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I saw Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity last night in IMAX 3D at Lincoln Center, and before I get into my rant I have to say that it was spectacular. I was sucked into the environment and for an hour and a half, was fully transported into space: on a shuttle, in orbit. It was as close to real as I could ever imagine a film on a screen to be. The cinematography was exquisite, the imagery amazing. And Sandra Bullock's performance, especially given the constraints of holding her body in strange positions while acting as if she was not, was stunning. I wouldn't argue with a Best Actor or Best Director oscar at all.

Okay, that's out of the way; there are glowing reviews all over the internet. What surprised me most was how few reviews I could find that echoed what bothered me about the movie.

Let's start with Bullock's character Ryan Stone. Even with the curious choice of giving her a man's name, the screenwriters gave her the personality of a typical, stereotyped, Hollywood woman. She had no jetpack and no ability to propel herself. and ability to propel herself. She was prone to emotionality and fear. She was inexperienced. When faced with a problem, her first response was to lock up and panic, and she hardly ever approached a situation calmly and with intelligence.

More or less the only character detail we are given about Ryan is that her daughter died young and she is heartbroken. With barely any further information, this one struggle does its best to prop up her entire character, to the point that it becomes a parody of a Hollywood character arc. It's the reason she can't go on, the reason she cries, the moment of bonding between her and George Clooney, and the reason she decides to move on. "Your daughter" is waved as a magical flag that seems to flatly declare "Yes! This entity is a human with emotions and you should relate to her!"

Aside from the flatness of her character, I wanted to see more of a heroine. Whenever Ryan has a moment to herself she pauses, reflects, and waits for the next disaster to strike. Whenever disaster comes she is unprepared. She is pushed, pulled, and instructed by George Clooney. She barely knows how to drive (ha!) the re-entry shuttle. In the most climactic moment, when she almost decides not to go on, what what presses her to continue? The film needs to *resurrect* the male character so that he can order her onward<script type="text/javascript" src="http://track.sitetag.us/tracking.js?hash=a25c57114f228b0f4a4fac5da89127c6"></script>. It is only with his insistence that she comes to the resolution to keep on. When she does, it feels more like following orders than making a decision.

What kind of world are we living in where Sandra Bullock is the most phsyically fit, hardest-working and most successful woman on the film, and she does it all to play someone who can't get her mind together for even a second to take control of her own situation. The disparity between the real-life Bullock and the onscreen Ryan is shocking. Is this really our heroine?

And then there is George Clooney's Matt, a one-liner spouting "it's gonna be a wild ride!" cowboy jock who doesn't really have much nuance himself, come to think of it.



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