Tag: timothy hutton

Taps


Taps (1981)
★★ / ★★★★

Cadet Brian Moreland (Timothy Hutton) had been recently promoted to major by General Harlan Bache (George C. Scott) who was in charge of Bunker Hill Military Academy. Moreland looked up to the general and wished to prove he was worthy of the promotion during the upcoming school year. But when General Bache announced that the school was in its final year because the land had been sold, Moreland and the other cadets seized the campus and wouldn’t stand down until their three demands were met. Based on the novel “Father Sky” by Devery Freeman and directed by Harold Becker, “Taps” aimed to explore rebellion in a military milieu but its arguments were too black and white for it to be more than superficially interesting. I paid special attention to Moreland because he defined honor as adopting a stance and seeing it through no matter what the cost. He was a good guy with friends like Cadet Captains Alex Dwyer (Sean Penn) and David Shawn (Tom Cruise), but his actions weren’t always practical. He believed he was doing the right thing by defending their school, which was essentially their home, but he wasn’t always sensitive to the needs of his fellowmen. He knew the concept of sacrifice but he didn’t fully understand how to implement such a concept wisely. He straddled the tricky stage between being a young civilian and a soldier. However, there were a plethora of missed opportunities for the main character’s beliefs to be challenged and ultimately make us think. There were a few awkward scenes when Moreland and Dwyer, roommates, would walk in on each other, give one another fierce looks but never speak. Perhaps their conversations didn’t make it past the cutting room floor. If so, it made me wonder why such head-scratching scenes made it to the final product. A meaningful conversation between two friends was exactly what the film required especially with the events that transpired in the film’s final five minutes. Even mundane conversations would have given their characters dimension. Both teenagers were smart and they respected each other. Having commonalities and eventually highlighting their differences would have provided extra tension aside from the fact that the real military was right outside the gates of the academy. Cruise’ bellicose character was not used efficiently. We were supposed to take him seriously but he was always present whenever the material needed comic relief. There was no evolution in his character so his actions toward the end felt too forced. “Taps” rested on conflict that we could see: the tanks and more experienced soldiers at the gate, the helicopters that hovered above, and the worried parents talking over the loudspeaker. The students’ rebellion was a personal matter, one even acknowledged the strike as their own war, but their inner turmoils weren’t fully explored. Like the military men on the other side of the gate, as audiences, we were kept mostly on the other side.

Lymelife


Lymelife (2008)
★ / ★★★★

“Lymelife” is about teenagers and adults in suburbia and their differing levels of unhappiness. I failed to enjoy this movie because I couldn’t find a connection with any of the characters. All of them were very damaged in some way and the tone was too depressing for its own good. There was not one well-adjusted character that could provide some sort of relief from all the drama and depression that the other characters were going through. Like typical melancholy stories about suburbia, everyone here was interconnected in some way. Alec Baldwin was cheating on his wife (Jill Hennessey) with Cynthia Nixon. Nixon’s husband (Timothy Hutton) was diagnosed with Lyme disease but was not unaware of the cheating that was going on. As for the young adults, Rory Culkin, Hennessy’s son, was in love with Emma Roberts, Nixon’s daughter, but the feeling was one-sided. Things got even more complicated when Kieran Culkin returned home from the army. I thought this movie was lazy when it came trying to figure out who the characters really were in their core. They were often one-dimensional which frustrated me so much because I felt like the actors could have done better with a stronger storytelling and script. I felt like the whole theme about hiding intentions was simply a set-up for the big argument near the end of the film with a lot of cussing and screaming. It really left a bitter taste in my mouth and in the end, I thought maybe all of the characters deserved to suffer because they were so afraid to break free from their own chains. There was one character I almost rooted for, which was Kieran Culkin’s, because even though he was abrasive and had a tortured soul, there was a certain self-restraint in his actions (especially in his key interactions with Baldwin) which suggested that he was not afraid to take control and avoid actions that might not have been worth it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in the picture much. Writer and director Derick Martini should have added some sort of light on the journey toward leaving a dark period in these characters lives. Without that small glimmer of light, I often wonder why I’m watching something, which is almost always not a good thing because it means I’m not buying the situations being presented on screen. Some people might enjoy “Lymelife” if they find some sort of connection with the characters. Unfortunately for me, despite how long I waited, it never happened.