This review may contain spoilers.
So what are you, dating the guy? The guy out there? It must be going really well he seems like a really charming upstanding individual.”
Sometimes I can’t believe someone sat there editing parts I cringed at. But it’s like this for every film. In this one, the peak of my embarrassment were the party scenes. The two protagonists were so uncharming and ill-suited to their roles as “normal” people without any social posture—something that we don’t entirely understand until they are interacting with other people. But it isn’t that everyone else is “normal” either. They seem to be a parodic projection of a 20 year old ne’er-do-well’s biggest nightmare: people with settled lives, jobs, and money—which are all in some ways indicators of one who is giving up, becomes dreamless and fake.
In the diner scene, Altman pokes at Perry for his “boring” job and Perry at Altman for doing nothing all day. While he defends the stability, Altman points out that he isn’t going anywhere in life either. Turns out not even having a job can prevent one from wasting their life. Typical 20 year old ramblings before bills need to be paid and you accept the life of that 26 year old woman Altman meets at the party, who got married young and whose only ticket to going out was her husband who could watch her kid—how circulatory.
The film could be seen as disgusted by these ironic circularities, like a play on an old Mutt and Jeff cartoon. “Jeff is standing next to a pile of stones with a lit lantern on top, in the middle of a road, at night. Mutt comes along, sizes up the situation, and asks, ‘Jeff, did you put that lantern there?’ ‘Yes, Mutt.’ ‘Why?’ ‘To warn the cars away, so they wouldn’t crack up on the stones.’ ‘Oh. And did you put the stones there, too?’ ‘Yes, Mutt.’ ‘Why?’ ‘To hold the lantern up, of course.'”
But those snobby people with jobs aren’t really normal are they? They’re “losers,” and Perry then flips the script on them: “There’s so much pressure put on having an interesting, or exciting and unpredictable life.” And then they both agree that having an unpredictable life is “overrated.”
So what exactly are we to make of this? What is desirable? Having a job? Chasing one’s dreams? Living an exciting life? A monotonous life? Or maybe just a life free from pressures of considering any of these at all. But this realization isn’t cathartic. It doesn’t say very much at all. But, making love to your sibling because it’s the only arrival from loneliness on our journey along the color circle culminates in what couldn’t be expressed in pleasantry and bantering dialogue the next morning: Altman’s tears.
Surprise. We are safest when we find our center. The black and white.
Oh, and the guy in the wheelchair doesn’t actually have polio.