Talk About Things That
Get Me Excited
by ALEX CARNEVALE
dir. Cameron Crowe
Kyra Sedgwick works for the vaguely named "Seattle Environmental Group", which probably amounts to a terrorist organization masquerading as a hedge fund. Her new boyfriend appears one day and helps fix her car, informing her he's an exchange student from Spain. The guy is pretty smooth, he gives her this really nice promise ring before he's "deported." She gives him her garage door opener for when he comes back. It turns out he was pretending to be from Spain. Cameron Crowe should ready an Elizabeth Gilbert-based lawsuit. (How Stella Got Her Groove Back was also a blatant infringement of his rights.) Good luck to the next guy she meets.
Hairstyles are codified, familiar. Cameron Crowe was evidently having sex with lots of different people in the Seattle area during this period. Campbell Scott's father left home when he was eight, and told him, "Have fun, stay single." Scott intones, in overbearing voiceover, "Work is the only thing I have complete control over."
His cubicle is a disturbing sight. The central machine appears ancient, rotten with some kind of papyrus note affixed to its membrane. Relics of paper ledgers contain god-knows-what information. The smell is redolent of pears and the slight afterburn a fax leaves in the air. There is no mouse. He appears to have altogether forgotten what being a human is: high speed DSL and a decent fucking browser.
Crowe views everything that occurs in retrospect through a gold haze. A relationship that falls apart is simply food for thought, and a reunion is always possible even when it's not. His peers navigate their world with spastic affront. Then again, their ancient machines deprived them of much wisdom. When Scott meets his environmental au pair to share water in an elaborate allusion to Stranger in a Strange Land, Paul Giamatti is making out with some girl at the next table, salivating over his water glass.
Perhaps anticipating her future role as The Closer, Kyra Sedgwick doesn't put out for several dates at least. To seduce her Scott discusses his plan for a SuperTrain. "People will park & ride, I know they will," he tells everyone he meets. It's amazing what a moron he is, I'm not sure if Cameron Crowe knew about this.
The idea of making a movie to praise yourself or someone you love is not foreign to Crowe. His new film, a documentary about how wonderful Eddie Vedder is titled Pearl Jam Twenty, features Vedder and Kurt Cobain dancing with each other in mutual adulation. Crowe's backstage look paints Vedder as a tortured soul that reaches back to his confusion over his real father. Eddie's every eccentricity, from his propensity to climb the stage and set, to overcoming his shyness, is worshipped like Pheobe Cates' left breast. What a wonderful time to be alive, and at two hours and twenty minutes, the euphoria lasts almost forever.
Everyone receives a trophy. He was a DJ in college. She's had bad luck with boyfriends. There's nothing on television, maybe one or two channels. Mostly reruns of old television programming like M.A.S.H. or older sitcoms, because the rights were inexpensive to acquire. In the eighties TV Guide began a spirited fight with TV Cable Week. New York magazine breathlessly reported that, "Readers of Fortune, Time, Discover, Life, People, Sports Illustrated or Money have often also taken TV Guide or Triangle's Seventeen." Does the past still excite you?
Back then TV Guide subscribers paid 69 cents an issue. There was a spirited debate over how many channels should appear in the magazine's listings. Different experts weighed in. TV Guide magazine was acquired by Rupert Murdoch in 1989 and you know the rest. Most of the individuals on the cover of TV Guide either became drug addicts, got AIDS while cheating on their wives, or in the case of Jay Leno, came out as a homosexual.
Was this a more innocent time? In comparison to the present, any time is infinitely more naive. The only problem any of these people really had was how seriously to take Jane Pauley.
Crowe also scripted the 1984 comedy The Wild Life, a loose sequel to his Fast Times at Ridgemont High, directed by legendary Hollywood producer Art Linson. The Wild Life has never made it to DVD because it uses every worn-out movie song you can imagine ("Born to Be Wild" opens the proceedings) and it would cost a fortune to purchase the rights. In every scene the intense urge to punch Eric Stoltz in the face is the film's driving motivation. Lea Thompson is so gorgeous the camera can barely turn away from her. Without Crowe's breakneck pace and his innate directorial desire to make his characters likable, the jaded teens just seem like overgrown assholes.
In fact, the crazy high school hijinks of The Wild Life and Fast Times at Ridgemont High now feel almost too adrenaline-filled. Singles offers a Seattle setting that is infinitely more desirable; you know, San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Matt Dillon has this long speech where he discusses the perils of living near the airport and having barbecues no one attended. His complaints are our dreams. Every person in his building knows every other person. It's like an adulation factory.
Things don't work out between Kyra Sedgwick and Campbell Scott after a pregnancy scare. Kyra's organization plans a "coastal" trip of Alaska. (It is never specified if this trip is to encompass the entire coast.) She tells everyone, "You don't have to be my boyfriend." She wears a coat accented with the imprint of a doe. Scott is advised in matters of love and life by the waitress Bridget Fonda; she informs him life is only 40 percent sex, and this revelation appears to shock him into action.
The idea of a 1992 Bridget Fonda being without a man for more than six nanoseconds is unlikely in the extreme. Her rent was probably in the $100 range, possibly less than that. This may have well been the 1920s. It was better than the 20s, it was basically the same as the 20s. Are you excited yet?
"Need to Know (demo)" - Pearl Jam (mp3)
"Walk With Me (live in CA)" - Pearl Jam (mp3)
"Times of Trouble (demo)" - Pearl Jam (mp3)