Something's Gotta Give


So the moment in the trailer where Jack Nicholson gets a full view of Diane Keaton's aged naked body and stumbles back in horror, kind of screaming.

And how bored and annoyed I am by it.  Because . . . please.  It's not that it's an old woman's body that really terrifies him, or the audience to whom this is pitched.  It's the female body at all that's horrifying.  All these . . . strictures on the beautiful, these requirements that the age must be approximately this, the bust approximately that, the ratios between that and the other.  That "beauty" should be strictured into such a tiny zone, "acceptability" into a zone that's frankly not much bigger.  There's a kind of hysteria here, in this need to limit so closely what can be seen.  It's limited to the point where the beautiful body is only one body, all these beautiful bodies look the same.  And one could get into that, but, I'll move along . . .

The need to only see one kind of body, to be able to tolerate only one kind of body, is a move of weakness, and of fear, so to pull it off without looking weak and afraid you've got to be a certain kind of person, which is why we've got Jack Nicholson, that lizard, that old ruin.  He does such a good job of making that weakness and fear look like something else, that's why he's misogyny apotheosized (forget that he never seemed more fearless than he did in Chinatown, one of the most pitiless indictments ever made against patriarchy and/or modern society, wherein he essentially sided with a woman against mankind). 

And of course the thing is, we know, we can see, he's the same age as Keaton.  And so the joke goes in a lot of directions, and is, I guess, almost funny.  It's almost funny because . . . it's hypocritical.  It's almost funny because we know, thanks to his horror, that he has an impossible desire (youth & immortality), that his desire is pathetic and due inevitably for comeuppance, and here the comeuppance is.

But it's less funny because . . . sitting in the theatre, hearing the laughter . . . what I hear is laughter, not borne of the truth outing, but the tense laughter of truth suppressed.  It's the laughter of getting away with something you know is wrong, something you have the dim sensation you're going to have to pay for, later.  Because the way that moment is posed, his is a reasonable response.  In the world he lives in, the world the movie's pitched to, we do have this idea that we can all pretend we're going to be immortal just so long as older woman will accept that they're disgusting and keep their fucking clothes on.  And somehow imagine that all this mutual horror (of mortality, of corporeality) can be kept safely over there, that it doesn't telegraph right back to ourselves.

Oh, it'll appear unrelated but it's not—how I loved Boomtown.  
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