Thursday, 2 July 2015

Yes Man


After a sweltering day yesterday an evening slump seemed to be in order. We decided to watch Yes Man, a 2008 film starring Jim Carrey as Carl and Zooey Deschanel as Allison. As usual it was a slapstick romance built around Carrey’s particular talents.

Bank loan officer Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) has become withdrawn since his divorce from ex-wife Stephanie. Routinely ignoring his friends Pete (Bradley Cooper) and Rooney (Danny Masterson), he has an increasingly negative outlook on his life... old colleague suggests that he goes to a motivational "Yes!" seminar with him, which encourages its attendants to seize the opportunity to say "Yes!". Carl decides to attend the seminar and meets inspirational guru Terrence Bundley (Terence Stamp), who publicly browbeats him into making a covenant with himself. Carl reluctantly promises to stop being a "No Man" and vows to answer "Yes!" to every opportunity, request, or invitation that presents itself thereafter.

The film leaves one, or at least it left me with a reminder of how narrow film characters can be, especially modern female characters such as Allison, Carrey’s love interest. In our politically correct culture there is little latitude for female leads apart from a kind of feisty priggishness, predictable, uninteresting and uninspiring. Allison wasn't even priggish - just feisty and pretty as if that was enough.

After the seminar, saying yes to a homeless man's request only leaves Carl stranded in Elysian Park. Disillusioned, he hikes to a gas station where he meets Allison (Zooey Deschanel), an unorthodox young woman. She gives him a ride back to his car on her scooter and kisses him before leaving. After this positive experience, Carl feels more optimistic about saying yes

We watch few films so I've no notion of Ms Deschanel's acting talents partly because I'd never heard of her before and partly because acting talent wasn't required. As far as I could see the part could have been played quite satisfactorily by any one of thousands of actresses able to handle feisty and pretty at the same time and without sniggering. 

Admittedly Allison had some bolt-on eccentricities such as riding a scooter very fast, but for me they felt artificial. Instead she could have ridden around in a horse-drawn chaise or an antique steam car, although I suppose that could have made her more genuinely eccentric and undermined the Star.

Without any coherent moral dimension to a character, apart from the endless negatives of political correctness, fictional characters can be strangely uninteresting however many eccentricities they are given. There is nothing substantial enough to hold a persona together, nothing to suggest why one feature is more in tune with the character than another. Feisty isn’t enough.

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