Monday, October 7, 2013

Why Gravity is a $105 Million Dollar Lifetime Film

Don't let go!  But let go. What?

Like many people seeing Gravity for the first time, I loved it. All that space junk flying at you, the beauty of being in outer space, the constant edge-of-your seat action, the amazing camera work, the pithy banter between George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

But then it was impossible to not question all the implausibilities. Especially when I’m watching the film with my astrophysicist brother who happens to work at NASA.

“WTF? They would never send a doctor into space for a spacewalk?The Hubble? This is ridiculous. Minimum two years before she'd ever get out of the craft!”

I had to move to another chair. He was a running commentary.

But given all the praise and great reviews, I had to give this movie a Girl Scouts try. I love the director, and Sandra Bullock, so was kind of expecting Speed in outer space but visually stunning.

Immediately I knew Bullock had a troublesome back-story because she was quiet and intense and never smiled. Even George Clooney’s eyes could not pull her away from some electrical board she was trying to fix.

Then BAM, space chaos garbage comes hurling their way. Everybody is killed and now they need to travel miles away to get to another satellite. I could hear my brother moaning. I moved to the top of the theater.

George Clooney took this all in stride, like dead people were just another speed bump on the cosmic highway.  He was playing the guy from Oceans 11 or 12 or 13. 

Meanwhile, I was trying to work out this horrific back-story. Death of a husband, middle child syndrome, custody battle, post traumatic stress from gang rape. I went all over the place. What the hell happened to Sandra Bullock?

But whatever it was couldn’t have been that bad if she was chosen to go to outer space out of 1000’s of other more highly qualified candidates.  But okay. She must really be Einstein smart.

The script bangs us over the head with her inability to nail a specific training exercise. Landing. Just shoot me now. Smart but not that smart. I mean I parallel parked on the first try. Also she would've never been trained for this specific task anyway, but why quibble?

The movie is so implausible that if winged angels came to their rescue I would not have been surprised.

The dialogue is pretty hokey. All I can actually recall now is, “You can do it Sandy!” though I’m certain that’s not the line.

I was halfway through my tub of popcorn. Give me that damn back-story already.

Finally, en route to the Chinese or Russian or Lebanese shuttle, which would never be within their view anyway, we learn she lost a daughter, her only child, in some school or car accident. Her coping mechanism was, “I just drive.” WHAT?!?!?

“Oh, come on! You must be joking!”  People around me were getting angry.

“What, you’re buying this?”

"Folks you can't be buying this? Just, no." ^ ^ ^ ^ 

Not only do we NOT need this backstory, or any backstory, it’s not plausible just by the way Bullock is acting. There is no worse tragedy than losing a child. To act this is extremely difficult.  I did not see this in her face. Not once. And worse, I felt nothing.  Which means she wasn't conveying this on any level. 

AND the film didn’t need it. Isn’t it enough they have to get back to earth on limited oxygen and no spaceship? This actually made me angry.

“I want my 17 bucks back.”
“Shut up lady!”

I sigh and slumped in my chair. My brother probably left.

No decent ‘by the numbers’ script is complete without the sacrificial moment. Sandra and George are tethered but only one can make it to the Lebanese shuttle. Which also makes no sense since if George was on his A-game, all he would have to do is cling on to Sandra, then climb up to the ship. But we wouldn't get:

“Let me go, Sandy. Save yourself. Let go.”  This moment is also the big existential reveal.

Here, I felt like I was watching a Roger Corman movie.  He disappears into the stars happy as a dog under an elm tree on a hot afternoon.  

“Look at the view of the Ganges. Wow.”  Why not the South of France or Detroit or Yosemite?

Anyway, if she let him go, he would've just floated there, hanging out, not magically be pulled into deep space My brother later told explained how gravity works in space.  He doesn’t live in LA, or see many films.

“How can you work in this town? That is the height of filmmaking?”
“Well, I had nothing to do with it.”
“I always told you there is no logic in Hollywood. Why are you still here?”

Valid question. We have this discussion whenever he visits. He thinks I’m better than Hollywood. He thinks I should have been a pediatrician like Dr.  Helen Taussig. He’s probably right.

Finally we have  Bullock on her own, I thought, yes, now we can do Speed in space, get our girl power on. But then remembered Bullock is super nice in every movie. My hope is deflating.

Banging around rag-doll style, she gets into the shuttle, the first thing she does is strip to her Luluemon skivvies and do a kind of fetus dance. No ventilation suit or diaper for Sandy. Can I just say this woman has an incredible body? I couldn’t stop staring at her as she floated to and fro, all muscle, smooth, perfect skin. Also her hair magically stayed in place.

So the gravity had no effect on the amount of product in her hair. I could use that. I tend to frizz in the mountains.

More obstacles, bigger obstacles, running out of obstacles. Then the do or die moment.

She’s also run out of all possible solutions. She can’t leap frog to the next shuttle that will maybe take her to Earth. So she gives up.  Ah fuck it.  I can’t do it. WHINE WHINE. I’m not Angelina Jolie. She would rock this shit. Melissa McCarthy would make it work. Helen Mirren would land this thing. Me, nah. I need a man.

Then her dues ex machina arrives in the form of… George Clooney, her own personal space ghost with mad skills that will save her life.

Btw, if I am ever in a situation where I might die, I want George Clooney to save my life.

He basically tells her how to drive. DRIVE. It’s now 1950. “You can do it Sandy! Just put your foot on the gas!”

Can you imagine if Jason Statham or Tom Cruise or Denzel Washington or Bruce Willis or pick your male action star played this part? Would they call it a day, give up and kill themselves? I think not. And they certainly would not get a dead female angel instructing them what to do. They would figure it out.

Whatever. She says some odd prayer to her daughter then does what George tells her, finds her way to Earth, fantastically without burning to death in some Chinese clap trap that theoretically would've have taken years... but again, she endures the heat, only to nearly drown even though space capsules come with all sorts of flotation safety systems.

BUT it could happen AND we get to see her strip again thus admiring the body beauty Bullock, now wet.  She must have cross- trained for a year. Seriously. I could not stop looking at her.

Alfonso Cuaron is without question an amazing director. And he made a visual masterpiece.  But break it down and you have a Hallmark movie.

I once had my own do or die moment. Eight thousand feet in the air, icy roads, pitch black, two sleeping girlfriends in the backseat as they appointed me the driver. I also put on the damn chains. Then I spun out. One side was mountain, the other a steep drop off to hell.  I knew enough to go with the spin then I worked the steering wheel until we finally stopped, one foot from the cliffs edge.

Both girls woke up.

"I had to stop.  Check out that view!!” 

They went back to sleep, I straightened out the car and we made it to the top. It never once occurred to me that we might die, go over the edge, or I should just call it a day.

I wanted to love this movie so much because how often do we get to see a female character overcome impossible obstacles on her own and succeed?? Never.

George Clooney fixes everything. He’s dead but tiny detail.

Finally on the ground, wobbly, wet and playing with the sand, she says, “Thank you.” The camera lovingly pans up her entire body to reassure everyone this was no stunt double. I found that strange, even creepy. And the moment of thanks.

Is this to god, George Clooney, her daughter?  Why not thank your own damn self? Despite the celestial help, she managed to blow through space using a fire extinguisher.  

The movie would have been perfect, implausible and all, if they took out the dialogue and gave Bullock the reigns to save her own life. Otherwise, it’s just another Woman in Peril Lifetime movie whose survival depends on a “smarter” man. What a wasted opportunity.

Rhonda Talbot weighing in on the film Gravity.


  1. you are brilliant. perfectly brilliant. had the same experience in the movie theater. xoxoxox amy

  2. OMG!! Fabulous "weigh in" Rhonda!! Reading all the stellar reviews,I was beginning to feel like I was an Alien living in some weird alternative universe where all the intelligent people had been brainwashed by the Hollywood PR machine!!!

  3. Thanks Amy and Robyn. I just couldn't take it anymore! xoxo

  4. A pretty 'together' girl friend of mine commented on the trailer that shown Bullock spinning out into space: "...This is probably what the entire film is about". And it's more than just the witty sarcasm laced quip that struck me as funny; having not seen it yet. As I laughed to the second power at the fact that Trailers generally show only the very few best scenes that equal the entirety of any film. But, this is what happens when corporations place their version of "Creative Executives" in charge of green-lighting productions: emphasis on premise; the seminal. As one very educated fellow Scriptwriter said to me a couple of years back: "movies today base the content of story on witty banter"...for dialogue to carry the film. As a studious, educated Film guy, Former Film Executive, Twenty-year veteran of Script Analysis for a few A-List films and then some turned not-so-bitter, Screenwriter: I can 'officially' tell you that the American cinema has turned so far to mass-consumptive profiteering that they've forgotten the impact of inspirational motion pictures. And I know I just tooted my own horn by placing my credentials, herewith. I did so to say that whether or not my opinions or perspectives are considered authoritative: lots of average citizens see the loss of artistry that went into features. I know it's YOUR moment and a gentleman might just say "great job Rhonda" but, I'd give you a musical quote to suggest that you not only did a fine job by your glib revelations but, "help me Rhonda get...get these shitty films outta my mind". :) Keep on...Keeping on. When box office revenues get depleted and folks stop purchasing tix: you'll have been part of the revolution to create a cease & desist so that these companies stop making rubbish. And I know studios need to play it safe and generate substantial profit--both domestically & overseas--to support more social commentary & quirky films but, the ratio is so very unbalanced. So thank you. And thanks for suffering my rant n' roll. :)

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    1. Thanks Anon. I know and agree with everything you are saying, so few inspirational films, impossible to get funded, too many ppl want to the same outside financing, having working as exec for years in film financing/production it's such a huge business, as you know, when one small film makes noise, it's a step. But I hear you, trust me, ha.

  6. Great Dissection, Rhonda.

    Too, too true.

  7. Thanks, Rhonda. In spite of liking the director's work a lot, I've been hesitating to see this, and you've nailed the things that would drive me nuts about it.