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.
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
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?
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.