In downer morning, part 1 I praised Before I Disappear. How went downer morning, part 2? Eh, not as well.
In case you missed the earlier piece, the second film I saw today (Tuesday) was The Wilderness of James, a character drama which focuses on a teen boy whose father has died. To preface what I’m about to say, I empathize with the traumatic nature of an event like this, and I mean in no way to minimize that. Clear? Good. Then without further ado:
Manic pixies here and there, manic pixies everywhere.
If you’re not familiar with the term “manic pixie dream girl,” it’s a term coined by Nathan Rabin to describe a certain type of female character that seems to reappear in the movies with some shocking regularity. The manic pixie dream girl is “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures,” There are at least three such characters in The Wilderness of James (though not all of them female; the type extends well enough to the male gender as well).
I think it was that realization more than anything else that kept me from enjoying the movie, but it’s also the way it was implemented. To “embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures” in The Wilderness of James primarily means to try alcohol and cigarettes. Which isn’t to minimize the way the movie drinks the magic pixie cool-aid. Probably the foremost of the pixies lives in the office room of a warehouse that just ought to be called pixie land for all the supposed world-opening that takes place there. Just like it’s possible to have characters who are both wise and ethnically black without being reducible to a “magical negro,” there can be characters who inhabit many of the pixie’s characteristics without becoming a pixie but this film didn’t have any of them.
A review of The Wilderness of James replete with both pixies and no-pixie bothers (plus several good things; the lead actor, for example, is given at least one opportunity to prove his quality, and passes the test with flying colors) should be incoming sometime either later this week or early next, so be sure to check back for that. As of this posting, James is still looking for distribution, but I’m looking forward to discussing this film further, because I know there were a number of audience members who really, really liked it.