The Devil All the Time (switch out Violence for Devil)

An often asked interview question is “if you could have four dinner guests, who would they be?” and typically, people name Jesus, Mother Teresa, Steve Jobs and Freud…you get the idea…

Based on my viewing The Devil All the Time, I’d like to dine with Antonio and Paulo Campos (writers and director of said film), the Safdie Brothers (Uncut Gems) and Charlie Kaufman (I’m Thinking of Ending Things).

Of course, I’d be tricking the Campos to attend what is really an intervention. One where I’d go, “Hey, Campos’ listen to the Safdie’s explain how small bits of violence have much more impact that constant slaughter.”
And Charlie would chime in with, “You realize you’re capable of creeping people out without a lot of bloodshed.”

And the Campos would pensively reply, “Oh yes, now we see, we thought Americans liked a violent waltz where on the three count, we strike with violence and then repeat.”

Luckily I didn’t read anything in advance of viewing except for a snippet that said Robert Pattinson stole the show. Trust me, I’m a huge RB fan every since the Safdie’s Good Time and felt this was probably accurate. However, I disagree. This was an epic acting collaboration and the only reason RB stuck out was, he was the only character not West Virginia slack jaw and depressed. (Note to West Virginia, which I suggest from direct experience since my great grandparents lived there and I visited most summers growing up: put Prozac in the drinking water pronto as 99% of the folks are clinically depressed, including all the characters except RB).

There are so many competent actors to mention, but I’ll just name the standouts: Riley Keough who is proving her acting chops rather than ride on her grandfather (ELVIS, yes, THAT Elvis’s coat tails), Tom Holland, and Jason Clarke.

The screenwriting as a story was well done and intelligent. Kudos should also obviously go to Donald Ray Pollock author of the novel on which the screenplay was based. Worth watching, I guess, as long as you turn your head or squeeze your eyes shut every ten minutes for the duration of two hours and 18 minutes worth. Hence, please Antonio and Paulos, come to my dinner party:)

Whoa…Christine, from Sarasota no less

Warning….perhaps for the sensitive this movie (CHRISTINE 2016) should be seen in a matinee for a re-balance of post film light of day. I related way too much to the film’s topic due to experiences I have had as a mental health counselor and the chicken or egg toss up of social anxiety and dysfunctional upbringing.

The film’s subject matter is the suicide of a Sarasota reporter in the 1970’s. So first things first: bravo to Craig Stolovich, as a screenwriter you made me care about people even though I knew the bones of the story. And to Antonio Campos for braving probably a lot of, ‘nah don’t make that movie, it’s not ‘pretty’.

The absolute worst day of my life was in 1997 when a student at my school committed suicide. Some are resilient to withstand emotional and/or physical abuse, while others like Christine and my student, did not. Reconciling this took me years with which to come to grips. But I finally understood pain as relative and, try as we might, we can never fully understand another person’s plight.

I mentioned my litmus test for a great movie last month, that if a movie makes you feel differently, you know you’ve been affected….well, let me tell you…I was affected in spite of how amateurish CHRSTINE might appear, meaning were some B level actors and the film quality a purposeful tactic to make it feel like the 1970’s? Or was it budgetary?

Trust me, all of the acting was exceptional, most of all Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall and Tracy Letts. And I will plant my Oscar flag firmly right now for all three to receive nominations.

Here are other reasons I liked the movie: a 70’s soundtrack, still my favorite musical decade. Dialogue actually spoken by real humans. Acknowledgement of our weapon obsessed part of the world. Actual national news accounts of Christine’s ‘accident’ and political happenings like Nixon’s impeachment.

Strange coincidences or my odd quirky connections:
a. How odd that the reason I went to the film tonight was due to a cancellation of a birthday ice cream combined with the role ice cream therapy plays in this film.
b. Two recent comments; one by a fellow playwright tonight at a staged reading I attended before the movie AND a recent blog of a work colleague both challenging negative portrayals of mothers/parents. The former was regarding a staged reading of a play (not mine) in which a 20 something goes to her grandfather regarding an unwanted pregnancy for fear of her mom’s reaction. My fellow playwright’s critique was, “Nobody’s mom’s that bad.”….all I could hear was what a friend of mine says in his low, dubious low tone, “Right”. The latter was a book comparison blog, liking a more positive spin on family dysfunction, the too negative one being Hillbilly Elegy. And in all fairness to the blogger, while I haven’t read Hillbilly Elegy, I did hear that it was explicitly maudlin.
My point or connection here is that some ‘can’t handle the truth’, to steal a quote from another famous film. Not because they aren’t kind or lack empathy, but because they can’t imagine or don’t want to (who can blame them?) a world where parents don’t unconditionally love their children.
c. Families can do a job on a person’s self-esteem which the movie Christine alludes to. In fact, though 2/5ths of my family celebrated my birthday, a huge thank you to my mom and best friend, still the 3/5th absentees or ‘negators’ did stick with me, in part since the get together occurred within hours of viewing this film and therefore, freshest in my mind; a rather unceremonious or should I say, dis-ceremonious occasion where 85% of the conversation was upbraiding me for not flattering everyone else’s appetites, needs and desires.

In conclusion, may I just say, I am glad I have never owned a gun. Also, I thank God for my best friend Tim who has been the most recent decade long dependable, consistent, unwavering empathetic force in my life thus far. Perhaps the lack of physical intimacy makes this relationship possible, but who knows? The only romantic partnerships I’ve seen (not counting one, a couple I work with right now that seems perfect) have appeared to be compromising of at least one of the partners to be what the other partner wants. I bring this up due to the lack of connection the real life Christine felt with the understanding of her (and my own) frustration and self-defeating behavior.
Third, regarding public cinema etiquette: if you go to a movie with a date (couple who sat two rows ahead of me) and your date includes rubbing your girlfriend’s sock feet, then eating something with same hands, then continuing the foot rub; please either sit in the back row or hand me one of those handy bags the flight attendants pack for airline passengers with air sickness.