Cast Away
***.2 GM
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Chris Noth


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I've come to expect some sort of tear-jerking from Tom Hanks movies. The guy connects with audiences without even trying, so whenever something bad happens to him - slugging it out through "Saving Private Ryan," being torn apart by guilt in "The Green Mile," and even delivering a sappy monologue to a goddamned radio call-in show in "Sleepless In Seattle," he can make his characters' emotions felt acutely to those watching his films. Hell, "Philadelphia" made me cry like a little girl for an hour.

So I went in preparing for another emotional wrangling at the hands of Kip from "Bosom Buddies." It had all the makings for one - Chuck Noland, a poor sap with a job rife with product placement opportunities, manages to live through a plane crash in the Pacific and winds up stranded on an island alone for years with no way to let anyone know he's alive. When he finally does make it back, his life is still completely out of whack.

For the most part, the movie does a good job in portraying his personal journey, although it's not without his drawbacks. Knowing what the film is about beforehand tends to color perceptions, and most of the prelude to the plane crash is basically 'here are a bunch of things that Chuck will regret/find ironic once he's stranded." The plane crash itself is actually very disturbing and bothersome, especially since I personally have a huge fear of drowning (which is why a film like "Titanic" could really get to me). The thought of being trapped in on all sides by endless, unforgiving ocean is a humbling, disquieting one, which is why I felt like I should have been moved more by this film than I actually was.

The arrival and subsequent trials and tribulations Chuck experiences while trying to figure out how to exist on this island are done well, and it serves to point out just how quickly a dumbass like me would give up hope and die when all the simple tricks to facilitate survival would pass over my head, never to perch and lay the egg of thought into my dense skull. Luckily Chuck's got a good head on his shoulders, and is into math. It allows him to temper his frustration by actually figuring things out, whereas I would have blown my stack in two days and just cussed at the world until I starved.

The closest I came to crying was during his self-dentistry, and that was in sympathy for the pain he felt in busting his own teeth out with an ice-skate blade. The moment right after that is what killed off any potential tears. I know I'm probably letting this bother me more than I should, but flashing up a title card that says "FOUR YEARS LATER" did a hell of a lot towards ruining the flow of the film for me. Maybe a montage of time passing is a cliche, but it's a hell of a lot better than a sudden FOUR YEARS LATER. We were all right along with the guy on his journey, and in the time it takes to flash those words, we're suddenly on the outside looking in at this guy. Maybe that's part of the point - that he's a changed man, no longer one of us - but it really tossed me, and I couldn't really get completely absorbed into it again.

The most interesting aspect of the film is what happens when Chuck finally does get home and finds that his Kelly (Helen Hunt) has gotten married to Chris Noth and had a kid. It's the ultimate kick in the teeth, although you had to know that's how it was going to be - even HE had to know. The tension and awkwardness in their exchanges, just feeling how awful it must be for her to have to deny her feelings because of insane and unbelievable circumstances. Imagine how you would feel if someone was able to honestly and tearfully declare that you were the love of their life (that alone is a rarity), but could only tell you that as a precursor to never being able to be WITH you again for the rest of your life. Imagine having to DO that to someone. Imagine being married to someone that's had a long-dead love walk back into her life and have to realize that you're not EVER going to be the first person in your spouse's thoughts anymore. That's some acute, stabbing pain that doesn't go away.

Of course, the intensity of that moment tends to be dulled somewhat once reality sets in and you think about what happens after the movie ends. Upon realizing that 'the love of her life' is back from the dead, the lingering doubt festers in Kelly's mind until it manages to sabotage her relationship with Chris Noth. Chuck has a lingering fixation on Kelly as he also reforms his unhealthy dependence on a volleyball, and that helps to mess up his attempts to move on. They find each other again and think they feel right together for a while. Then things between them start to suck when that idealized version of Kelly in Chuck's head never seems to materialize and Chris Noth keeps meddling and forcing custody battles and then she walks in on Chuck and the volleyball in a compromising situation and just can't handle it anymore, and she runs back to Chris Noth, who lords his forgiveness over her like an unpayable gambling debt and continues to make her life miserable while Chuck keeps trying to find a way to poke a hole into the volleyball without deflating it in order to 'take the next step in their relationship.' Or maybe I'm just an overly cynical bastard.

That last paragraph might never have existed if it wasn't for the jarring 'FOUR YEARS LATER' bit. Imagine THAT.

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