To be perfectly honest?
I’ve finished reading Blackout by Lisa Unger a l-o-n-g time ago, but I told myself I wouldn’t write you about it, at least, not yet.
This time I waited – I actually waited – for you to write me, before I bombard you again with a new book report.
But you haven’t written.
So what can I do, Tsofit?
Maintain radio silence?
Not to share my intellectual, profound experiences from every – day life with you?
Or maybe I should just accept it as an axiom: Tsofit never write!
But, I can’t.
It cracks me up.
I’m choked with tears of grief and sadness.
Tsofit, you have to make a fundamental change and do something about this unintentional and basically lazy silence.
And until you do, I will continue as if I have never waited, covered with spider webs, for any sort of reply from you, and I will tell you that I have read Blackout by Lisa Unger and I’ll jump to the end and conclude in one word: awesome.
It’s not a psychological thriller but a thriller that is based on psychology. It is evident Unger had done serious research (I was genuinely surprised that she had met only once, for a few hours of “a whole afternoon”, with experts of the private military companies. It feels to me that she had worked on it longer).
Quite often, she clarifies an idea inside the story itself, but it’s not a burden, as some other writers tend to trouble one with their elucidations: she restricts herself to one paragraph and immediately shifts the explanation forward, to the plot itself.
And that is interesting. Really interesting.
Ophelia’s character, the protagonist, is gripping, although sadly enough she isn’t unique with her history of abuse. Lisa doesn’t go into details, what Ophelia actually did or saw alongside her lover \ enemy, Marlo, but she opens up sincerely about her father, who ignored her, and her distressed mother. Ophelia’s tangled childhood did not have a responsible parent to lean on.
The only mother Ophelia knows is a woman who is desperately searching to be loved, by anyone. A woman who moves from childish behavior to jealousy to dysfunction and eventually falls into a bottomless pit as she marries a former serial killer – I stand corrected: a pseudo – former serial killer. A man who covers up for his son’s murders, thus eventually helps him to murder again and again.
What a family.
It may sound farfetched, but it’s real. Very real. In a world of sects and disturbed people who flock around a guru who considers himself to be an almighty entity and those who worship him are subjected citizens – these things happen. Many times, it gets even worse. In the name of loneliness and the endless void that wishes to be filled with love, people do the most unspeakable things. A corrupt leader will take advantage of his followers’ weaknesses in order to continue in his atrocious way.
In many aspects Blackout is an indictment and an acquittal of dysfunctional parents who stand aside and allow their daughter to drown.
It’s not about common difficulties of parenthood. It’s just that these two people should never have become “mom” and “dad”. But one can’t decide on such a thing, especially when it’s not just psychological or emotional abuse but an overall discrepancy between them. The social services may never hear of such a thing, and even if they did, the child would surely drown in bureaucracy.
I watched The Chumscrubber yesterday. I don’t think you have heard about it, even though everyone was there. And I do mean everyone: Glenn Close, Ralph Fiennes, Jamie Bell, Carrie – Anne Moss, Allison Janney, Jason Isaacs, Lauren Holly, Rita Wilson – and it goes on. Really, it’s a very long list.
It was the director’s first movie: the producer said (in Behind the scenes) that everyone who Arie Posin (the director) had spoken with – joined in the project.
It’s a very powerful movie. Disturbing. So much so that I had an abdominal pain during and after watching it (even when I look in the cover I get an abdominal pain. It’s that upsetting).
It’s not “gross”. There is nothing visibly repulsive about it. At first sight it just “another” movie that criticizes American society. It’s so much more.
Glenn Close plays Troy’s mother. Troy is Dean’s friend (played by Jamie Bell). Troy is also the number one drug dealer in school, together with Jason Isaacs’s son and another girl.
The movie begins when Dean goes out to visit Troy and finds him dead. He had hanged himself in his room. Dean doesn’t tell anyone about what he has seen. He just walks out of the house and goes home.
Dean’s father is a psychologist. The type that writes best sellers, which are scheduled to be translated into various languages and takes Dean out on promotional tours around the country.
The psychologist – father invites Dean for a consultation. His best friend has committed suicide – how does Dean feel about this?
But the father, the famous psychologist, the successful family man, does not listen to his son. He has a very clear idea as to what the boy should be saying under these circumstances and the boy therefore must adjust himself to that well-defined pattern. What he is actually saying doesn’t make any difference. The father won’t hear it. I don’t mean just metaphorically. The father doesn’t even hear his son.
Eventually Dean does speak something, but the psychologist doesn’t consider it be of any value. Instead he uses it as notes for his new book. This is what he does: when it’s time to attend Troy’s memorial, he prefers the wedding which takes place across the street because he already has utilized “mourning” to the fullest in two of his previous books. Now he wants to see what insights he can gather from marriage the second time round.
The woman who is getting married is played by Rita Wilson and her fiancé is played by Ralph Fiennes. He plays the city’s mayor. Her ex-husband is the local cop, who keeps handing out reports to the mayor for his alleged illegal parking. In other words, he still loves his wife.
Rita’s character is a horrible. She is this career woman, an interior designer, who is completely absorbed in her wedding preparations. She takes the regular craziness into extreme – meticulous with the flowers and the dress and the external exterior like you would not believe (when someone marries Ralph Fiennes, you could assume that THIS would be the main attraction).
A group of three teenagers kidnap her son for ransom (they meant to kidnap Dean’s brother, so that Dean will be compelled to bring them the drugs from Troy’s house, but they hijack the wrong kid by mistake).
Rita’s character doesn’t even notice her son is missing. I’ll say that again: for three days Rita’s thirteen years old son is nowhere to be found but his mother doesn’t even notice! She thinks he went out, she thinks he came back, she thinks he wants some peace and quiet time. She doesn’t even bother to check, not even once, that everything is all right with him.
When one of the teenagers mother, played by Carrie – Anne Moss, calls to tell Rita that her son had spent the night at her house, Rita finally shows the courtesy to care. She comes in order to pick him up, only he is not there anymore. Carrie – Anne Moss’s character doesn’t have a clue as to where the boy went. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of a difference to his mother. She has a wedding to plan and her son – well, he’ll be fine. He did enter a death trap but it’s not like she knows anything about it. And besides, she needs to get married, so it can wait.
Carrie – Anne Moss’s character, according to Carrie – Anne Moss herself, is everything we don’t want our mothers to be. A mother who flirts with her daughter’s sixteen years old friends, who wears dresses with a deep cleavage, bikini and who pats and strokes every man who just happens to walk by. Her daughter comes in with the abducted child and tells her mother that she and her friends had hijacked the boy for ransom. The mother doesn’t listen. She hears what her daughter is saying, but does not take it seriously and responds dismissively while moving on to the next subject. At this point, as always, it’s much more important for her to flirts with her daughter’s male friends.
In the whole movie there isn’t a single parent who actually listens to his or hers own child, who actually sees his son or daughter for what they really are. The youngsters go from house to house and tell their parents exactly what they are doing, but no-one ever truly listens or says anything. Never.
When Jason Isaacs’s character’s son tells him that he had abducted a child, Jason’s character orders him to stop kidding around, because if this was serious, he would have to go to the police and the police would sabotage any chance for his son’s successful academic future. The boy got into trouble and wants his father to help him, but the father only thinks of his “son’s best interest”, according to his own definition of “best interest”.
Later, the kidnapper freaks out and tries to murder Rita’s character’s son (Catastrophic!). His parents manage to place the blame on someone else and rescue their son from jail.
All of this, and I haven’t even talked about the third member of the evil gang. I deliberately don’t want to talk about him. That will really cause me more abdominal pain.
It’s not just the chase after professional and monetary success that prevents the parents from connecting with their children. All the parents in the movie are living in their own isolated world, where they think first and foremost of themselves. They have their perception as to the way things should appear and what their child needs to achieve in order to obtain “success”, because success is the most important thing, in their eyes. Their children know that and worse – they take advantage of it. They even have a secret code – “it’s for school”. When they say that, their parents immediately hold back and allow everything to happen. Even the most horrific horrors.
It’s not as if they ever bother to get to the bottom of anything. They don’t really care, but no one is altruistic enough to admit it.
Glenn Close, who plays Troy’s mother, walks around, cleansing the neighbors of any fault or guilt: under any circumstance she does not blaming them for her son’s death – she keeps telling them that, all the time. At the end of the movie she finally confesses that she is one to blame. She didn’t know her own son.
I think she was the first parent in the film to acknowledge the fact.
Sad. And difficult.
The Chumscrubber is not just a movie about the decay of American society – we have seen a lot of those (like The Stepford Wives, again with Glenn and Nicole Kidman, and Carrie – Anne Moss’s hideous movie – Mini’s first Time. Truly unbearable).
The Chumscrubber is a movie about the way people do not speak to each, not even with in their own family.
It’s a movie that shows how people live their lives in a bubble of make believe and how terrible things happen as a result of it.
Multiple abdominal pains for me.
I will take the stand and use the common notion of both Blackout and The Chumscrubber to emphasize to you that it’s very important to listen to the other people when they speak (write) to you! It is the key for our existence – as a society and as individuals alike.
Don’t be one of the tenants in The Chumscrubber or the characters in Blackout.
Break the circle of alienation and write back!
In the long run, it will pay off.