Taking jobs away from the REAL fuggos

Like many people of my generation, I went through a little bit of a Christian Slater phase. First it was Heathers, then Pump Up the Volume, then Untamed Heart… and then I saw Kuffs, and that was the end of that.

It was ages before I saw him again, and then, he was puffy and defeated (like many people of my generation) and looking at him, all I could see were incredibly fake-looking (but apparently real..?) hair, and beady eyes set too close together.

He had spent years banking on his two-bit Jack Nicholson impression with no complaint from me, yet now, I’d have taken Nicholson over him. And I don’t mean Five Easy Pieces Nicholson, okay? I don’t even mean As Good As it Gets Nicholson. I mean fat old hoagie-lovin’ Nicholson.

It was over.

So when I channel-surfed my way into He Was a Quiet Man the other day, I watched it in spite of Christian Slater’s involvement. In fact I think it’s fair to say I only gave it a chance because I was too physically and mentally exhausted at the time to make actual, conscious decisions about my life.

Hurrah for being physically and mentally exhausted, as it turns out, because obviously, this movie is fantastic.

Christian Slater is Bob Maconel (pronounced like McConnell, don’t get me started,) one of the invisible men of the corporate world: balding, bespectacled, mustachioed, proud owner of one and a half million short-sleeved dress shirts, he looks like someone hired him to maintain the database in 1975, locked him in the basement and left him for dead.

Introverted, soft-spoken, unimpressive, Bob watches life unfold around him with a mixture of envy and scorn. He doesn’t necessarily want to be a different man–a sexier man, a more charming man, a more exciting man–but it shucks the hell out of his corn to watch other people taking that life for granted.

It’s not that easy to appreciate something you’ve always had, but Bob hasn’t always had much of anything. It’s pretty much just his fish. They’re great fish–attractive, resourceful, and delightfully witty–but no matter how much he enjoys their company each night, he still has to go back to work each morning, and be ignored for who he is, or worse, taunted, as if the fact of his existence isn’t punishment enough.

As you might be expecting at this point, Bob loses his shit one night and decides to murder the hell out of everyone in the office. But wouldn’t you know? Even Death picks the poor bastard last: one of Bob’s coworkers had the same idea at the same time, and murders the hell out of everyone before Bob makes his move.

Bob shoots the shooter instead, and the next thing he knows, he’s a hero to the company, every man’s best friend, every woman’s object of desire. They’re still a bunch of dinks–with seven billion people on planet earth, we’re never going to run out of dinks–but now Bob’s been given honorary membership.

It’s all a bit unnerving, what with one thing and another, but this new life does have one thing going for it: Venessa (pronounced like Vanessa, I told you not to get me started.) The sole survivor of the shooting (other than Bob himself,) the lovely Venessa never even made eye contact with Bob before, but she’s quadriplegic now, and suddenly Bob’s the only person she knows who gives a damn about her.

Theirs is not a conventional romance, but it’s an incredibly sweet one–after Venessa quits begging Bob to kill her. He does everything he can to help her adjust to her new life, and find some happiness in it. They’ve come from such different places that everything they give each other is completely new to them. And if it goes unspoken between them that none of this would be happening if Venessa hadn’t been injured, well. Best it stays unspoken.

As far as the story goes, He Was a Quiet Man doesn’t have many surprises up its sleeve. You can see every little thing coming from miles and miles away. It’s the movie’s style that makes it a standout: it’s a comedy, for one thing. Think about that for a minute and love every little thing about life.

The movie has a streak of surreality as well, and it ought to bug the shit out of you now that whimsiquirkilicious is the MSG of filmmaking, but it fits, somehow. Bob’s aquarium is the aquarium of your actual dreams.

And what of our Christian Slater, he of the widow’s peak and the baboon heart?

I feel like they would’ve cast an actual ugly guy as Bob if they could’ve found one who had some sort of marquee attraction, to save money on makeup if nothing else, but Christian Slater is completely believable in the role, dragging himself around like a kicked dog in a lead cape, flinching away from everything, just as a precaution.

I’d still rather have Hoagie Nicholson, given the choice, but as an actor, I’m ready to give Slater another chance.

I’m sure he’ll be relieved to hear it.

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Melodie Ladner lives and works in the Greater Vancouver area, and is probably eating something unhealthful out of a bag at this very moment.

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8 Responses to “Taking jobs away from the REAL fuggos”

  1. Penni says:

    You forgot True Romance in your CS’s greatest hits list.
    So great to read one of your posts again, Melodie.

    • Melodie says:

      No indeed, madam! I only made reference to the CS films I’ve seen. (Except for Bed of Roses, which I am trying to forget.)

      As for my posts, tag!

  2. matt says:

    What is it about Slater, anyway? For a while now I’ve felt like he should be able to do regular guy roles, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to let go of his inherent Slaterosity and just see him as a middle aged everyman. Maybe Christian Slater isn’t the problem. Maybe I’M the problem.

    It’s got to be weird when you become some kind of pop culture icon, and then the world just kind of collectively shrugs and moves on. California suburbs are probably littered with guys from 80s hair metal bands still trying to cope with this very issue.

    • Melodie says:

      I think it’s the icon thing, or the star machine or whatever you want to call it.

      These people get discovered, and then they keep getting cast in the same sorts of roles, because that’s what was profitable before, and then once they outgrow those roles (if they outgrow them) they’re stuck.

      Of course great actors and/or the capital M capital S Movie Stars defy that, but mostly it comes down to the movie-going public rejecting the New Coke.

    • Nate says:

      I heard somewhere that at least one of the guys from New Kids On the Block is a real estate agent. NKOTB were the curse of my adolescence as the only boy in a family of girls, but still, that’s no way to end up.

      • kormantic says:

        This reminds me of the david Duchovny guest star episode of Saturday Night Live, where he and his wife are trying to buy a car from an ex-glam rock lead singer.

        Melodie, you know I don’t believe you for a minute that this is a comedy, do you?

        And man, if you didn’t see Gleaming The Cube before Kuffs, I don’t even know you anymore.

        • Melodie says:

          Nobody knows me, baby. I’M LIKE THE WIND.

          PS: I admit that this movie is life-affirming, and it’s a very dark comedy, but a comedy it is. I am far more likely to tell you a helpful lie than a spiteful one, cupcake.

      • Melodie says:

        If it’s any consolation, Cherie Currie is now a competitive chainsaw sculptress.

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