In the Absence of Finals-Panic, The Bounty Hunter

Today is the beginning of finals week. I should be frantically guzzling coffee at my kitchen table with piles of books open, classical music playing softly in the background, in full scale panic-focus mode. But I’m not.

Coffee? check. And that’s about all. I’m currently curled up in my living-room armchair, knitting and watching my latest Netflix arrival, The Bounty Hunter. Truth be told, I’m having a bit of trouble accessing the utter horror at my to-do list that is needed for motivation. In fact, I can’t seem to get it together enough to give a crap. Doesn’t bode well.

Anyway, impending doom notwithstanding–about The Bounty Hunter .

The Bounty Hunter

The critics on Rotten Tomatoes hated it; they gave it an 8% fresh rating. Most of the other critics either ignored it or panned it, and I understand their view. It’s not brilliant or deep or insightful or anything of those things that make “important movies.” Of course, I’ve been bored stiff by more “important movies” than I can count, so I try not to place too much credence in the “official word” on a movie. (42% of the audience on Rotten Tomatoes liked the movie… which is still less than half, but not such an abysmal rating. I wonder if the purpose of a movie critic is to reflect the audience, or to guide the audience. This suddenly is sounding rather political. To presume to guide an audience seems rather elitist, to merely reflect seems rather unimaginative. I dunno.)

Anyone have an opinion? What is the purpose of a movie critic?

Anyway, I liked the movie.

Of course, I’m partial to both of the main actors:  Gerard Butler (P.S. I Love You! 300! The Phantom! Did you know he was in Dracula 2000? Did anybody besides my sister and me even see that movie? multiple times? Even the truly insulting The Ugly Truth didn’t completely ruin him for me. Might have pushed Katherine Heigl over the edge, though. God, that was an awful movie- can we throw one more stereotype at the screen and make it stick? Ugh. Pissed me way the hell off.  But, as is well documented, I digress.) and Jennifer Aniston (mainly because of Friends; I re-watch the entire series at least once a year. Is that sad? I don’t care. Love it. It is total comfort food, and even though I can see the flaws, I still laugh at every joke. I’m rooting for her and her career, even if it’s totally ridiculous that I care.)

The premise of the movie is a little “meet-cute,” but no worse than any other rom-com. He’s a down-on-his-luck, barely-making-ends-meet ex-cop, working as a bounty hunter. She is a fast-walking, high-stress journalist, at the top of her game and good at it. She gets preoccupied with an investigation and misses a minor court hearing, a bench warrant is served, he gets the gig.

Ok, it’s pretty predictable, even if I’ve never seen this done before. Some critics likened it to a subpar Midnight Run, which I’ve not yet seen. (I thought Midnight Run was about a train in Turkey– some sort of smuggled-persons escape flick. No idea what I was thinking of.)

I liked the movie, as I said, for the actors and the cutesy story.

What I thought was interesting about the movie–what I’d write about if I needed an academic paper on a commercial movie– was the outsider-consciousness spaces that it featured– racetracks, casinos, strip clubs, tattoo parlors, bail offices, nightclubs, a jail cell– the gritty underbelly, as it were, of life.

Breakdown:

  • Gender stuff: I think it passes.
    All of the women in the movie are pretty powerful in their own right.
    Aniston’s character is unapologetically successful, and likely makes more than Butler’s character does. (That doesn’t seem terribly important to me, but it’s been a focus of many recent articles –“the END of MASCULINITY! brought about by these durn high-earning women! who have to hide their intelligence/earnings to find LOVE! or what passes for love!” God. This NY Times article deals with that “phenomenon.” Frankly, it made me a little nauseous, though I’m not precisely sure why. I think the author was making an effort to be equitable, to show both sides of the story, but the end result seemed to be ‘remake yourself, or at least the impression you give, to find a husband.’ I’m a bit confused why women are always supposed to be malleable. No, I’m not confused. I’m just pissed. )
    Aniston’s character’s mother, played by Christine Baranski, is a singer in a night club and quite unabashed about speaking of sexual matters. Never gets very bawdy, but one imagines that with a few more cocktails (which she sips continually) she might just get there.
    Even one of the two head honchos in the criminal arena is a woman. 

    Women are in power all over the place. There are no tired conversations about what someone has been able to accomplish in spite of being a woman. Which is good, being a woman (as the ad said) is not a disability.
    The conversation that I’m counting to make the Bechdel test classification: Aniston talks to her mother about a suicide that she’s investigating. (“Which side of a building would you jump off of, the one with trees or the one without?”) It turns to relationships pretty quickly, but there is adequate foundation for Aniston’s character having a life outside of a relationship. In fact, the problem is fitting the relationship into her life. Maybe the Bechdel test is a little outdated.

  • LGBTQ stuff: godawful
    Nothing non-heteronormative. And there is a moment of horror at trans-stuff when a snitch’s mother asks the investigating Aniston if her son is in “sex-change trouble.”
  • Race stuff: unsure
    Butler’s previous police partner, Dorian Missick, is temporarily the front runner for bad-cop. Obviously, it isn’t because of race, race isn’t foregrounded in any way in the movie, but he’s the only black guy (also problematic) in the movie, and he’s thought to be a bad guy… makes ya wonder. I can argue this one either way– is it progressive, at this point in our nation’s history of race relations, when the black guy is the bad guy? Like we are beyond the reaction to typecasting? Maybe? Or is it still problematic? 

    I have trouble wrapping my head around that–given my demographic, I have to rely on other’s info on race-stuff. It helps me to put it in context of gender stuff, which I understand a bit more. If there was a movie with only one female, and she was a ball-busting bitch, or a man-hungry whore, or any of the other stereotypes that serve to diminish a woman, would it be good for women?

    Er, no way.

God. I think this movie might just fail on multiple levels. But I still like the outsider-consciousness stuff. Soundtrack’s not bad either.

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