Saturday, February 25, 2012

GOATS and TEDDY BEAR ~ 2 Reviews by Elizabeth Pickens


Director: Christopher Neil Screenwriter:Mark Jude Poirier

GOATS tells a story of a 15 year old boy named Ellis, who lives with his self-absorbed New Age mother and has an estranged father. Without much guidance he turns to an unconventional guardian, a goat-trekker who smokes too much marijuana and disobeys the law, named Goat Man. Ellis lives an easy life, yet it comes to us pretty quickly that he is much smarter and more independent than the adults in his life. Which is why his decision to get away from his home and travel to the East Coast to attend an all boys Prep School is important. It is Ellis’s chance to find change and himself while also seeking what he wants most, which is love and a genuine caring family. Though often stoned, the comedic nature of the film turns to serious whenever Ellis learns more about his new friendships and his father and his new wife. He observes that the lack of responsibility in adults can be a common thing, especially in wealthier families, and that trust is not given but earned. GOATS gives an expansive view of family, and the film tries to depict what a true family is. A true family can never be perfect, as Ellis finds out, especially when he figures out his mother often tricked his father into not coming to visit him, while his father never tried hard enough to come anyway. The journey that Ellis goes on helps build him as a person and shows him that even an oddball family is better than no family, and that embracing what he has and accepting his life, and who he is, is all anyone can do to survive in the world. The film holds strong mythic qualities of an independent film, by using an unconventional guardian such as Goat Man. He does everything that is against the typical American mythic system, specifically by smoking marijuana and somewhat getting Ellis, a minor addicted to it as well. But what makes this film great is that it challenges these ideals in a comedic and wry fashion, giving a very independent feel to it. The film also challenges the American mythic values of parenthood, as Ellis’s mother is nowhere near a mother figure, while Ellis’s father has started his own family and subsequently, in Ellis’s view, left him behind. I would rate this film an 8 on the mainstream to independent scale, given the facts listed above and the fact that any film that relies on a goat trekker as a boy’s sole guardian and closest friend, definitely deserves a double take.

Teddy Bear

Director & Screenwriter: Mads Matthiesen

Teddy Bear opens with its main character Dennis, a colossal looking body builder, unable to make small talk with his date. This is just one of many failed dates that Dennis has gone on, as he remains a very gentle and romantic man at heart, but also a very quiet man who struggles with social awkwardness. Despite his large build and physical strength, he is nothing near stereotypical. Mythically, Americans believed larger men to be stronger, both physically and mentally, and capable of attracting more women because of it. Bigger, faster and stronger men are the ideal in society, yet Dennis proves that being that way does not make you better nor does it make you appealing. He is fairly submissive to his birdlike mother, who has a strong hold on him and often controls and contradicts his life. It therefore remains in a metaphorical sense, a flip in characteristics, as the physically weaker mother is more powerful than the giant and gentle son. The mother parades around as a woman in charge, yet her willingness to do so is what is leading Dennis to lie about the things he does and is ultimately ruining his life. One sequence that demonstrates how the mother, the supposed caregiver and nurturer, does ruin things begins when Dennis brings his girlfriend from Thailand to Denmark and lies to his mother about who the girl really is. However, the mother is quite aware of the lie. Later, when Dennis returns home, he finds his room has been viciously torn apart, things that he cares about broken. His silence and the singe tear that rolls down his cheek sets the stage for Dennis’ final rebellion as his mother’s vicious temperament finally sinks in. When Dennis goes to Thailand, he starts his quiet revolution and it becomes rather heartwarming and transfixes us, as he pushes past his fears and finds integrity and himself there. Because of all this, as well as the fact that Dennis is finally able to stand up to his mother and prove that he is the new type of powerful man in the world, able to be romantic and gentle, but also tough and can take control of his own life, I would rate this film as a 9 on the scale of mainstream to independent. Dennis is starving for some type of romantic attention, but he has no guidance as to how to go about seeking it. It is when he musters up the courage to travel to Thailand that he is able to embark on a personal journey of self-discovery. This journey of self-discovery about a large body builder is exceptionally independent and precious. It remains a story solely about integrity and the strength of kindness and gentleness over power, cockiness and violence; and it is about what it means to be true to oneself.

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