The Critics: Film Studies

I'd like to offer a short story in this column - not a commentary on a movie, but an account of things that could happen in Los Angeles, or anywhere else that movies apply. It's made up, yet that's not to say that hundreds in LA won't think it belongs to them. Instead of to all of us.

Rick has been in the picture business for several years. His name never gets on the screen. But he is a mid-level executive, and he has worked for a couple of studios. He has helped get some pictures made - even if he was not decisive or vital. He chafes over that status. He would like more power, so he might "express" himself. But he is waiting, he says, paying his dues.

We were driving together in LA on one of those days the city does not boast about. It was a complete overcast, with clouds - mauve, or pink, sometimes, but always grey - piled into the canyons. There was lethargy and dread on Sunset, and the traffic was worse than ever. Year by year, in LA, you add a few minutes to the time it takes to drive from Fox to Universal, or from Santa Monica to Paramount.

We were both late, and we had traded jokes about that, so I was startled when Rick began weeping. He was going to drop me at the Chateau Marmont on the way to Santa Monica to see his son. And he realised he wouldn't make it in time for the parent-teacher conference. This wasn't the greatest problem, but it broke him down. I had to tell him to stop. We changed places and I tried to handle his car.

Rick married a dozen years ago. He had a son by the first wife, but he was by then already having an affair with another woman. The son was born, and soon thereafter Rick moved out and set up with the second woman. Rick is good-looking and he likes secrets. There was a divorce, of course, and he was heavily into alimony and child support. In California, people are free to do what they want, if they can pay for it. Rick felt guilty about leaving his young family. No matter that he married the second woman - loved her, I'm sure, I saw a lot of it - and had a daughter by her, three years younger than the son. He felt so bad that he went into therapy: that's a couple of hours a week to be fitted in with visitation rights when your two children live 20 miles apart in LA's slowing traffic.

The second wife was a bright, anxious woman. She loved Rick, and wanted him, but could hardly avoid the betrayal that had established her happiness. So she began to be suspicious about Rick, to wonder if he might do the same again - might need another secret. In a year or two, she was in therapy - and then the first wife had insisted that her son deserved treatment, too, that Rick had to pay for. The son had "rage", and so there were more trips through the overcast, and less chance for Rick to notice LA's lovely days.

The day we had to change drivers he told me he had just left the second wife and the daughter. His explanation was that the second wife's failure ever quite to believe in him had brought on the thing she most feared. He was with another woman, he said, though he didn't expect that to last long.

Now, I don't know if you can understand this if you haven't been in therapy or been a studio executive, but there are ways in which the chatter of script conferencing and the hours of self-examination are alike. They use the same kind of motivational language. You get into a way of seeing yourself as a movable character, a variable, and not just your sad, solid self.

Rick is broken up, and there are at least two women and two kids damaged or enraged, or whatever, because of him. And while Rick reckons that he was in "a situation", I'd guess the others feel they are his victims. It's a matter of how you tell the story - you can be ironic about it, or you can see the heart of darkness. It plays either way.

As your story-teller, I don't know what tone to take. Is Rick Tom Hanks or Sean Penn? I know most of these people pretty well, and like them - I could yet find myself as their stricken go-between. Nor is this anything as simple as a warning against divorce or broken homes. Every business has those now, after all.

But here is why I am telling you the story. Rick is a picture person. He loves the movies - he hates them too, of course, for he has had to observe the dire ground in which they grow. But he wants one day to make some astonishing dream for all of us. He believes in the dreaming. And somewhere along the way that urge for fantasy has come into our genes or our sense of secrecy, and it has meant that we believe in love, happiness and liberty yet hardly see the ways we hurt those things.

"I just want to be there," Rick had roared, pounding his wheel, furious that LA's transport system could not cut as quick and clean as movies do.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing