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Archive for March, 2015

Sucker Punch (USA/Canada, 2011)

My rating: +1 (Enjoyed it)
Bechdel Test:
3 out of 3passes easily (interestingly enough, if you did a “reverse” Bechdel test, as in two male characters talk about something other than women, I’m not sure it would pass!)
Director
: Zack Snyder
Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino
Plot: There are three realities stacked on top of each other in this movie. A girl is put into a mental institution by her abusive step father (reality no. 1). She imagines the hospital is in fact a brothel (reality no. 2). When she dances for men in the brothel she is mentally transported to a completely different place where girls fight with monsters and totally kick ass (reality no. 3).

But the deleted dance scene is way cooler than the trailer.

About the film

My Oscar Isaac phase has introduced me to this really bizarre film, which (perhaps unsurprisingly considering how weird the plot is) has people completely baffled and writing lengthy texts about what it all means. People don’t seem to be able to agree on things as basic as:

  • Who the protagonist is. It would seem it’s Babydoll (Emily Browning), but the ending kind of flips it so that it’s suddenly implied that actually we were watching Sweat Pea’s (Abbie Cornish) story all along.
  • Whether the film is very feminist or very sexist. One camp says this is a film about how women are used and how they fight back, the other camp says it’s pure fetishism and uses women’s bodies to titillate in a way far worse than a regular Hollywood movie.
  • What actually happens at the end or even generally what happens
  • Whether the film is a masterpiece or a total piece of crap

For me it was a collection of interesting ideas and a few very strong scenes that didn’t make a particularly great whole.
I think my main issue with it is that I found all the fight sequences much too long and rather boring. They unfortunately take up quite a lot of the movie. The mental institution and brothel plots on the other hand were fascinating to me, though indeed both those plots were very fetishistic.

All the female characters had a lot of skin show in this (though no nudity) and there’s quite a bit of violence (both sexual and otherwise) against women in the film. But then this is also a film about women fighting back against oppression and how can you make a film about that without showing the oppression?
Men are very much on the sidelines in this film. So much so that this is the first film I’ve watched in a long while that wouldn’t pass a “reversed Bechdel test” I think. There are hardly any conversations between men in the film. The only ones I remember are Babydoll’s stepfather bribing Blue (the man running the mental hospital) to make sure Babydoll doesn’t tell anybody about the abuse she suffered. That and men during the fighting sequences exchanging some words about fighting the girls. Both of those conversations are about women.
And as much as it’s the girls getting all the skin show (which is the main reason some feel this film is sexist), it’s worth noting the men are also put in some rather fetishistic clothing. Blue (Oscar Isaac) appears for the whole film with make up almost as heavy as the girls – lots of eyeliner and even some very visible blush in there.

Sucker Punch has some pretty well-developed female characters and mostly undeveloped male ones. I didn’t care that much for Babydoll (Emily Browning) to be honest, but Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) really grew on me. There’s something about Abbie Cornish that really moves me every time I see her – a kind of beautiful vulnerability. I really love watching her. She’s awesome in the ending sequence (which I must not spoil).
The relationship between Sweet Pea and Rocket (Jena Malone) is also really nicely fleshed out. But my favourite female character is Dr Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) – the main psychiatrist and burdelmama. That’s just a really bizarre combination, but it works! And Carla Gugino is really fun to watch in that.
I obviously enjoyed Oscar Isaac in this a lot – to me it was an opportunity to see him in some very fetishistic attire with lots of over the top dominating behaviour. He gets some pretty emotionally twisted scenes, which he’s really good that, so that’s another win as far as I’m concerned.

Probably the most fascinating part of the film is the ending sequence. It’s hard to write about properly because it’s obviously a spoiler, but I shall try! The ending is the part of the film that gets the most discussion and lots of elaborate interpretations. It also happens to have been heavily cut. The uncut version is floating about on youtube and I totally get why Hollywood couldn’t handle it in uncut form – it’s perverse :] And the perversity of it is nothing to do with sexual acts – it’s the whole idea of it, the idea that that is the only way Babydoll can attain her freedom. Even with the cut that was made, it’s still a very uncomfortable sequence.
In fact, at one point in the sequence I gasped out aloud. I was surprised it hit me so hard – it’s the bit when Blue leans over to kiss a certain other character and it was just so, so disturbing… I think previously my personal winner for most disturbing kissing scene would be Closet Land (1991), but Sucker Punch is now my new winner in this prestigious category.
That said, the ending sequence isn’t just uncomfortable and disturbing, there’s also a really, really beautiful bit to it too. Both the message and the visual beauty of it is stunning and it’s going to stay with me just as long as what precedes it.

Overall, this is definitely not a film for everyone, but if something weird like that sounds interesting to you, maybe it’s a good film for you? Personally, I’m really curious what the whole uncut version of the film is like – it’s been released on bluray I think, so I may just buy it when I finally get a bluray player.

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