"I don't know what I think until I write it down."
- Joan Didion
Saturday, April 19, 2008
"A Walk in the Clouds" : Crush the grapes, already.
Previews. Did you know "Loch Ness" was the most magical movie of 1996? Neither did I. Next previews: "Dunstan Checks In." I will buy you dinner if you have seen that movie.
Credits. What are we in for? Grapes. "Ethnic" music. Grapes. Debra Messing? Grapes. This soundtrack sucks. Grapes. That one guy in "Hannibal" who's guts splattered all over the place. Ew. Grapes. And of course, Keanu Reeves. And grapes.
Shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Crap, not again. Didn't I do this last time? Stock footage in black and white. This means it happened a long time ago. We're talking WWII, which in Keanu Reeves time is about Eleventy-Billion years ago. (™ SNL. I miss Celebrity Jeopardy.) An anchor drops to the strains of the Not Star Wars soundtrack. And then suddenly it's all in color. Whee! All the soldiers get off the boat—because The War is over—and are happy to see their wives and girlfriends. We're treated to an aerial shot of all the women and their umbrellas, most of which are black, except for one covered with vibrant polka dots. It's distracting and doesn't even belong to an actual character, just a nameless extra. Shut up, prop department.
Anyway, it's evident that no one has come to meet poor, drenched Keanu Reeves. Everyone else goes home and we see an aerial view—yeah, knock that off already—of Keanu standing alone in the middle of a painted map of the United States. Finally he goes to his apartment where Debra Messing is walking around in her underwear practicing diction. We find out that Keanu wrote every week and Debra never even opened the letters because it depressed her. She figured that if she was still getting them that meant he was alive. Whatever. I'm saving my actual hate for later. With all that Flap Like a Butterfly Jazz. I guess this movie was made before she was funny. Not that they're giving her much to work with. I, personally, think that having sex relations with Keanu Reeves might be funny but what do I know? We find out that his job is going door to door selling chocolates. That sucks. She wants him to get right back on that but he wants something better in life. Whatever. They mack. Another shot of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The next morning he gets up early to go sell chocolates. He gets on a bus where he meets one of my favorite token characters ever, Ethnic Girl ™. She speaks in embarrassingly broken English! She bats her ridiculous eyelashes! She vomits all over Keanu Reeves! Ethnic Girl™ rocks.
Okay…I skipped ahead…I was just really excited about the vomiting part…first, Ethnic Girl ™ is having trouble fitting her suitcase in the overhead compartment. First Keanu "helps" her and then the bus lurches so that K-Man can fall over and land precariously on top of her. Then she barfs on him, and I totally forgive her for that stupid "helpless female" act. He goes into the bathroom and tries to clean himself off. Doesn't work. Heh. He goes back to his seat and gazes at the sleeping face of the suddenly fifty-year-old Ethnic Girl ™.
Woo! Time for a flashback! We see fuzzy, black and white memories of The War. Weird music box instrumentals. Simone pauses to explain to me that this is to inform us that Keanu is a Tormented Soul. It takes a while to sink in, what with the subtlety of the whole sequence.
He wakes up from his poorly edited montage and sees that Ethnic Girl ™ is gone. Happy Ethnic Music ™ plays. He gets off the train and runs like a girl. Specifically, me. He Girl-Runs to a bus, where the bus driver is the same bus driver that you see in every single movie where a bus driver appears for several moments and is never seen or heard from again. Actually, I looked her up on the Internet Movie Database. For kicks that I'm certainly not getting from the movie. Her name is Mary Pat Gleason, and career highlights include the Party Mother in "Easy Money," the Woman at Bar in "Pastime," and Francesca DePesto in "Cliché" all of which sound awesome to me, the role of Francesca DePesto being perhaps the Most Awesome of all. Anyway, I'm totally starting a Mary Pat Gleason fan club now. Any joiners?
Right. The movie. So Ethnic Girl ™ is on the bus. Keanu makes a great show of not sitting in the empty seat next to her. Instead he sits across the aisle. Not that I'd sit down next to someone who'd recently barfed on me—unless we were friends or something, in which case you let it slide and hope that it doesn't happen again—but then he proceeds to start chatting with her. She's been to The University. *Jazz Hands.* Just so we know what a smarty she is, she holds up the volume of Shakespeare she's reading.
I zone out until Simone wakes me up to point out that the two of them are "from different worlds." Sharp as a razor, she is. Some Bad Guys try to mess with Victoria—for that is her name—and Keanu tries to Open Up a Can but it doesn't really work. They all get thrown off the bus—Keanu and the Bad Guys, that is—and Victoria gazes wistfully from the back of the bus. What? Why? Then Keanu is walking in the woods for no reason and Victoria is just there. .They haven't been "properly introduced" and the thing about barfing on other people is that if you don't know them sort of well before this happens, chances are they're going to keep their distance. But what do I know? I don't know why I wrote "Forest Fire" in my notes. Wishful thinking? But all that happens is that we get the sob story about the evil professor who got Victoria knocked up. And to keep the party going, Keanu is going to lecture us about life. You know. Because He was in The War.
Just as I'm starting to get seriously worried about the lack of a Dominating Father Figure in this movie, Victoria starts crying about what her father is going to do when she shows up at home, unmarried and pregnant. I'm guessing it's no different then what most parents would do if this happened to their daughters, which is get upset and wonder what they did wrong. I mean, mine would probably be like "Heh, who knew?" but only because I'm an enigma.
They hatch a Brilliant Plan which is for Keanu to go home with Victoria, pretend to be her husband, and then leave. Wait a minute, that's not a Brilliant Plan. That's a Stupid and Pointless Plan. But again, what do I know? I don't know why she feels the need to walk backwards. Up a hill. In heels. Oh, right, because staring at Keanu Reeves is more important than trying to make sure you don't trip and possibly injure your unborn child. Well, it could happen. It could happen "Crossroads" style. And I could laugh.
What next? Well, I wrote "Napa. Clouds. Blech. Chocolate Rings. I'd like some chocolate right now. Don't shoot. He didn't..."
"He" in this case is the Dominating Father Figure and the chocolate rings are these pieces of foil that Keanu took off the chocolate and tried to pass off as real rings. I'm going to point out how lame that is, not because I need to but because I can't help it. Anything would be better than that. Saying you couldn't afford them. Or even that you lost them. Foil rings from chocolate? And also, how angry am I that we saw a loaded gun but it didn't go off?
D.F.F. is angry even though Victoria appears to have a husband. An Understanding Grandfather lurks in the background. Understandingly. I think he dies, but I'm not sure. And how much does it say about this movie that I've seen it twice and I can't remember what happens, except of course for the Butterflies.
Oh, those kooky, ethnic stereotypes. Aren't they so quaint? Not sure what prompted me to write that but I bet it was classic. Like, they were having an impromptu fiesta in the kitchen or something. Complete with a piñata. I made a piñata once. Well, me and my third grade class. It was this giant red, white and green egg, for Cinco de Mayo. Everyone's mom was a cheapskate so there was nothing inside but dum-dum pops, but at least we missed two consecutive days of P.E. because first we had to paper mache and then we had to put the colored tissue paper on the outside. It's a fond memory.
People look around a lot at this movie. Almost like they're looking for an exit. Anyway, everyone goes in the house and it turns into a real fiesta when they figure out that Keanu sells chocolates for a living. Understanding Grandfather is especially stoked. He yells "Rock On," only in Ethnic. I think he might be stoned.
A bunch of women stand around in the kitchen, imitating Natalie Wood's "Maria" accent and talking about wisdom—wisdom in this case being "The heart wants what the heart wants." Well, that clarifies a lot. They have a big, fancy dinner, served by a plethora of servants. They seem quite well off. Oh, isn't Keanu cute being confused by the many utensils.
I've been saving it for something special, but I think how is the time to assign my award for "Scene with the Least Continuity." Here we go. First, D.F.F. hates white people. Then he randomly asks them how they met and we're naturally treated to "humorous confusion." Then Stoner Gramps pours a lot of salt on his food. Then Victoria learned from college that Illinois is maybe sort of in the middle of the country. D.F.F. has a problem with Keanu not knowing his lineage. "No past…" he grouses. "No present…" Feel free to yell the last part. Simone and I and several random people watching with us did. "No future!"
Random shots of the kitchen staff. And, a sob story from Keanu. "When I was a kid I used to climb up to the roof of the orphanage and wish on ever star I could see." Victoria turns in slow motion so that her hair does that swishy thing. It's all very Dickensian.
Shot of a sunset over Napa. How do I feel about that? Let's consult my notes. "Nice soundstage." Someone says something about Victoria's dowry and Keanu perks right up. Ew, not like that! At least not yet.
Gratuitous shot of a bed. Ethnic Mom ™ is hanging out, explaining to the Happy Couple that they need a nice big bed with "Room to maneuver." Gross, Ethnic Mom ™! Next, my notes say "She points out symbolic slash of picture," and you know it's bad when I stop making sure I'll be able to remember what I was talking about later on. In the Parental Bedroom of Quaint Ethninticity, the Ethnic Mom ™ tells D.F.F. "She was not stolen any more than you stole me." And I think it should be either "He did not steal her any more than you stole me," or "She was not stolen any more than I was," but at this point I don't care. About anything. Not even the Butterflies, though they're certainly coming. Ethnic Mom ™ says "If we have no confidence in her, how can we have confidence in ourselves?" I'm too tired to go into it, but shut up, Ethnic Mom ™.
More incoherent notes. Here is what I wrote to say that Victoria sleeps in the bed and Keanu sleeps on the floor. "They blah blah blah we're not married blah blah she's upset blah blah she's full clothed. Can and would." And yes I actually wrote the blah blah's into my notes.
D.F.F. comes in and Keanu jumps in the bed really fast. D.F.F. doesn't come in for any reason. He's just there. Gross. He sees that some of the covers are sort of sliding off the bed onto the floor and somehow immediately deduces that something is up. And by "something is up" he means "My daughter's supposed husband was sleeping on the floor," rather than the more logical, "I guess that when I entered unannounced, I interrupted some 'maneuvering.' I need to leave now."
Keanu sleeps in the bed the rest of the night, "just in case." I understand that he means just in case Pop comes back in for any more surprised visit, but, like, if your father keeps coming in to make sure your husband is sleeping in your bed—I don't even know. This family is weird. They non-kiss. Another shot of the awesome soundstage. And another poorly edited montage flashback from Keanu. This time a teddy bear starts bleeding and Keanu screams "Victoria." Seriously, what?
Oh, no! "Frost!" Victoria sounds really upset. It's like if your plants got the plague except that it's not really very much like that because one has to do with temperature and the other is an infection and I'm really just procrastinating because now that I've arrived that the Butterfly scene, I don't really have the words to do it justice. Or the energy. We'll just turn back to my notes.
"Put on wings. Stand in orchard. She says 'Flap like a butterfly.' Says it a lot. Shut up. Reeves in wife-beater. Sad. Close up of breasts. Says "up and down." Says it a lot. Lush Eth. music. People being butterflies. And. More wife-beater. Still sad. How is this helping the grapes? She's all up on him. Breast close up. Porn. Breast close up. Stop that. Pa? Movie is a sex pervert."
The next morning, they say goodbye. Fake tears all around. Well, not really all around since it's just the two of them but whatever. He ends up getting apprehended by Stoner Gramps, who says "Nada," to prove that the scriptwriter knows Spanish. Stoner Gramps notices that the ring in Keanu's box of chocolates—dude, I really wish I were watching "Forrest Gump" right now. I know that by several definitions that movie very much has a place on the website, but…no. Just, no. You tell me you don't get misty when Forrest hugs Jenny at the Washington Monument. Oh, what? Fine. Back in the sucky movie that I paid about six American dollars to rent because the exchange rate in England is Satan, Stoner Gramps notices that the chocolate rings and his granddaughter's supposed wedding ring are pretty much the same. He doesn't really do anything about it. That would not fly in my family. Not that I'd…even…I don't know where to start. But if I got knocked up and brought Keanu Reeves home with a chocolate wedding ring and tried that "tossing hair in slow motion" crap—well—I'm just saying there would be trouble. Stoner Gramps is way too into the chocolate and also, it appears to be the same box as before. Every time he opens it, it's full again. The Continuity Fairy? AWOL.
Then D.F.F. comes out and is all "I knew you were going to try this," so Keanu stays just to prove him wrong. Except that he's going to prove him right later on anyway, so what's the point—forget I asked. I know there's no point. It's just more wishful thinking. All the ethnic people in this movie are named Pedro. All of them. Even some of the girls. And, I know there are exceptions but as Simone succinctly put it, "Did the scriptwriters seriously think 'California. They have Mexican people there. Some of them must be rich. Even if we're setting this in the forties.' "
At "The Festival"—because all those wealthy Mexican families who lived in Northern California after World War II did nothing but party—we meet some more people named Pedro and D.F.F. develops a sense of humor. Actually he's kind of been funny this whole time but I don't like giving too much credit in a situation like this. One of his sons, Pedro 9.0 or something, pulls up in a hot rod and declares with a decidedly American accent that his name is now "Pete." D.F.F. is all "I don't pay for the college education of Pete. I pay for Pedro." It's funnier then it sounds, because he totally gets told. D.F.F. and I can maybe be drinking buddies sometime.
D.F.F. and Lov-ah get into a race, trying to pick the most grapes and drop the fewest of them. Woah. They're breaking it down Matrix-style over those grapes. Keanu ends up letting him win. No one cares. D.F.F. thinks Keanu is going to get blood on the grapes, which is random and sort of gross. Stoner Gramps says to Keanu, "I have faith in you but your fly is open.".
Happy Grape Crushing Music. I bet on the soundtrack it's called "Fiesta de Los Grapes" or something. Let's go check! It's actually called "Crush the Grapes." How original. I want to buy the soundtrack to see if it's just instrumental or if it actually has the people yelling "Crush the grapes! Crush the grapes!" about fifty million times. Now, isn't it just killing you to know what's happening onscreen? I bet you'd never have figured that we're in for some grape-crushing action. Naughty grape-crushing action. How better to describe it then just go back to my notes, a happy place where complete sentences are for the birds.
"Soy…crush the grCONCH SHELL! Family ritual CLAPPING! Lots of thigh. Slo-mo. Porn. Yay grapes. Is sort of like Wild Water Adventures for them." (I actually did note that their level of excitement was equal to if not greater than mine at the event of our family excursions to the local water park when I was young. And okay, nowadays as well. Back to the notes.) "More thigh. Porn. Dirty nasty porn. Skirts, way up there. Woah. Slo-mo hair toss! Not sanitary! His feet are gross. Ew. Hate this."
So, basically, they start macking while a cast of thousands yells "Crush the grapes! Crush the grapes!" and then they run into the bedroom, where, flinging grape juice left and right, they collapse passionately onto the WHITE SHEETS! Everyone in the lounge screams in horror. Then he pulls away. I must have found the following speech enthralling in some way, because I wrote it down:
"I want you more than anything, Victoria. You can't imagine how I want you." (I'd rather not.) "But I'm not free, and I won't hurt you that way." Okay, fine, whatever, just hurry and get off the bed with your nasty grape-ness. Victoria is really mad that he won't have sex with her. Time passes, but obviously not very much because when the stupid montage comes to an end, it's only later that night.
We see D.F.F. and "Pete" arguing about change. And…yeah. Keanu tries to butt in and D.F.F. says to stay out of it, because "something is wrong." Um, we know. D.F.F starts yelling about Victoria and how that's none of Keanu's business either, and he's all "She is my business!" Not quite, but moving right along to the part of my notes that say "Granny rocks. Sharp pain." Your guess is as good as mine. D.F.F. is all "What the hell are you talking about?" and viewers all over the globe scream "Word!" "Can't you see she's alive?" sobs Keanu.
Keanu runs through the orchard for no reason at all and Stoner Gramps, who's managed to get drunk as well, stops him by saying "Talking between men and woman never resolves anything." He takes Keanu back to the house where they chug wine.
Later that night, Keanu is still drinking. And singing. Is he going to do that in every single movie? And forget "Loch Ness," I think this was the most magical movie of 1996. Someone has the bright idea of placing the intoxicated Keanu outside the bedroom window of Victoria and having him sing until she turns her light on. First of all, this is stupid. Second of all, nothing says "I deserve forgiveness" like getting drunk and singing quite loudly and poorly indeed. Unless it's Jimmy Fallon. Then it's okay.
D.F.F. is really happy, telling his wife "He seems to love her." He just doesn't seem to be marriedto her. The Drunken Serenade isn't working so well, so Keanu turns and runs through the orchard. Victoria turns her light on. Keanu is still running. Cut to The Festival, the next day, where Keanu is very much present. What? I thought he ran away. D.F.F surprises the "happy couple" by telling them he's arranged for a real marriage ceremony later that night. Victoria is cool, telling Keanu that she'll handle it. They kiss and he gives her his war medal to give to the baby. Huh?
"SOUNDSTAGE!!!" Who cares if my notes don't make sense? I like them. Anyway, Keanu hitches a ride with a truck driver who asks what he's been doing out there. "Walking in the clouds," simpers Keanu. M'kay. For anyone who's curious, the Truck Driver is played by Ivory Ocean, which is…not a good name. No matter how you look at it. Other roles include Brainard in "Over my Dead Body" and Reverend Hamson in "Leprechaun in the Hood," though "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" fans may remember him as Robert E. I, for one, do not. I just remember I thought Joe Lando was something else. Also, one time I watched it at my best friend's house with her family and there was a sex scene interspersed with shots of people planting a tree. No joke. There are pictures of Joe Lando on www.imdb.com, though he doesn't have the Sully hotness going on anymore. Now he looks kind of like Peter Jennings. It was all about the hair. He was totally the Fabio of family viewing.
Erm…anyway. Back at the vineyard, Victoria looks wistful and D.F.F. just looks. At things. Gratuitous shot of a vineyard. Hey, you know what I'm in the mood for right now? A flashback. It's been a while since we had one of those really subtle flashbacks. I could so go for a flashback right now. If only there was some way—yes! Awesome! The people who made this movie are inside my head! They know what I want and they're delivering! Flashback, coming right up!
This time we see Victoria with a random kid. Wait, that's not a flashback. Unless she, too was in The War. Whatever. Another shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. See, he's realized that he left something in San Francisco. His wife. Except not, because he walks into the apartment and Debra—hi, Debra—is banging away happily with some random guy. They pause for all of ten seconds, long enough for Keanu to squeal "You want a divorce? Fine! Sure! Okay!" before scribbling his name on a sheet of paper and running back out the door. Debra and the random guy yell "Are you alright?" after him before returning to their regularly scheduled programming.
Keanu hitchhikes back to the vineyard as the Happy Ethnic Music ™ plays and we see a montage of time passing—I'm getting really tired of seeing these montages where you think it's a month or something and then it turns out to be a few hours later—and D.F.F. apprehends him in the forest with a gun. Finally. He yells at Keanu for a while before Keanu starts spouting off some crap about how "She's like the air to me!"
Anyway, Keanu yells really loudly until everyone else wakes up and comes outside. D.F.F. accidentally kicks over a lantern and the entire vineyard is in flames in a matter of minutes. That sucks. Pedro 9.0 ("Pete") catches on fire and Keanu jumps through a wall of flames—shirtless—to save him. I don't know. I guess they stand there all night watching, because suddenly it's the next morning and Lov-ah heads off purposefully into the distance to go take care of some business. Oh, I forgot to mention earlier when Stoner Gramps showed Lov-ah the first vine that they ever planted or something. It was dumb. Point is, Keanu comes back with a branch of said vine and they examine it and decide it's not completely dead and get really excited. I guess it makes up for the fact that the rest of the vineyard is gone or something? Whatever. He and D.F.F. are ally buddy-buddy, and everyone cheers when Keanu slaps that tacky foil ring back on Victoria's finger and makes out with her for several minutes. Stoner Gramps is still—well, stoned, and the soot on Keanu's face looks like a soul patch. The shot of the charred soundstage fades into a shot of a lush, green soundstage, and the movie finally comes to an end.