Cultural Blind Spots: Footloose and Lost in Translation
Owned the soundtrack on LP as a kid; still love the soundtrack, despite the sticky synth and the portentous Kenny Loggins; never saw Footloose before. It's a pleasant surprise. The premise is utterly contrived, and it leads to inappropriately ominous dialogue about "trouble" and "my fight," not to mention myriad clichés about small-town closed-mindedness and piety unchecked — but Kevin Bacon is the perfect antidote for all of that. The Ren character isn't written very deeply, but he's likeable enough, and Bacon is too, charismatic, dressed kinda indie-rock so he doesn't look too dated when you watch it now, intense but not self-absorbed.
John Lithgow is also impressive in a trying role as the reverend who's basically responsible for the town's ban on dancing; he goes for quiet sincerity over bombast, the choice many other actors would have made, and it works. He comes off like a mostly decent man who means well and just has this one thing totally wrong.
Bacon and Lithgow do a lot with not much, cancelling out the overage of montages and the poor editing towards the end. They even manage to force a couple of breaths of air into their scenes with Lori Singer, which is about as much as you can expect from them. Singer, overmatched yet again, is tall and coltish and can wear a pair of painted-on Sassoons with the best of them, and she's actually marginally better than usual in Footloose — i.e., you see her teeth a few times — but Ariel is a stifled teenage girl who wants that elusive More from her life and only knows a couple of unsatisfying ways to get it. Singer gives us bitchface on Benadryl. It's not like she ruins the movie, mostly because it's hard to ruin a fight-the-man-by-numbers plot, but the suspension of disbelief sags noticeably whenever she comes onscreen.
I liked it. I don't need to see it again; I certainly don't need to see a remake.
I've enjoyed the work I've seen from Sofia Coppola (behind the camera, anyway). I've heard her movies called affected, or clinical, but I don't agree, or at least those qualities aren't bothersome to me; I do see a certain dispassion, but in the service of testing what narrative can do and be, especially in The Virgin Suicides.
LiT is more controlled and formal with its what-ifs, but I liked it; I liked the people. Well, I liked Charlotte and Bob; the script takes cheap shots at almost everyone else, with Anna Faris and Michael Showalter having to color in condescending sketches. The Lydia character is demonized to an unrealistic point. Coppola doesn't ease up soon enough on the "Japanese culture as alienation personified" throttle, and the music is ham-handed. Still, I felt a fondness for the heroes and wanted to see what became of them, what they made of the situation. Bill Murray got an Oscar nod for LiT, I believe, and it's a solid performance, although frankly I don't see a whole lot that he hadn't already showed us in Rushmore. ScarJo is great, though; she's not everyone's thing, but I've dug her since Ghost World, and her last scene is lovely work.
I get the reception the film initially received; I get the backlash, too; nearly a decade on, I think it's a solid story that fetishizes parts of itself and neglects others, but gets away with it thanks to strong acting and cinematography.
Tags: Anna Faris Bill Murray bitchfaces dear '80s we get it love Sarah dial-a-cliche It's Log John Lithgow Kenny Loggins Kevin Bacon Lori Singer Michael Showalter movies Scarlett Johansson Sofia Coppola