Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hiking with an attractive woman for weeks is tough, especially if she's not interested in you. Then you're just begging for some occasional privacy so you can let the poison out, otherwise you'll be too distracted by blue balls to enjoy nature.

I have a headache and should be getting some more sleep in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner a few hours from now, and I'll be damned if that's not a run-on sentence. But hey, pointing out a run-on sentence in this blog is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500, right Willard?

Anyway, for whatever reason, I'm not gonna get a few extra hours of hangover-killing rest, I'm gonna ramble about The Way, which is one of those low-budget labor-of-love deals -- this time it's Emilio Estevez doing things his own damn self -- but unlike other joints of its ilk, this one looks a hell of a lot more expensive because it was shot in the countrysides of France and Spain, and when you're dealing with God as a production designer, chances are that you're gonna get some quality settings. I've seen other flicks over the past couple days, but this was the first, and I only have time to ramble about one joint, so yeah, here you go.

Martin Sheen plays an ophthalmologist from Los Angeles, and one day he gets a phone call regarding his son (played by Emiliooooooo), and let's just say that Sheen's gonna have one less person to leave shit to in his will. Yeah, turns out his boy died in an accident over in the Pyrenees. What was he doing there? Oh, you know, pilgrimage and all that. He was walking the Camino de Santiago, and the route chosen for this film is a long hike from the land of rude people and great coffee, all the way over to the place where people speak Spanish with a lisp that is cute on women and odd on men. People go on this pilgrimage for various reasons (spiritual, travel, bragging); Emilio's was mostly good ol' There Are So Many Places Out There I Haven't Seen wanderlust.

So off goes Mr. Sheen, off to pick up his dead son -- and after a good night's sleep (or at least as good a night's sleep one can get while mourning the recent death of a loved one), he decides that he's gonna finish the Camino trek in his boy's place, while spreading recently-cremated Emilio ashes along the way -- I mean, The Way -- because if Emilio Estevez is gonna walk five hundred miles, then goddammit, Martin Sheen will walk five hundred more.

It's a road movie, but instead of burning rubber, the characters are beating feet; Sheen eventually groups up with 3 fellow travelers played by Deborah Kara Unger, some fat Dutchman, and the dad from Millions. The fat Dutchman is pulling a Dewey Oxburger, thinking this walk (which can take weeks to complete) will make him a lean, mean, pot-smoking machine in time for his brother's wedding; Dad-from-Millions is just some douchebag writer who thinks he can jot down his observations and make a book from it (unlike me, who just puts it in a blog), and Unger's character proves that even Canadians can be surly, sarcastic assholes. Surprisingly, they never run into Gwyneth Paltrow or the Harry Knowles of television chefs during this journey, which is weird, because I thought Paltrow was like Queen White Girl of Spain or something. 

This is seriously, to me, one of Martin Sheen's best performances, bar fuckin' none. The Academy most likely won't recognize it because they pay more attention to higher-profile fare featuring lots of drama queening and hamming up, which is too bad, because homeboy's performance is one of those awesomely understated deals that still manages to pack a punch. Whatever. I'm sure he'll get a Lifetime Achievement award. He better.

There's a scene about halfway through the film where his character has a bit too much to drink, and he fucks up by choosing that particular time to air his grievances regarding his Camino crew; it's a slow burn that eventually turns into a goddamn blaze, and the way Sheen plays it feels way too fuckin' real, as opposed to just some actor using the moment to turn it into an excuse for overacting. Considering Sheen's past with alcohol use (hell, just watch Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse to see it in real-life effect), his acting in that scene has more than a ring of truth to it -- it's a fuckin' gong of truth. The manner in which the Camino crew handle his outburst also felt realistic; with both body language and minimal dialogue they manage to tell this dude "You know, we understand that you're hurting, and you don't mean what you said, but for the next few hours, go fuck yourself, asshole."

The film itself is also surprisingly subtle as well, for the most part; Estevez's last couple of joints, The War at Home and Bobby were more Sirk-sian in how they were more than happy to tell you how you were supposed to feel during any particular scene, thanks to things like slow-motion montages set to classic tunes/dramatic compositions. The Way, on the other hand, is told in more of an objective -- rather than subjective -- style; I don't recall any dolly shots or tracking setups, and I'm pretty sure it was all handheld, even the static shots. The lighting is all natural (from either the sun or candlelight) and that, combined with the Super 16mm format, gives this joint more of a raw, documentary feel. I think half of the cast is comprised of non-actors who really live in the areas our heroes visit, which adds to the docu-feel of the proceedings.

The music score feels less emotional and more psychological, serving more to put you in the mindset of any particular character, and leaving how to feel about it up to your lazy ass. The songs are OK; I was never the biggest fan of Alanis Morissette's "Thank U", but considering that she did play God in a movie, maybe she's God in this movie too and the song is kinda like her narrating this shit -- a God who once sucked Dave Coulier's cock in a movie theater. I wonder what movie they were watching. Something Canadian, I bet.

It's a nice movie that gets its point across about spirituality and our inherent need to strengthen our virtues (while eliminating our flaws), without getting emotionally overwrought about it all. (For the record, I'm all for sappy shit, but only when it's done right.) Sure, there is drama, but it's never some overly done Movie kind of drama; like I mentioned before, it's that matter-of-fact style that still manages to keep a motherfucker very interested. I mean, shit man, it's about how a dude chooses to handle the death of his only son -- you really don't need to ladle extra syrup on these pancakes, you dig? You're watching a group of people walking this long journey, they meet some interesting people along the way, get to their destination, and that's it. Whether or not their lives turn for the better, well, that's not what the movie is interested in telling you.

In movies, people come out of these experiences with their worlds completely rocked, and it changes the way they live their lives. In real life, that's not always the case -- shit, it's rarely the case -- sometimes we just go back to living the way we've always lived. But hopefully, we've come out of it a little wiser about something -- anything -- maybe that's what the movie is saying. The ending kinda annoyed me at first, it felt a little movie-fake, but then a few hours later I managed to pull my head out of my ass, and on second thought, it makes plenty of sense for the character to uh, go that way.

Anyway, I dug this flick, it's a nice and thoughtful way to spend two hours, and it's definitely got me considering going on one of these pilgrimages. Backpacking's the shit, and I'd like to go once more into the European breach, where I can once again take in some nice sights, meet interesting people, and learn just how precious a hot shower and bed can become to a motherfucker. The only thing that would've made this movie better is maybe an appearance by Keith David and Dean Cameron, with their rent-a-cop hating, pizza delivering, french fry-protecting tomfooleries.

But, hey man -- Tcheky Karyo is in this mutha! That guy's awesome. That's how I'll close these thoughts on The Way, talking about Tcheky Muthafuckin' Karyo; so, this guy? Like I said, he's awesome. Took notice of him in La Femme Nikita, and have been taking notice of him since. One of my closest friends became even closer when I found out we shared a fondness for that French mofo; and nothing gets us happier than being given the opportunity to do our Tcheky Karyo impressions, well, aside from a pair of titties. But if you're ever hanging with us, be warned, folks: Never mention anything regarding the roasting of foods, lest we end up freaking you out by suddenly going "You know, the Chinese have the best roasting methods in the world -- BUT I PREFER THE FRENCH ONE!"

OK, I'm off. Happy Thanksgiving, lady and gentleman. Hug your loved ones. Eat. Watch movies. Enjoy life. And don't be a dick -- besides, that's my gig.