Friday, August 30, 2013
But this was a conclusion I had to reach very slowly. "Getaway" was nothing like I expected. The trailers showed off a big stupid action car chase movie, starring not Ethan Hawke but a Shelby Cobra Mustang. Actually, there's only one scene featuring a car, and its not even a chase. Ethan Hawke is actually driving a Toyota Rav-4 minivan, about as practical and boring as a modern car can get, not fighting bad guys, but rather having a nice personal conversation with his wife while his daughters sleep in the background. Its actually a brilliantly written scene featuring very natural dialog, something you wouldn't expect from a car movie that seems want to be more stupid than "Furious 6". This is a masterpiece of false advertising: not a single scene from that trailer actually shows up in "Getaway".
The title itself really tells the whole story. It appears to be a monumentally clunky reference to the speed of the late Carroll Shelby's glorious engineering legacy. But this is really cypher, the "getaway" in that title actually refers to an entirely mundane family trip to the Peloponnese, and more so Ethan Hawke and his wife, Julie Delpy's excursion to a garish hotel where years of resentment and romantic complication boil up into a feverish fight that threatens to destroy their unique bond. Its all very high-minded stuff, the kind of thing you don't usually see get a wide release, which is probably why the studio buried it in deathly Labor Day release date. The director, Courtney Solomon is best known for making fabulously terrible "Dungeons and Dragons" - one of those rare masterpieces of ill-conceived cinema that fails on every level. "Getaway" is the exact opposite of that, and maybe that's the joke here. Courtney Solomon took his awful tainted name and used it to bill a forgettable car flop and instead made a quiet, stirringly beautiful commentary on relationships, age, and the meaning of love.
I really cannot stress enough that you must completely throw away all your expectations for "Getaway", almost as if you're watching a different movie than the one advertised. Rather than "The Transporter 2" or "Furious 6" or "Death Race 2000", Courtney Solomon is instead channeling none other than Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset". Those films also starred none other than Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, as their relationship expands as they discuss everything from philosophy to the meaning of life. I only ever saw "Before Sunrise", which was a virtually plotless movie, it is simply one enthralling and fascinating conversation between two young people from beginning to end. "Before Sunset", I've heard, is the same concept only with these characters older and in the next phase of their lives. "Getaway" is pretty much the unofficial third part of that series, basically featuring the same characters, now together (more or less married besides for the ring) and dealing with the stresses of middle age and the ultimate question: just where is their relationship going? Can they possibly stay together for decades and decades, and do they want to?
Curiously also, going back to my point about false advertising, it appears Selena Gomez isn't in the movie at all. She had a large part in the trailer, and I suppose she still got a paycheck, but the entire car thief is gone. So her role was removed. Instead Solomon took the movie into a very different direction, and seems to have never told the marketing department, because they are still advertising a completely different movie.
By the way, I should mention that Richard Linklater actually did direct a new movie this year called "Before Midnight", which supposedly was a third part of the 'Before' trilogy, but I've been told is nothing but a piss poor lazy nightmare of action bullshit and logical failures (though I haven't seen it). Which is strange since Linklater is typically a decent filmmaker, I don't know what went wrong.
Anyway, back on "Getaway", I should really explain just how magical this movie is. The dialog is as natural as I've ever seen in a movie, typically because the director simply stops the editing most of the time and lets the two leads just run away and talk for twenty minutes at all. There are whole segments filmed almost with a cut, to the point that you wonder if the actors are even acting anymore or just having a real conversation. Its done really impressively in some places because the conversation's beats continues on and on, even though - for example in a dinner scene - the camera crew certainly had to reposition itself several times in order to get every single angle. This is also filmed outside, which adds the additional difficulty of keeping consistent lighting, keeping the energy up, in a table scene involving eight actors at once.
Most movies have their basic conversation beats, its usually done well, but there's always a disconnect between movie dialog and real-world dialog. That's because, of course, they aren't really talking, they are reciting lines, and the scene isn't happening in real time, the film crew has to break up occasionally. This is why most dialog is filmed over-the-shoulder back-and-forth with two cameras, that way you can do it in a single take and have the actors' heads block the camera. Its very efficient and keeps up the dynamic of a conversation, but also standard and not very memorable. Solomon here is able to film while driving, while the characters are having a walk, and you never feel that break in the conversation. Its so fluid, these feel exactly like real people, very much in love, but also terrified of breaking apart, but also living together forever with all the difficulties and resentments that fill up a modern relationship.
I really envy the people in "Getaway", because every conversation in this film, other than the dramatic climax featuring a very furious argument, feels like just the best damn conversation you've ever had. You're juggling philosophy, book ideas, what relationships mean in the modern world, religion, feminism, these are deeply interesting people exchanging ideas and usually listening to each other. They're funny, they have their won faults and weaknesses and jealousies, but its so well done. "Before Sunrise" had something very similar to this. I'm not sure how the stupid car chase bankrobbing Ethan Hawke from the trailers would have fit into "Getaway", but its clearly not necessary as the background dialog merely establishing the characters is all that you needed.
Rather than automotive stunts and double crosses and bullets, "Getaway" ends with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy coming together for a night alone together at a hotel, just ripping into each other for years of disagreements and fears ad resentments. Its like every nasty argument you've ever had with a lover or you watched between your parents as kids. They're both lost in their own ridicule and anger, while desperately trying to somehow end the fight, while blaming each other for causing so much tension in their lives. Its more frightening than a big explosion at the end, because these were characters who together might have grumbled occasionally but seemed very connected, suddenly mocking and insulting and belittling everything about their partners' lives. This is what serious drama is made from, and I cannot believe that of all people, Courtney Solomon, who made fucking "Dungeons and Dragons" was able to grasp that.
So I really must recommend "Getaway". It is entirely unlike what you'd expect from a movie like this. But its sharply written, has great pacing throughout its ninety minutes even when its only four or five talking scenes (typically the 'boring" parts of a big automotive adventure). Yeah, there aren't chase scenes, and I'm sure people will be mad about that. Maybe that's what the critics are so angry about, I dunno. But really, "Getaway", this is what summer movie should be more like. And really, its what I would have expected about of "Before Midnight", weird how that one turned out so awful and this one turned out so wonderfully... Its almost like I got the movies backwards or something... Weird.
* Its now a 1% so at least there's somebody other than me fighting for this cruelly maligned gem.