Drinking Ex and Asking Why.

During a recent discussion with one of the precious-generation, I found myself on the opposite side of a deep chasm called “age”. The conversation turned to movies (as it inevitably does in my circle) and we ended up talking mostly about two films, Bronson and Away We Go. I forget how we got on the topic of the easily-dismissible Away We Go – I'm guessing it was spurred on by the latest Roncesvalles yuppie horror-story or another – but when I asked what the youngsters thought of it, I got this rather surprising response.....

“I found it hopeful, a testament to the idea that you can break the mold and live life on your own terms”, came the oh-so-wonderfully-youthful response.

A crack opened in the floor and wrenched us apart in generationally-opposed directions.

Away We Go is an accidentally-astonishing work of piercing insight and I'm guessing it divides viewers, pro and con, almost exactly across life's midpoint. It probably articulates the world of Gen-Y slackers, circa 2010, better than any other movie in recent memory. It takes Dave Eggers’ self-obsessed, solipsistic, media-savvy/technically inept Applelets and releases them like butterflies into a world where they flap around in aimless pursuit of the perfect life. Mostly though, they just talk.., and talk... and talk... without a hint of irony about how difficult it is to communicate effectively. They endlessly ruminate about committing to remaining indecisive about commitment to a life that won't tie them down. They drift around sampling other people's existences, vicariously trying different lives on for size like they would clothes at Banana Republic. They contribute little and consume much, living like quasi-parasites off the miscues and drama of other people's real and necessary choices. They sneer and jeer at a series of grotesque family portraits as they float through them like pre-deceased zombies. The Peter Pan Syndrome so endemic to the 20-something layabout-messiah cohort has found a voice in Away We Go. The title alone is worthy of a special kind of head-slapping derision because on nearly every conceivable intellectual level, the two at the centre of the story are completely stationary. The hypocrisy of the latest generation is laid bare - and in a whirling dervish of jaw-dropping oblivion, Away We Go is found to be, of all things, “hopeful”.

The youngsters took a dimmer view of Bronson, finding it had little to say about their sunshine and iPop world. Viewed side by side, their youthful perspectives on these two films form a curious diptych. The first, Away We Go, apparently successfully epitomizes the burning desire for endless, boundless freedom so important to the precious-generation, the grand designs they have for themselves to create art, think deep thoughts, and live la vie boheme with a ever-present thin crusting of dried cappuccino foam on their upper lips, while the other, Bronson, a story about the ultimate outsider (and a man who, for the better part of the last 35 years, society hasn't been allowed to leave a 10' by 10' cell ….because he'll likely just fuck somebody up) clearly missed the mark - with them at least. They seemed particularly troubled by a scene in Bronson where Charley is pumped full of anti-psychotic mood-stabilizers, unable to do much other than drool, grunt and sit there. Not being able to broadcast might be this generations greatest fear. Can you still work an iPhone hopped up on 30cc's of Chlordiazepoxide? hmmmmm...... doubtful -  the horror.... the horror....

The strangest thing about these two films is they're basically about the same thing: freedom. In Bronson, Charley never develops much beyond that of an adolescent. He never matures, never learns, his authority-defined experiences are controlled and repetitious and as a result he seems nearly unchanged nearing the end of his journey through the British penal system. In Away We Go, John and Maya never develop much beyond adolescence either. They also never mature, never learn, their marketer-defined experiences are equally false and repetitious and as they end their journey through the American parenting system, the result is the remarkably similar. I'd call neither result “hopeful” but given the choice, I'd take prison. At least in time you can get out of prison and be an ex-con. You can never be an ex-Gen-Y'er.

The metaphorical crack that opened in the floor between my young stargazing dinner companions and myself is a bit of a double edged sword. I've got mixed emotions about not being able to occupy the headspace necessary to see the world through those wonderfully-naïve eyes anymore. If I could go back to the aimless self-obsession and self-important world of school, part-time jobs, pounding brews and discussing the esoteric, I'm not sure I would though. There is a time and place for those thoughts during the halcyon days of our youth that makes the world a more livable one. There is also a time to get on with it and get shit done. Great joy can come from both periods, provided you can come to terms with being on the other side of the canyon. It's a difficult thing – letting go of fanciful youthful oblivion and embracing maturity but sooner or later, you gotta recognize that it's happened.... and there's fuck all you can do about it but smile and nod when the youngsters express amusingly hopeful thoughts.

Realizing Bronson is ultimately closer to the way we go than Away We Go will come in due course. There's no point rushing it.



Chandles said...

I haven't seen Away We Go, and I won't add a 'yet' to that because the likelihood of me watching it is pretty slim. My God, the description of it on IMDB alone is enough to repel me forever (check it: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1176740/plotsummary ). It sounds utterly miserable but not because anyone in the film ends up being miserable, but because it seems like none of them ends up being happy. At least Bronson, while maybe equally hopeless, has one person in it who actually is free and not just pretending to be/figuring out how to be.

Only way I'd be interested to watch Away We Go is in comparison with Revolutionary Road, because they sound awfully similar aside from the time-setting. But there's no way in hell I'm ever watching Revolutionary Road again.

the coelacanth said...

apparently the 20s are the new teens, so by that rationale i guess that means i'm technically 20? and death is the new life, i guess.

insightful points on both films - haven't seen either, no desire at all to see awg, will watch bronson at some point.

dave eggers is really starting to get on my nerves. i mean, i read and enjoyed a heartbreaking work a decade ago, but even i'm like "come on, grow up already". and it's not a conformist thing (have you seen me lately?), it's just more of a pathetic thing that eggers exudes - i no longer care about the banal anxieties of some man-child who has, by all measures, got it made. if his world is the "new adulthood", count me out.

Dropkick said...

i don't really think of Away We Go as a "hopeful" film.
it's an accurate portrayal of the late 20's early 30's north american mind set.
Our "precious" generation grows up to believe we can become whatever we want (writers, musicians, actors, marine bioligists, etc.) and it's when we reach the age set aforementioned we are hit with the realization that we will not become what we were promised to become. Away We Go is a selfish endeavour showing two characters who are going through this crisis but trying to figure out what's more important: trying to fulfill the adulthood they felt promised when they were children or to become level headed enough to have a child themselves.
I guess in the process of accepting having a child the characters become fulfilled within that. that becomes their dream. or something. i don't really care, it coulda been funnier.

all i really have to say is

also looking forward to your review of Up In The Air

La Sporgenza said...

I read Kris's review before I saw AWG and think it represents the film well. It wasn't the film itself that struck me as interesting but rather the modest (but generally decent) critical acclaim it received, and the mostly positive comments I heard around the shop - and again over dinner last week. It's not a great movie by any stretch, but it is an interesting reflection on modernity as seen through the current pop-cultural prism. The idea that life is full of endless opportunity and you simply check off the size and colour you want isn't a new one. Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises is a variation on this same youthful search for meaning, purpose and truth. Written when he was 27, Hemingway's novel was denounced by most critics who found its focus on aimless, promiscuous, and self-absorbed youngsters unsavory. On the other hand, The Sun Also Rises was extremely popular with a young and international readership. Sound familiar?

I was trying to pick up on two themes in the original post - firstly, that the characters and script are a fair, although obviously generalized, representation of a generation and secondly, that there is a point in most people's lives when they recognize that stories like this one are aimed at the generation behind them. It's our frame of reference that changes as we get older, not the stories themselves. I probably overstated the idea that naivety was at the core of AWG's reception amongst its younger audience. What I probably should have keyed more specifically on was the clearly whimsical and artificial nature of the reality it tries to represent becomes more obvious the further done the path you get. It comes across as a goal if you're 30 and a pipe-dream at 50.

Dropkick said...

Away We Go to me seems a lot like Garden State with babies.
You seemed to dig Garden State quite a bit Sprogster, what do you think about that film in relation to AWG?
Are they comparable or similar at all?
or do you think Garden State is on a different level?

also do you think Garden State is a "hopeful" film or at least more or less hopeful the AWG?

P.S. when i said i was looking forward to your review of Up In The Air i wasn't kidding, i'm looking forward to at the very least hearing your opinion on the film.