Today was Mothers Day, and as part of the annual fealty display, mine wanted to see "Harry Brown," Michael Caine's take on the pistol-packin' pensioner motif recently (and most successfully) seen in "Gran Torino." It looked mediocre, no matter how good an actor he is. I wanted to see the Banksy movie, "Exit Through the Gift Shop." Mom's idea was we'd compromise by ... seeing both. Um, okay. So after lunch, we started with Banksy. My plan was that we'd have our fill with movie one and I’d be off the hook. No such luck.
After really enjoying the Banksy movie, we walked six blocks north to the second theater and took our seats in an emptyish room. The endless ads and trailers finally ended and the lights went down. Highly stylized yet abject drear filled the screen, punctuated loudly and often by violence. About 10 minutes in, three women arrived and commenced a flurry of seating indecision near us. They had brought a child who looked to be about eight years old, and all of them ended up just two rows ahead of us. WTF? I was so distracted by thoughts of that child reacting to the horrors onscreen, I wanted to poke one of the adults in the head with my mom’s cane and suggest she get the kid out of the theater. I thought of calling Social Services.
After the child had quietly witnessed simulated fucking, drug use, a vicious beatdown or two, and gunplay, plus a whole lot of bad language, one of them finally decided to remove him. Several deaths and explosions later, as the end credits rolled, I could not resist asking one of the two remaining women why they had brought him. Yes, that was an annoying question. I was annoyed. She looked annoyed too and said something long and unintelligible. When I asked her to repeat it, she said, “We didn’t know what kind of movie it was.”
Uh, R-rated? Did that not suggest anything? And how much on-screen abuse was necessary to ascertain what kind of movie it was? But I held my tongue. No sense upsetting a pregnant woman.
And that, friends, evokes one of the central messages of "Idiocracy," an unjustly overlooked, flawed yet brilliant movie about a future defined by the failure of smart people to reproduce in numbers anywhere approaching those of the stupid.
Yes, guilty as charged.
On the way out, I asked the young woman at the Customer Service desk if the theater staff can or ever does warn or stop parents from taking kids to violent movies, and she just shook her head. (I know -- why was I so worked up? Well, I saw a very scary movie on TV when I was about seven and I still remember being miserable during it.) "Harry Brown" is rated R "for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and sexual content." But all R means is "Under 17 requires accompanying by a parent or adult guardian." Sorry, kids!
I know -- it's not the entertainment industry's responsibility to raise kids -- it's the parents' responsibility. I've worked in and around entertainment most of my career, so I am well aware of the argument, and in general, I agree with it. But what do you do when the parents fail the kids? All the vicious, debased teenagers in "Harry Brown" are products of failed homes.
I wonder where the kid ended up today. I wasn't a fan of Tim Burton's gratuitously dark "Alice in Wonderland," which I had to see for work (believe it or not), but even that portentous, laboriously playful piffle would have been more suitable. As would "Iron Man 2," in which the cartoon violence is probably scrubbed clean of humanity. Bang! Pow! Okay! Both were playing in that multiplex.
Well, it's almost funny that my mother subjected me to a mediocre movie today, citing executive mom privilege, and that little kid suffered far more at his mom's whim.
And now, for a word from Philip Larkin:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
Don't I have anything nice to say? Why, yes. "Exit Through the Gift Shop" was funny, thought-provoking, energetic, and very droll. Suitable for all audiences. May contain strong language.