Saturday, May 17, 2008

Storywh0re from the vault - Eagle vs. Shark (2007)

Okay, I usually like to let a new movie sit for at least a day before responding to it, but I just watched something that I hated so much that I have to write right now.

It's called Eagle vs Shark, and it's my first time renting from iTunes. The movie poster got my attention last year. For whatever reason, I was expecting Office Space with a costume party. The marketing hinted at a new rivalry along the lines of Pirates vs. Ninjas, with people choosing sides. What I got instead was a New Zealand comedy with a quirkiness similar to Napoleon Dynamite, but without the warmth.

It begins with Lily, a cashier at a burger joint, who has a crush on Jarrod, a DVD store employee who comes in every day. She gets laid off, allegedly randomly, only to learn later that the selection was rigged. Jarrod invites one of her co-workers to a party, but Liliy crashes it instead. They hook up afterwards, and become a de facto couple. Eventually, Lily goes home with Jarrod to visit his family. She gets drawn into their dysfunction, and into Jarrod's plot to street-fight a high school bully.

The awkwardness and flat affect of the characters are what first reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite. “Freakin Idiot” is replaced by “Cockhole”. The biggest similarity, however is the concept of the crystal dragon—a phenomenon found in martial arts and in paganism. A crystal dragon is someone (often male, often young) who makes claims to great power, skill or training that they don't really possess. They are shaped like something fierce, but you can see right through them.

There is so much wrong with Lily and Jarrod's relationship, I don't even know where to begin. In their first love scene, he's sexually unskilled in a way that goes past normal or endearing. Instead of cuddling or talking with her afterwards, he makes a threatening phone call. He stands her up for a date, then tracks her down at her house, where he cuffs her on her arm and accidentally smashes a cake she made him. This he chalks up to his “depression” and “intensity”. On their car trip, he is rude to her and her brother. Once they're with his family, embarasses her with inflated claims about her. He has a daughter that he didn't tell her about, but he clams up about his dating past. He dumps her, stranding her away from home, and goes out with another woman to please his father.

Let's be real clear: many of these are classic warning signs of an abuser.

Jarrod's absurd revenge fantasy culminates in him attacking a man in a wheelchair, only to loose the fight anyway. After all of this, Lily takes him back, just because he finally figures out that a woman named Lily might like lilies, and because he gives her a gift that he's already tried to give to two other people. She's already reclaimed some of her power by taking the center of attention at a party, but still, it made me twitch.

Why is the audience supposed to be happy about this? Because we love happy endings? Because being in a couple is better than not? The underlying idea seems to be to me that that Lily is there for Jarrod's redemption—to do the emotional labor at which women excel--whether or not its good for her or he's good enough. No, no, no, no no. I am beyond sick of these ideas, and I would feel the same if the roles were reversed.

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