Powerful 'Jindabyne' examines choices

To fully discuss "Jindabyne" would require revealing some important aspects of the plot and this is a film best viewed cold, without foreknowledge.

Set in Canberra, Australia, a land bleached of all color, mirroring the lives of its inhabitants, many seeming faded, even frayed, as if they had been left too long in the sun. The film examines how we struggle to live together, dealing with compromises large and small, for many a burnished existence free of angles and rough spots, compounded by the abiding expectation that happiness, full-throated, joyful happiness can be found &

haven't others done so? &

but often remains bitterly elusive.

What makes "Jindabyne" even more interesting is a haunting, unsettling experience that takes place on an annual men's fishing trip to a high mountain stream.

Occasionally, perhaps more often than is ever acknowledged, we are confronted with both small and large existential moments, moments requiring a choice to either act or not. Some are so nuanced they can be immediately discarded as being inconsequential: a decision not to speak a small truth or defend a closely held principle. To take a stand. Others are far more profound, requiring a choice that will make a difference, the consequences rippling outward, touching others. The men confront such a moment and fail to choose wisely. In fact, their response reflects a social anomie that astonishes.

Powerfully acted by Laura Linney and Gabriel rne and a bevy of fine Australian actors, "Jindabyne" is both evocative and provocative. It is also, at times, maddeningly restrained while lingering perhaps too long on the middle-age angst that permeates the characters. But no matter. It is worth seeing.

'I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry'

That Hollywood is still making movies such as "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" is astonishing. Did no one give the script even a cursory read before actors were hired and millions spent?

And having made it, the film rating board should have nailed it with an "R" for excessive banality and insensitivity instead of "PG-13." This poor excuse for entertainment does everyone harm, with gays at the top of the list. For all of its glossy look, that ersatz patina of "this is all in good fun," "Chuck and Larry" is a mean-spirited movie that should go straight to DVD and obscurity.

The premise is so lame it seems idiotic: Larry (Kevin James), a widower and firefighter, for reasons that are beyond comprehension, decides that if he is killed in a fire his children will not receive full survivor benefits. His solution, we're told, is that he must have a domestic partner or wife. Why? Don't ask. He chooses his best friend, fellow-firefighter Chuck (Adam Sandler), to join him in a scheme wherein they declare themselves gay and go to Canada to marry. Sure it's fraud, but all for a good reason. Dumb.

The film then sets out to parody every gay stereotype possible, meaning all the residual flotsam and jetsam washed up on the beach from decades of outrageous societal homophobia. Clearly, gays are the last minority group that can still be egregiously singled out to be mocked, and blatantly used for what is cheap and tawdry humor.

Imagine Chuck and Larry concluding that in order for Larry's children to collect benefits the two best buds would have to become black. The film then sets out to flaunt every exaggerated racial stereotype imaginable, denigrating black people without reservation. Or Mexican Americans. That dog would never hunt. But for reasons that are elusive, America is still willing to entertain homophobia as an acceptable reaction to a minority that asks only for equal protection under the law. Imagine the President of the United States proposing a Constitutional amendment that blacks and whites should never marry. The outrage would be instant. Yet, Bush felt entirely comfortable considering an amendment intended to prevent gays from marrying.

The film, as an equal opportunity offender, also manages to convey a pathetic, misogynistic message about women, whom Chuck uses like wet wipes, seeing all of them as simply breasts on a stick. Asians also get trashed when the minister that marries them is rolled out looking like Charlie Chan with buck teeth and coke bottle glasses and a really bad accent. Even obese people are singled out for obscene fat jokes. But it's gays who get the brunt of this film's trash-talking, adolescent, mindless bashing.

Hollywood and Sandler, clearly, can produce land fill and call it a movie. The question is: to what end?

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