est. 1981

Sucker Punch

In Movies on March 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm

As I’m wont to do while walking to work, I started thinking about movies, the last of which I saw was “Sucker Punch”, which I enjoyed. Make no mistake, I thought it was pretty bad, but I did manage to walk out the theater not feeling like I’d wasted $6. The visuals were creative and entertaining, and the acting was on par with Zack Snyder’s other films, but the movie was definitely lacking in emotional depth and impact. I couldn’t place my finger on why I felt this way, since the story appeared to have the necessary structural elements to create a story that we cared about. Somehow, something was missing, and I couldn’t figure it out until this morning.

Here’s the main problem: [if you care, SPOILER ALERT] the cabaret / whore house isn’t real. Generally, I’d be forgiving of a film where the main plot takes place within a fantasy as long as it has real world implications of some fashion, but this fantasy is a major stumbling block. Almost every relationship that we see in the film is imaginary, played out inside her head before Baby Doll gets lobotomized. This means that every emotionally resonant moment after Baby Doll arrives at the mental hospital never actually happened. Blondie never betrayed the group, Amber never got shot, Rocket wasn’t stabbed, and Baby Doll didn’t kill Blue. You can debate that we don’t know if Amber, Blondie and Rocket are alive, but believe it’s obvious that Dr. Gorski would have mentioned the death of three patients when listing the things Baby Doll perpetrated if they had actually happened.

More importantly, none of the characters we have met are real. We know that the girls actually exist since we saw them when Baby Doll was committed, but none of them are who we spent the past hour attempting to connect to. It’s likely that the only relationship the writers spent any time developing, the kinship between Sweet Pea and Rocket, isn’t real either: they most likely aren’t sisters, and possibly have never even met. In fact, since the Sweet Pea who rides off on the bus is not the Sweet Pea who fought with her female compatriots, the ending is exceptionally hollow: the girl who gets on the bus has no idea who the Wise Man driving the bus is, and never saw the boy in front of her in the trenches of the WW1 fantasy. The character who has succeeded in a goal to bring resolution to the film is not the character who was pursuing the goal throughout the film.

This could have all been fixed by making one simple change: cut the cabaret. The dream world of the cabaret served no purpose to forwarding the plot, since they could have just as easily had the women within the asylum working to escape. The fact that the sets they used for the underbelly of the club were the same sets they used for the halls of the asylum (as far as I could tell) only served to confuse me about where we were, so they might as well have embraced it and shifted back and forth between the real world and the fantasy. If they were desperate to keep the cabaret setting (women in skimpy clothes DO sell tickets) then they should have more actively connected it to the real world. It wouldn’t have been that much more confusing than the movie wound up being, and showing more of the real world would at least have given it value.

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