Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Place in the Sun

First 1.5 hours: 3.5 stars; last .5 hours: 1.5 stars; average: 2.5 stars
Vomit scenes: 0
Good for women: Typical; simultaneously a repository both of all that is good and bad in the world

Because Netflix foiled my plans to see Reds today, I am determined to read this as an anti-capitalist movie, though not unproblematically so. I know Dreiser is a naturalist, and there's a good bit in Eastman's downfall that can be blamed on nothing more than bad luck (the only kind of luck most people seem to have in naturalist novels). However, I think that his love for Liz Taylor is pretty much inseparable from her class privilege. From the untouchable women on the Eastman billboards, to the flashing "Vickers" sign visible from George's rooming house window, to his assertion that he loved her "before he saw her," I don't think his attraction to Liz is totally due to her winning personality. The movie at least (having not read the novel) seems to be suggesting not that capitalism/money is bad--in fact, the most utopian scenes in the movie come when George is frolicking about on the Vickers estate--but that it is absolutely unattainable by and forbidden to the working classes in a way that drives them mad with desire and then kills them. Even though George tries to engage the Algerian myth of the American Dream, his blood, quite literally, prevents him from realizing it. I think all these interesting things happened pre-trial/prison/"Dead man walking" scenes, though. In a movie that seems wholly committed to maintaining the ambiguity of George's "crime," I felt that the trial, etc., was more of a long coda than a well integrated part of the movie. I wonder if Dreiser used those scenes differently?

1 comment:

t said...

Yeah, so I'm totally writing a comment to my own post, because while I was in the shower just now, I realized I made an enormous fallacy in my argument about the movie. *George Eastman is upper class.* Duh. His name is totally on the billboard too. The reason that he isn't already enjoying a life of privilege is that his mother chose religion over high society (perhaps as atonement?), and in so doing betrayed her class in at least one sense of the word. And that's exactly what George does by sleeping with Shelley Winters. And that's what prevents him from having the utopian Vickers estate--it's still his blood, but his blood mixed with a real working class woman. (Incidentally, there's a version of this going on in Howards End with a quite different outcome and p.o.v.) Because, after all, Daddy Vickers was warming to him. So now I don't think the movie is at all anti-capitalist. I don't know what it is. But this is probably why I shouldn't post 15 seconds after seeing the movie.