Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Film Corner!

Below: The trailer for the upcoming Adam Sandler comedy, Jack and Jill. Trigger warnings for transmisogyny, violence, fat hatred, disablist language, and reference to self-harm.

Adam Sandler and Katie Holmes are a happily married couple with two kids, one of whom appears to be of Indian or Middle Eastern descent, which I'm sure will be mined for MAXIMUM LAFFS. Decorations inform us that it's Christmastime. As action-comedy music begins, a male voiceover says, "In every family, there's one person who drives you a little crazy. But during the holidays, there's no escaping it when it's your sister…your twin sister!"

Jack (Sandler) begrudgingly goes to the airport to pick up his sister…his twin sister!...Jill, who turns around and is—SURPRISE!—Adam Sandler in a shitty wig and ladies' clothes. Well, why should Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence and Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis and Tyler Perry and Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans and John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman and Robbie Coltrane and Eric Idle and Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari have all the fun?!

(I kind of can't believe that Mike Myers has not starred in at least one film where he's playing a ridiculously offensive female character in hideous prosthetics. LUCKILY THERE IS STILL TIME!)


Jack and Jill are exactly alike—but, of course, this means that Jack is awesome and Jill is horrible. "She isn't subtle," we are told, as Jill is rude to one of Jack's dinner guests, to which Jack responds by insulting her, because no doy he is a great person. "She isn't shy," we are told, as she gives Jack a list of things she'd like to do while visiting him in his beautiful home in the sunny state in which he lives his affluent and privileged life, to which Jack responds by looking at the list like it's a piece of fetid garbage. One of the items is horseback riding, and we cut immediately to a scene of Jill breaking a horse's legs by climbing on its back, because, even though she is the same size as Jack, she is enormous by virtue of her femaleness.

"And she isn't leaving," we are told, as Jill suggests she'll stay through Hanukkah, prompting cheers from her sister-in-law, niece, and nephew, and prompting Jack to mime putting a gun in his mouth.

His friend makes fun of how ugly his twin sister is and Jack just grins. His wife tells him to try to be nice. He takes Jill to a Lakers game, where she is spotted by Al Pacino, who sends her his number in condiments on a hotdog.

screen cap of hotdog with 'call me' and a phone number written in ketchup and mustand

In the car on the way home, Jack says Jill has to call him, to which she responds by saying, "Oh, will you stop already? You know all he wants to do is play Twister with your sister!" Ha ha—obviously she is SUCH AN ASSHOLE for being a frigid prude who doesn't want to fuck a celebrity who propositioned her with a hotdog-gram.

Cut to the whole family vacationing on a cruise ship. (Whut? This movie is definitely garbage even by garbage standards.) It turns out Jack and Jill were "double-dutch kings!" and they jump rope together in front of a huge and appreciative crowd, because, as everyone knows, jump rope is a very popular thing on cruise ships.

Montage of crappy scenes from this shitty film reinforcing the premise that Jack is normal and good and Jill is weird and horrible.

Cut to a dinner scene at which Katie Holmes mentions how some twins can feel when the other one is hurt. Jill slaps herself in the face. Jack says he didn't feel it and tells her to do it a little harder. She continues to smack herself harder and harder until Katie Holmes stops her: "No, Jill, stop it! He's kidding!" Jill gives him a you-devil look: "What?!" His young son then punches her in the face, knocking her out of her chair and onto the floor. "Feel that, Daddy?!" he asks. Jack nods: "I actually did feel something there—pride in my son."

Coming in November.

My guess is that this is another one of those films I call Deathbed Confession Cinema, in which you get to laugh at fat jokes and/or transmisogyny and/or ethnic jokes and/or other marginalizing humor for two hours before a heavy-handed dénouement in which a childish moral of the story—"X" are people who are deserving of love and respect, too!—is tacked on to hastily absolve both filmmakers and audience their production and enjoyment of the preceding onslaught of mockery.

Jill will be an object of ridicule and contempt for the entirety of the movie, as seen through protagonist Jack's eyes, and then there will be a contrived reversal at which point Jack will realize the error of his ways in an allegedly feelgood ending that is simultaneously oppressively didactic and hopelessly hollow.

And which probably mistakes pity for empathy.

Deathbed Confession Cinema is nasty stuff. The films are consciously marketed (as here) as sexist, queer-hating, fat-hating, xenophobic, lowest-common-denominator muck, and spend most of their screen-time being precisely that, and then cynically attempt to justify it with a pithy ending in which a gross protagonist is "enlightened" about his (always "his") bullying ways.

So the film's premise stinks for that reason.

It also stinks for the reason that it functions, if not intentionally, as some crypto-Freudian commentary on hatred of the feminine in the male self. Jill is the feminine aspect of Jack, and she manifests as every negative stereotype of the feminine—weak, stupid, ineffectual, incompetent, unsexual, infantile—whose only positive attributes appear to be nurture and entombing her feelings of rejection.

And, of course, serving as a punching bag for Jack's son, because there's no better male bonding ritual than violent misogyny.

It's interesting that the trailer suggests Jack and Jill's inevitable reconnection may begin with a game of double-dutch, which is an almost exclusively female childhood activity, suggesting that men achieve decency and wholeness by embracing their feminine aspect through participation in female spheres. Which, you know, would be a pretty cool message, if it weren't tacked onto the end of Deathbed Confession Cinema that had spent the preceding two hours denigrating the feminine aspect.

In defter hands, this story might have made a compelling allegory. But, alas, Hollywood prefers the Invisible Hand to deft ones.