So. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Anne Hathaway. Improbably hot, irresistible to the opposite sex, obsessed with sex (and not because I don’t get any – trust me on this one), and beyond loathe to get close to anyone, or to let them get close to me.
Wait, one more thing. Oh, that’s it, like her character in the film, I have early onset PD. Not as early as hers but hey, give me a break here. Cards. Meet table. Ace up sleeve? I wish.
Now, I haven’t seen the interviews where she (Anne, not the character) bangs on about ‘the message of the film’, and thank god for that. If I had, I might not have seen what I saw. As it was, I was expecting something very different. Yes, I could write about symptoms and all that, and the slightly clumsy way they show the tremor (though they show the clumsiness better albeit she does deteriorate very, very rapidly in one scene), but anyone who knows anything about the disease will tell you that the progression, and the symptom set, are quite personal.
I also don’t want to do a film review, muse about its inability to decide whether it’s a serious drama, a romcom or a teen flick – I do wonder whether this confusion is a strength rather than a weakness, anyway. I’m going to talk about me. Because that is a subject on which I may not be an expert, but I’m pretty sure I have more experience of than anyone else.
So, I’ll begin at the beginning – when I walked into the cinema.
I wrote this as I sat, waiting for the lights to go down:
- the looks when you, as an individual man, on his own, get on walking into a romcom showing. Note to self: wait until the lights are off next time! It really makes me want to say ‘I’m here for the drugs, not the love’, or maybe, ‘Me and Anne …’
The other thing is, I can’t think of any other example of HW dealing with parky’s. Is this because I’m not a film-goer, or because they don’t?
Now, what am I expecting? A crass, exploitative, romanticised version of shit that hits on diagnosis, and the same when she tells him. Actually, I’m in danger of recreating Freud’s kettle-joke, and pre-freaking.
It’s the desire for secrecy and for revelation simultaneously.
The couple behind me wave their feet on the seat backs – my peripheral vision would be going potty if I were back in the drug-induced confusion of year or so ago. I’m surrounded by couples and gaggles of single girls … most strange.
Isolation – insulation. The single cinematic experience mimics the exp. of having PD. Everyone looks but no-one sees … it’s an odd, not out of but hiding inside body experience.
And, of course, every damn trailer is about lurve – living happily ever after, so once more, alienation. I feel apart from these people … and not just because they’re all in their early 20s … now I wonder about self-definition? Do I find that I define myself in terms of PD as a defence mechanism?
Then the lights go down, the film begins, and the rest of my notes are scrawled in the dark, and so, ironically, look like the scrawl of a reasonably advanced PD sufferer.
So, where to start?
Well, the film does avoid diagnosis, and goes straight into the telling, and quickly establishes the Hathaway character as a slut, albeit one who apparently only fucks one man. They have coffee, she says let’s fuck, pretty much, and in the first of several interesting lines, says that it’s not the sex so much as a way of ‘spending an hour or two to relieve the pain of being me’. Let’s just say I know what she means. Damn, I’m just recounting the plot. Ok. Fuck this. These are the bits I noted down:
Both male and female characters are me.
There is lots of anti big pharma
Sales and seduction are intertwined.
It’s blasé on the story of diagnosis.
An hour or two to relieve the pain of being you … that’s all I want too.
Does self-pity work for you generally?
The tremor is dealt with clumsily – especially the part where she shakes while they fuck and he stills her hand. Oh, so fucking poignant. Not.
It’s not much of a life – she’s a very ill girl
suddenly, it’s about viagra
don’t use the word girlfriend
she has no real symptoms – 3 tremors, some stretching
suddenly she gets very bad indeed – she runs out of meds, blah-de-blah …
pity fuck a sick girl
the parallel PD conference where PD sufferers say witty things, and one man tells the lead male to get a healthy woman. ‘it isn’t a disease, it’s a russian novel’
he turns into a cure-obsessive
he takes her anger
it’s my fucking disease, hands off … (that was me)
Yes, the love story clunks, yes the sub-plot about his brother discovering empty sex is crap is crap, yes the parallel conference is all a bit ‘aren’t we ill people wonderful’, yes her joy at finding other sufferers was nauseating, yes it’s flawed, but get this – at points, I cried. Truly. Not for the fucking characters (get real) but for me.
So shit the bed, as they say (which I more than likely will later in my life. Deep joy).
A friend wrote this to me on hearing I was reviewing the film:
I’m looking forward to reading your review … I saw the actors interviewed .. and was singularly unimpressed by the female – early onset PD sufferer – lead’s comments about the meaning of the story … she almost made PD sound like a fashion accessory for goodness’ sake or certainly something to make her character more interesting (in her opinion)… PLEASE! Haven’t we had all of that kind of stuff 40 years ago in “Love Story”?
In many ways, perfectly on the money, but whoever wrote the damn thing got some stuff spot on.
The disease eats at your sense of self, and your sense of self-worth. This (oh, ok, and the dopamine agonists) leads to behaviour that simultaneously validates the self as it insulates you from having to confront it. And there’s nothing like frantic sexual activity to fulfil both criteria. Sex makes me feel that I can, while taking me apart from me. Being inside another body makes me forget mine, and its insufficiencies, inabilities, inadequacies. At some point, PD will probably render me impotent. That will suck.
When it comes to relationships, I have done everything I could to avoid getting attached, refused to call anyone my girlfriend, or let them call me their boyfriend, and sure as hell haven’t told anyone I love them (at least, when there was any chance of it leading to anything – one big category error). Why the fuck would anyone want me, potentially a gurning, incontinent idiot, and maybe in ten years. Children? Fuck off.
Yes, I’m ranting. I’m furious. Furious that while some of these points were dealt with quite beautifully, they were wrapped in the crap of some teen movie about handsome rake fucking everything that moves and trying to get his geek brother laid, while simultaneously falling in love with a fragile, broken woman, and thus healing her soul. Why so furious? Well, it’s so ridiculous that they should sum up my life so well – PD has led me to live in a way that’s part farce, part black comedy, and yes, part Russian novel.
But there will be no happy ending. I am not getting better. I am getting worse, and will continue to do so.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
And to cap it all, I said I write a piece on this film for a magazine’s blog site. How the fuck am I going to do that?
Wine. Bring me wine.
truncated version: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2011/01/what-love-and-other-drugs-gets-right-parkinsons/