tyler in Remember Me - The Human Face of Tragedy

The poster, Sara, blamed the movie. I am sorry for her pain but that was not the right target. I like what this person had to say about it:
“Any movie at any time can call to mind upsetting or unsettling events in our own lives. We can’t be sheltered from them and we can’t always know ahead what is coming. That is a bit of the message of Remember Me.” [ShariG –March 22, 2010. –Brevet]

So what about grief? Remember Me explores grief, which is its major theme, the grief of the characters who have lost a brother to suicide, a parent to murder. Then, at its climax, it drives home the point relentlessly with Tyler’s death in the North Tower. The key character, who had been dealing with his own grief throughout, was now being grieved. Not only was that, the whole nation, the world, thrown into grief. It was too much. It was heartbreaking in a primal way. One couldn’t get away from it. It was everywhere.

Grief is part of the human condition. We have humor. We have joy. We have fear. We have grief. Films give us all of these. Why should Remember Me’s story offend? The tie to 9/11 reinforces its power to affect us strongly. To haunt, as so many viewers have said.

It shoves us up against the wall. We have nowhere to run. We must deal. If Remember Me’s story had been told with crass disregard using 9/11 exploitatively, as some contend, then it could not have this power. It would be found out as a fraud. Grieving people would not feel this power if that were the case. They might not be ready to take on the measure offered yet, but that is another matter. “Some can deal with it, others not [yet]. But this says nothing about the quality of the movie and is surely not a reason to write bad reviews about it.” [Anne. March 17, 2010. –Brevet]

No one should be told how to grieve but it has been my experience that it cannot be avoided. It is excruciating agony. It is zoning out. It is, at times, inability to cope with the usual life commitments. It can be tears, insomnia, catatonic-like behavior, overeating, not eating, letting oneself go, depression, fear for loved ones, panic, general anxiety, obsessive behavior, inability to concentrate, and more. Intense grief can contribute to substance abuse, to divorce, to suicide even. The circumstances around some grief can be hugely traumatic, not easily absorbed.

Some people don’t want to talk about the lost one and others want to talk incessantly about the lost one. Some people put photos away, and others put them all over the house. Some people can no longer listen to music. Various things can trigger relapses, instances of acute grief: certain pieces of music, certain words, a memory, a movie, a friend’s face, a building, a street, -anything really. And in many cases these triggers cannot be anticipated.

Not Ready
Remember Me is a trigger for so many, on many levels, and some people just cannot deal. When I talked about Remember Me as a tragedy I talked about the great alchemical transformation within us. We can be changed, moved, touched, and brought to greater awareness. We can be put in touch with the well of tears at the center of the world. But we must go through the pain. There is no way around it. None.

“And to those who are angry and feel as though they’ve been sucker punched by this, I do understand where you’re coming from. I, too, was profoundly affected by this event on a personal level. But at some point we must face this and we haven’t yet. Generations past have faced their tragedies and so must we. I’ll concede this, with being less than 10 years...perhaps it’s a tad too soon for a film like this. Maybe...Yes, we are still in tremendous pain over it. But at some point, we must face it.” [Nikola. March 16, 2010. Brevet] Yes, I agree, we must face it.

But some people are not ready for it. That is not a criticism, just an observation. For them, Remember Me’s message is ‘too soon’. Perhaps they lost someone on 9/11 and haven’t gotten to that place in their grieving which allows them to absorb the power of Remember Me. Grieving is a very individual process, even if it has aspects similar for all. And those famous five stages do not necessarily come in a particular order or last for a pre-set amount of time. Grief is fraught with backsliding; it is not a constant regression at all. It is mercurial, unpredictable, can burn one moment and lie dormant the next. And, until we die, it can re-appear, because, even when we have resumed some semblance of normalcy, it is still there. The lie is to think we get over it. We are never fully, ‘over it’, even if we have gone through it. We just live with it.

When the people who are not now ready for Remember Me’s message get to the place where they are ready, this film will be able to work its transformative might on them. They must wait. Abusing this beautiful film is not the answer. They must wait. And when they are ready, must crawl before they walk, walk before they run, run before they fly.

Would we rather be unaffected?
Now if a film has the power to tap into our grief, perhaps this is a call to attend to it in some way. Very few films can do this. I know for a fact that Remember Me has this power. It has this power over me and has had it over others who have commented on public blogs and websites.

If it has this power, does that mean it is too soon after the tragic event? The real question is, would we rather be unaffected? Really? Would that not mean that the event meant nothing to us? Being immune might just mean we are callous. Because the pain means it matters, the dead matter.

Here’s what a couple of viewers had to say: “Yes, this movie packs a punch. I just don’t think that’s a bad thing...Should it be painful to remember? Yes. To me this film is a touching, respectful way to do just that: to remember.” [Karen. March 28, 2010. –Brevet]

And: “ is a movie that will move many but will also cause great pain to others and that is what the power of movies can do, whether good or bad.” [Linda L. –March 17, 2010, answering someone who had wanted warning. –Brevet]

If Remember Me has the power to tap into grief, does that mean that one should attend to it? Does it not mean that it was made ‘just in time’? If Will’s story had been filmed later, if they had waited longer, would it have had the same impact?

The Young
I’m guessing that anyone younger than, say seven at the time, would forget, or would forget the import and meaning of 9/11 or would get a skewed perception of it due to their youth and the protection of their parents, unless they were right there, in lower Manhattan, and had to escape the raging dust storm. So anyone born between, say, 1994 and 2010 wouldn’t remember. And if they did, it was a history lesson.

From comments, it is clear that a certain demographic did not remember. “My daughter’s going to be 17 this year and we live in Europe. She knew about 9/11 and was taught about it in school by documentaries. But....only after seeing Remember Me she realized the emotional impact on all those people living in NY and in America. ..I think Remember Me should be shown in high schools ‘cause there are several themes’ worth to be discussed about.” [blackbeanie June 10, 2010 IMDb Remember Me message board]
And: “My daughter is really too young to remember 9/11, but this was a chance for us to talk about it...” [Pam. March 15, 2010. –Reesman] These are not the only people to report this phenomenon.

If you were 15 yrs. in 2009 and saw Remember Me — perhaps because Robert Pattinson was in it — you would have been seven on 9/11. Some of those viewers thought Tyler committed suicide, and that confused them [Kim, April 29, 2010. –Brevet]. They had no idea about September 11th. To those of us who can pinpoint our exact location during those 102 minutes it is inconceivable that teenagers wouldn’t know. And yet, this is exactly what has happened. “For the younger generation, people who were too young to be aware of what happened then but know about it now, maybe bringing such a monumental catastrophe down to such an intimate, personal level will help them connect and understand that day in a way they couldn’t before.” [Jennifer L. –March 17, 2010. –Brevet]

I read again and again that ‘everyone knows what happened that day’—said by people who state that they don’t need to be reminded—but in fact that’s not true. The point is that everyone does not know. The other point is that everyone does not really understand the loss. Given that it is a consensus that we must never forget it is puzzling why some people don’t want to be reminded.

Too Late?
What happens if Remember Me is too late? Some tragedies happened too long ago to have the same effect. They feel historical, in a time presumably different enough to be irrelevant except to impart a teary lesson in a remote way. It was so long ago. Like the Trojan War, even WWII. We care, we cry, and then thank God that was then, this is now.

But 9/11? Remember Me was in theatres less than 10 years after the attacks, soon enough for it to turn us inside out. It would force us to attend to our grief. No way around. It would force us to learn the lesson, hear Remember Me’s message. It would force us to find meaning, so that Tyler’s death, so that every one of those deaths, was not in vain.

Is this bad? Why is this bad? Grief is one of the worst things thrown at us in life but we have to bear it somehow.

In fact, those of us who assert confidently that Remember Me will become a classic someday must understand that its monstrous power might be muted the farther away from 9/11 it gets. We are the ones who can feel its full strength now, if we let it. Although, given its genius, its insistence on keeping everything at an intimate level, I could be wrong. Like any great tragedy, its power to affect us at the epicenter of our being would remain undiluted, because it speaks to the universal through the personal.

One can remember things, even horrible things, in a removed way, hear a speech, shed some tears, and then go on with life as usual. People are upset about Remember Me because it does not allow them to just skim the surface of memory. Instead it is heart-stopping. It gets right inside and won’t let go.

People have noticed that Remember Me polarizes. For example: “The film is extremely polarizing and personal...I think a great deal of the reaction was over reaction and knee jerk.” [Sammie1863. June 19, 2011. IMDb. ‘Most honest film regarding 9/11’ thread.]

I have come to the conclusion that the two camps are: *-those who refuse to remember in a meaningful way, who shoot the messenger because they won’t deal with real pain. Some of these will genuinely not be ready. I respect those for whom it is really too soon. But some others do not have the emotional depth to care. They are the ones who happily and contemptibly shoot Remember Me down for no valid reason. **-those who brave the firestorm of pain to grasp the true dimensions of what was lost. It is only the latter who will appreciate the heartfelt tribute Remember Me is. It is only those who are willing and able to really remember September 11th, who have the emotional and moral fiber to do it. Now.

Cheapening, Elevating, Deepening
I quoted Pattinson in another post [Robert Pattinson in Remember Me: Part One]:

As an actor, you can elevate the human condition or cheapen it. I would assume it’s the same with anything you do- you try to elevate and maybe someday you will.”[Robert Pattinson, speaking to Jenny Lumet for Details, March 2010]

A couple of quotes from viewers note the cheapening aspect.
I believe the only thing shameful about Remember Me is the critics who have cheapened a noble effort without so much as looking back –almost gleeful in their determination to tell movie audience to stay away.” [Coopergirl. March 16, 2010. –Brevet]

“This movie is a tribute, not an insult to the memories of all those who were impacted. It cheapens everyone, from those responsible for this film to the viewers, to the actual victims of that horrific day, to say otherwise.” [Karen. March 18, 2010. –Brevet]

Actually, it is not possible to cheapen something so authentically crafted as Remember Me. The attempt says more about the person trying to do so than about the movie. The point of origin for mud slingers is the dirt on their own hands.

I will springboard off this thought. I think one of the things Remember Me does is not only elevate, but also deepen the human condition. This is just as important. Elevating and deepening. Deepening is driving into the heart of it, making it profound. It is a very internal thing. It is a place where you encounter and accept pain and suffering. Elevating is lifting up, raising up, supporting, perfecting.

Deepening and elevating are not exclusive and humans need both, need to do both.
Elevating is pointless without depth. I think one of the things Remember Me does is not only elevate, but also deepen the human condition. And it is never too soon for that.

Article references:

1) “Reacting to Remember Me: an Interview with Screenwriter Will Fetters”, by Brad Brevet.March 16, 2010. This post finished with 355 comments from viewers.

2) “Controversial ‘Remember Me’ Ending: Dividing Critics and Audiences”, by Bryan
Reesman. March 15, 2010. post attracted 441 comments.

3) IMDb: Remember Me message boards: Various threads.

4) “Robert Pattinson on Life beyond Twilight”, by Jenny Lumet. Details. March 2010.