Saturday, August 13, 2016
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
That quote is from Beyond the Woods, by the way. That film is not on the National Film Registry. But this one is, possibly because the dialogue is witty in a horrible way, or because the miracle of making Elizabeth freaking Taylor look frumpy was achieved, or because you don't usually see male characters with possible Borderline Personality Disorder portrayed on screen, or because it did break a lot of censorship barriers. It's not that it's a bad movie or a movie that I'm confused about it's presence on the Registry, like Deliverance. It's a very good movie. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is just a very unpleasant movie, especially if you've ever been intimately acquainted with anyone like George and/or Martha. Being around people who enjoy torturing others and punishing them for ill-defined infractions is draining enough, without also spending time watching them for two relentless hours. Though arguably, someone as slimy as Nick does deserve some level of it, but Honey being the innocent little "simp" that she is, she doesn't seem to have invited any of it. I suppose that's why she gets absolutely sloppy drunk, while everyone else manages to keep their heads to some level. The only way it can be tolerated watching this ineffectual little creature being torn to pieces is the idea that she probably will only remember vague unpleasantness in the morning. So why watch them "all peel labels"? Well, it is a fascinating psychological profile. The dialogue is often blackly comic, and you sometimes wish you could be as witty as George when you're faced with someone like Martha.
Because many of us know a Martha - a person who is deeply emotionally sadistic, but views themselves as the victim of unjust attacks if anyone says anything about it. But then George isn't much better - he is not as openly sadistic as Martha, but he is a master of passive aggressive jabs. And in this evening of Fun and Games, both of them manage to show off their talents in harming, and try out the other's specialty. I think everyone has had a feeling like Nick and Honey, where they've been trapped in a "party" where two people are having a nasty argument, and yet are insisting that everything is just fine and the night shouldn't be spoiled. This is "Horribly Uncomfortable Situations: The Movie". Which is better than "Awkward Pauses: The Movie" (also known as Twilight: memorably mocked by Rifftrax, as they demanded that someone say something). This isn't a bad movie by any stretch. It's an excellent movie. It's just not a movie I enjoyed watching. I did not want to be around George, Martha, Nick, or Honey, and by realistically portraying loathsome or pitiable people, the movie succeeds admirably.
But I find personally a major difference between recognizing a realistic portrayal, even a masterfully realistic portrayal, and a film I want to revisit. These are not people I want to spend more time with, because I have unfortunately been acquainted with these people, and have had my fill well before they came onto my screen. Maybe if I decide to write some big opus on mental illness in film, but even then, I'll just be studying, not enjoying. So this might be one to consider based on your own comfort levels and personal history. I will never say a word against its mastery of its subject, but its subjects are so hateful that one may not want to see them mastered.