Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hancock: Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

The plot of Hancock is like an M. Night Shyamalan movie where the twist is... the woman was an actual character all along.

In fact, Mary is the most interesting character in the movie. She has three distinct masks, told non-linearly:

  • Cliche of nagging housewife who resents the intruder because he represents a threat to her family. She stands for society's judgment of Hancock, and grows warmer towards him as the rest of society grows warmer towards him. (And at the tail end of that arc there's adulterous subtext that's becoming text.) This is the first hour of the film and Charlize Theron is 100% convincing in this fairly insulting role. The funniest part of this is when she turns on Nancy Grace to be a stand in of her nagging for her (I really appreciate how Nancy Grace is willing to play "social villain" in any big budget movie, like Batman vs Superman.)
  • Parallel to Hancock, who replaces "black man as superhero" with "what if Superman were a woman?" She takes all the degradation that Hancock shows on the outside, and demonstrates that she has had to repress it within herself in order to fit into society. But the anger is still there, and it comes out violent and irrationally. This is only about 30 minutes but is the best illustrated social commentary in the movie, and in superhero movies in this century.
    Image result for charlize theron hancock
  • Former lover with a very complex attachment to Hancock. You see this in her speech in the hospital -- and rewatching the first 45 minutes of the movie, where all that skepticism was not "general social dislike of Hancock" but her specific fear of her history with him. Just watch her face the first time she shows up in his drive way with Ray - it could be read as shock at seeing a superhuman in person, or at seeing her ex come back to life and hoping he doesn't remember her. Similarly all her lecturing in the spaghetti dinner scene reads as someone who is upset that her friend she cares about is hurting himself, and wants to fix him. "I know men like him Ray, they break things... you can't fix them." Sorry, my dramatic-irony-meter just exploded.
She's also the only one who calls attention to his possible frailties (Aaron wrestling his hand, the bruise.) She is protective of him in the way you can be when you're the only person who knows someone is vulnerable.

(I keep wondering if this movie should be "spoiled" but the problem is not that you need to know "the twist" but that you need Mary's entire speech at the end to make sense of the character she is playing early on. Maybe the movie should be cut like some avant garde piece of fantasy, with the hospital scene first, then flashing back to Hancock meets Ray. But instead, the text is linear and we must put in the effort to read it non-linearly.)

Charlize Theron hits all three of these masks out of the park, and between this, Prometheus, and Mad Max she is definitely the most exciting actor or actress in Hollywood.

Oh right, did I mention the fancy restaurant dinner scene, where Hancock wonders "What kind of bastard must I have been that nobody was there to claim me?" and we get a close up of a single tear on Mary's face? Disguised as solely compassion but really because she can't get over how she abandoned him. Holy shit this movie is good. There's no bludgeoning of these feelings, just nuance and pain.


So clearly I could fanboy over Mask Three for several more paragraphs[1][2]. But the more important one is Mask Two. So that will get a whole post tomorrow.

[1] Such as in that hospital scene, the intimacy of someone telling you what your scars mean. What a great moment. And speaking of scars, did you notice in the very first scene of Hancock all the scars on his legs? They look like generic lower class imagery - scarred, mottled skin - but did you stop to ask how the impervious man got so many scars? If the first issue of Superman showed a scar across his face, we'd be wondering "oh, there must be a story behind that."

[2] Really this would be such a great RPG member, to relate to another member in the party who had amnesia.

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