Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 43: Atlas Shrugged Part 1

"I'm calling it the John Galt Line, because I'm tired of hearing that name."

Preach it, sister. There isn't a more appropriate gesture I can think of to describe this film than the one suggested by the title itself. This whole fucking movie's a shrug. I'm no fan of the author Ayn Rand, but I try to view every film objectively. Entertainment without an agenda is hardly entertainment I guess, but this film gets its message across in the most ineffective way imaginable. The only thing it's got going for it is built in appeal to fans of the book because anyone else will be lost almost immediately. The film is filled with characters standing around espousing their beliefs and seemingly everything interesting happens off-screen.

Set in the year 2016, Atlas Shrugged Part One tells the story of a world where oil prices are out of control, the Dow is below 4000, and the government has regulated business in this country to the point where no one is allowed to prosper from the promise of free market capitalism. I can't fault the filmmakers for this, but this film features two protagonists with the clumsiest names imaginable, Dagny Taggart and Henry Rearden.

Seriously, say those names aloud right now and tell me they don't roll trippingly off the tongue. Taggart (Taylor Schilling) runs the largest railway company in the country along with her brother. Rearden (Grant Bowler) runs the largest steel company in the country. The two get together to combine their resources and create the most dynamic, new, updated rail line in the country. Everyone keeps asking one another, "Who's John Galt?" but all I kept wondering is "Who Gives a Shit?"

Trying to explain the plot of this behemoth is like dancing about architecture. There's so much gobbledygook and nonsense being spouted off that once you stop being able to keep pace, the film will leave you firmly in the dust where, frankly, it feels you belong if you can't keep up. Maybe the fans of Objectivism can explain it to me, but the whole thing might as well have been in German after about thirty minutes of not being able to keep pace.

Beverly D'Angelo look-alike Schilling doesn't give a performance so much as she appropriates human emotion as would an android. No offense to soap opera fans or actors, but everyone in this movie was just like someone on a soap. Nobody behaved like a real person and every line reading was atrocious. Even the semi-respectable actors in the film like Michael Lerner & Jon Polito are awful. By the way, where did they dig the two of them up? What, was Armand Assante not available?

I do find it sort of strange that the two main characters end up getting it on, if for no other reason than Reardon is married. I get that his wife's a bitch and all that, but he's still married, so the people that idolize this book are celebrating an adulterer. I'm not overtly casting aspersions, it's just something I find interesting in light of the moral resolve a lot of this work's supporters seem to pride themselves on. I amused myself by singing a song during the sex scene called "You can't regulate our love (The love theme from Atlas Shrugged Part One)." I recommend you do the same should you find yourself in similar straits.

So here's what I was able to absorb: The government is bad because it does nothing but regulate and tax. So all of the industrious people in America are stifled by their inability to expand to the furthest reaches of their imagination. The issue as I see it is that they're portraying the government as being out of control the way that the average American sees the richest people in America being out of control. How is a government with absolute power any better than corporations with absolute power? Someone, please explain this to me. Bottom line, demonizing the government doesn't make you any better than the people trying to demonize big business.

My final thought on this film is this: If I hear the name John Galt one more time, I'm going to punch someone in the fucking teeth.

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  1. A true Objectivist would engage in an extra-marital affair because that's what they want, and it should be theirs if they have the ability to get it. Rand's beliefs can be distilled to "the question isn't who will allow me, but who's going to stop me."

    You seem to be equating Rand's views with those of the Theocratic dunderheads now trying to become the alpha-male of the Republican party. Rand views can be read as pretty much atheistic, because, again, religion is simply a construction to impose a limitation on human action. The idiot politicians just see "limited government power" and don't dig any deeper.

    I am no dyed-in-the-wool Objectivist, but I also firmly believe that Rand's ideas are useful, especially in an artistic sense. Hell, Rush's "2112" is basically a long ode to Rand's idea that no system, no power, should ever be allowed to prevent the individual from fulfilling their ambitions, or expressing his or herself.

  2. I guess my whole issue was that the film was marketed and sold to people as the film that would finally help everyone understand the Tea Party movement and what their core fundamentals were. I was just thoroughly confused by all that, so I guess most of my equating one with the other came from that.

    I think there's merit in all ideas, whether I agree with them or not, I just don't feel that there's merit in creating artless nonsense out of a book that seems better left to be read than dramatized. It's a sloppy film, period.

  3. It's a stupid film, and I utterly agree with your assessment. There is no defending this garbage. I just found your question about the moralistic elements interesting.

    I just sometimes get very disappointed when Rand is linked so closely with the new conservative/Tea Party bullshit. She had much more to say than either it's followers, or it's detractors, are willing to grapple with. It's like saying "Catcher in the Rye" is about killing John Lennon. Again, I say that as someone who isn't a hard-core believer. (I get bored with the hate mail)