[T]hese days what is perhaps most striking about Nick and Nora is not their easy blend of comedy and drama or their balanced sexual dynamic, but rather their carefree booziness. In modern American movies, the consumption of alcohol is limited largely to fraternity pledges, lost souls, and the occasional Billy Bob Thornton character. The idea that discerning, well-adjusted adults would on occasion choose to have a few drinks in the company of like-minded friends is almost heretical unless it is accompanied by suitably catastrophic consequences — a fist-fight, adulterous affair, or car accident.LINK
Some would argue, no doubt, that any onscreen hint that drinking can be fun must be avoided for the sake of the children — though how this problem is solved by limiting portrayals of the activity to plastered high-schoolers and collegians is not quite clear. Sadly, I suspect Hollywood's dim view of sociable drinking has just as much to do with its dim view of sociability. The activity that accompanies alcohol consumption most frequently, after all, is not wife-swapping or vehicular homicide but rather conversation, and conversation of a particular kind: banter, chitchat, idle musing, or witty repartee. With relatively few exceptions, American movies today have little use for talk that has no purpose beyond itself, that doesn't move the plot forward or reveal some hidden character trait but rather consists merely of two or more people taking pleasure in one another's company and inviting us to do the same, as the Charleses do with such genial ease. G. K. Chesterton once wrote that "Americans do not need drink to inspire them to do anything, though they do sometimes, I think, need a little for the deeper and more delicate purpose of teaching them how to do nothing." Were he alive today, I suspect he would find this observation more true than ever.
Friday, August 12, 2005
G.K. & Brews in the News
Christopher Orr wrote August 9th at the New Republic Online about the Thin Man movies of the 1930s and 1940s. The six mystery films starred William Powell and Myrna Loy as the detectives Nick and Nora Charles. Orr has some insightful comments about Hollywood, social life, and drinking:
Posted by Joe at 3:35 PM