I can’t tell you how much praise I read about “Half Nelson” before finally getting it at Blockbuster the other night. Ryan Gosling got an Oscar nomination for his performance, and the thing picked up a whole bunch of other nominations and statues. I was really looking forward to it.
It’s the story of a talented inner-city teacher who is hiding a secret that is revealed about 10 minutes into the script and also in the trailer, so here it is: He’s a drug addict. A crackhead, specifically.
Well. It’s not that it wasn’t good, exactly. I mean, if you like feature films that move very slowly, are shot entirely in ShakyCam and don’t have a whole lot of talking, you’re going to love this. But I remembered a lesson from my screenwriting class. Our teacher said your story won’t be satisfying if the main character doesn’t change, and then we discussed degrees of change. It’s more believable for a character to change from A to B (flawed person starts to understand how his behavior affects others, and makes a move in the direction of changing; see “You Can Count on Me”) than A to Z (flawed person sees error of ways, makes 180-degree turn and is reborn as a totally different person; see “Tuesdays With Morrie”). In “Half Nelson” — and I really don’t thing this counts as a spoiler — Gosling changes from A to…A.1, say. He doesn’t get all the way to B. He shaves. This seems to be the big change.
I found it fascinating to watch, but oddly unsatisfying, for exactly that reason.
Because I think my tastes in pictures are at least small-c catholic, though, I took Kate to see “Hairspray” this afternoon. It was too long by about 20 percent, and John Travolta couldn’t fill Divine’s girdle, but otherwise, it wasn’t a total waste of time for a mom and a kid to see on a rainy afternoon. And I caught the John Waters cameo, which was amusing and appropriate. Did you?
This will be the final post for this week — another mini-hiatus planned, this one to scramble some deadline eggs. I might pop in from time to time, but no more that that until Monday. Hey, it’s August. It’s what all the cool kids are doing.