Last night, upon plainclothesman’s recommendation, I trekked out to the Court Street movie theater to watch Jodie Foster’s new revenge murderfest, “The Brave One.” It’s not really that I didn’t like the movie. It’s more that it ruined New York for me, which is one of the few things that I love with the capacity of my soul. For a movie that attempts to grapple with serious questions about justice, trauma, death, morality and a spiritually wounded person’s ability to live, there is an awful lot of hyperbolized violence and an awful little of actual substance.
In the film, Jodie Foster plays Erica Bain, an Ira Glass-like NPR host, but instead of good-natured reverence of humanity, she employs a “lipless fury”* while she brutalizes both the image and inhabitants of our fair city. Following an obscenely violent mugging/beat-down in Central Park, Erica loses her shit (understandably) and develops a slight case of agoraphobia, which quickly morphs into a seething, pitiless blood lust, sated only by the execution of people who fuck with her (less understandable). Just like her idealized city of New York, throughout the movie, Erica sheds her innate humanity and becomes unfamiliarly savage. New York spits thug after thug at her, and she fights back with an unsure hand on an illegal 9mm.
Now, okay. There is crime and brutality in New York. Yes. There are victims of crimes who lose their ability to live in New York. Definitely. But really, this isn’t fucking Baghdad over here. The problem here is that the movie doesn’t balance its gross distortion of New York with anything that puts it into perspective. It is as though in the filmmakers’ minds, it was a genuine reflection of this city through the eyes of one fictionalized New Yorker. I’m just going to put this out there, but no UWS radio host – shit, no one at all – has ever been nearly beaten to death in Central Park, then witnessed a murder in a bodega, then mugged on the subway, then coerced into prostitution, and then gotten into a crowbar fight with a Roosevelt Island parking mogul. Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s so completely overblown, but with no wink-wink-nudge-nudge “I understand there is such a thing as human decency” foil for the audience. Even Terrence Howard, the magnetic north on the moral compass of this story, turns out to be a little off, depriving the ending of its grounding.
Stop ruining New York, Jodie. I have to live here.
We got home safe last night.
* Courtesy of Kate, resident cultural analyst for Brooklyn Skeptic.