Last night after Boardwalk (awesomeness!) was over I wasn’t quite ready to give up my Sunday so flipped a bit and ended up halfway thru Eighth Day. I only watched about 30 minutes of it so this is a limited review but it was horrifying. Man with DS meets depressed business type and Saves Him. Rainman, except with a more visible disability. (Also in French, with subtitles, so More Artistic). It’s also over 10 yrs old so I’m coming a little late to the party but I spent more time than I should have today clicking links to old reviews. The weepy emotional sort raved about how uplifting it was. Ebert grudgingly decided to roll with it. The highlights:
First off, they meet when the biz guy hit and killed the guy with DS’s dog. Too bad I missed this part or I would’ve immediately stopped watching and spared you all my ranting. Killing the dogs off in movies (I Am Legend?) is just cheap. Five dollar end of the alley cheap. Almost as bad as the oft abused “I can’t find my child” gut twister.
Second, the guy was apparently recently institutionalized as an adult after his mother passed away. His cohorts… appear to have been institutionalized at birth. I neither know nor care if they were hamming it up for the camera – the only (disturbing) reality is what ended up on tape. At one point they crowd around the biz guy babbling and grabbing at him like chatty zombies. Like every 1950s psych ward scene filmed, ever. He freaks out and bolts. Nice. They later run away from their minder, act up in a dealership, and steal a van. Necessary cinematic drama? Maybe. I could only wonder why they a/had to sneak off and b/why they didn't know how to use public transportation. Our hero was the only one who could speak in complete sentences and who didn’t have a plethora of random tics and unfathomable social awkwardness. Let’s see how deep we can bury that bar in the sand.
Third, the (adult) girlfriend’s parents pulled her out of the institution – again some of this is pieced together from other sources – because she fell in love with our hero. This… just breaks my heart.
Then there is a fantasy scene where the hero and his girlfriend imagine they are – I can barely type this – Mongol warriors. Fine. Put an innocent spin on it. I still tasted vomit.
In theory I applaud the effort. I stopped to watch because I was willing to be sold. I made it through Memory Keeper’s Daughter without throwing anything at the TV. But a SF writer nailed it: “Something about the deification of illness and disability smacks of condescension, regardless of the good intentions behind it.” Exactly – insofar as it relates to the hero. The portrayal of his fellow residents was every nightmarish “this will be your child” vision that populated the damn institutions in the first place.
Next week we'll be deconstructing Bambi.