Thursday, February 23, 2012

"I Just Want Something Beautiful"

Beautiful Girl - Pete Droge & the Sinners (mp3)
“You let her behind the curtain, I know you did. You never let them behind the curtain, Will. You never let them see the little old man behind the curtain working the levers of the great and powerful Oz. They're all sisters, Willie... they aren't allowed back there... they mustn't see.” -- Paul
I’m not a good one for lists. I can’t name my all-time favorite song, or my all-time favorite band, or my all-time favorite much of anything. I’m not even good at making Top 5 or Top 10 lists. I can do it, but the next day I get all pissed off because I’ve left off something that should’ve been on there.

But here’s a question along these lines I could answer without hesitation or regret: What’s your favorite movie most people have never seen or heard of?

“Beautiful Girls.”
“Wrong again, Paul! One comes to a decision based on what one wants, not based on what one doesn't want. Got it?” -- Jan
I’m not gonna lie. The entire movie is a mash-up of worn-out conceits. Ensemble piece. High school reunion. Wayward son returns to the small hometown he left in desperation. Adultery. Uncertain romance. Retarded male friends and the loyal women who love them because it’s a small hometown with few decent alternatives.

But favorites are rarely about pure originality; they’re about taking something familiar and transcending the genres and the assumptions. “Beautiful Girls” does exactly that, first with a script of so many sublime and perfect quotables that I keep having to pause the movie and type them out while I’m writing this, and second with a cast that is, honestly, as perfect as I could possibly imagine.
"No mater how perfect the nipple, how supple the thigh, unless there is some other shit going on in the relationship, besides the physical, it's going to get old, OK? And you guys, as a gender, have got to get a grip. Otherwise, the future of the human race is in jeopardy." -- Gina
Let’s cut to the essence of the movie, the essence of why I love it, and the essence of many of my beliefs about relativism and reality.

About halfway through the movie, Willie (Timothy Hutton), the city-living piano player who is back home for a class reunion, is sitting in a living room with his dudes playing NHL on the trusty Nintendo. It’s as universal a modern adult male gathering moment as you can have.

In the conversation, they agree upon a rating system for girls based on face, body and personality. And then they ask Willie to rate his current girlfriend, a woman they haven’t yet met.
“Tracy? Tracy. Um... Face? Good solid... 7 ½. Body? Good solid... 7 ½. Personality? She’s a... good solid... 7 ½.” -- Willie
And the other guys contemplate these answers and offer their nodding affirmation that he has made an excellent choice.

If Tracy were listening in as Willie described her to his pals, she might take great umbrage at his ratings. Three solid Cs, is basically what he gave her. But Willie loves Tracy. He’s going to eventually settle down with her, or so the movie seems to ultimately hint. And he’s proud of those ratings he’s given.

She’s good. She’s solid. She’s well above average in all aspects.

Willie and his idiot pals must wrestle throughout the movie with their various screwed-up notions of women. They fight their stereotypes, their assumptions, their hang-ups, their cluelessness. Most especially, they struggle to accept the intense beauty of a good solid 7 ½. And the ones that can’t? They end the film unhappy, unchanged.
You know there are fours words I need to hear before I go to sleep. Four little words. ‘Good night sweet girl.’ That's all it takes. -- Andera
At times it seems like we live in a world that expects perfect 10s. Or at least 9.5s. We expect it out of our relationships, out of our jobs, out of our purchases and experiences. When we’re describing these things to others, anything lower than nigh-perfection -- “near-mint” in comic book parlance -- comes across as a disappointment, or as something less than what it could or should be.

Most of the time, that's a darn shame for us, and it's proof our rating system sucks.

This movie deserves a good solid 7 ½, and I mean that as sincere and high praise.

“See these guys? Pete, Rizzo and Sammy B? They work all day and drink all night for 40 fucking years. Two weeks out of the year, they take a vacation and go to the Cape. And what do they do there? They drink all day, they drink all night. If we don't step it up, we're gonna wind up just like them.” (“COOL.”) -- Paul & Kev


Anonymous said...

you just brought me back 12 years to college when we would sit and watch this film religiously, contemplating the void and virtues of growing older. living in australia now, i've avoided the pitfalls that pete, rizzo and sammy B could not, and that's enough for me at the current moment. i'm going to put this song on a mixtape for a girl i've yet to meet here; and those 4 words will be the last thing i tell her before we fall asleep in the southern hemisphere.

Billy said...

@anon - Thank you. I really needed someone out there sharing my love of this film. I know it's not for everyone, but it's almost like a cornerstone of my pop culture existence. I definitely think Uma -- not someone over whom I ever obsessed -- is beguiling and magical in this film.

And your comment about the mixtape... it made me a little misty. Totally serious. Sad, perhaps, but true. So thanks for that especially.

BeckEye said...

This movie seems to air quite a bit but I've never actually sat down and watched it. One of these days...

Hank said...

I think this was on your mind because pitchers and catchers just reported. I love this movie. For some reason, this has always been my favorite exchange

Tommy "You can't tape Rich Man, Poor Man. You gotta watch it with the commercials just like everybody else."

Paul "That's a good point."

Billy said...

@Hank - For some reason, Kev's lines stick with me the most. "Bad bet" comes to mind. He's in the opening and closing scene, too. One of his first lines is when he asks Darian for some Sambuca and she looks offended because it's 5 a.m. and he says, "That make it too early or too late?"

Somehow not until last night did I realize just how depressing Paul's "bottled promise" monologue actually is.

TommyD said...

Forgot about that movie but De and I loved it when we saw it, and were flummoxed that it wasn't a bigger deal.

cinderkeys said...

What impressed me most in that movie was Natalie Portman's acting. You kind of understood why Timothy Hutton had a proto-crush on her, and why it wasn't all that creepy even though she was 13.