Wednesday, February 05, 2014

New Checklist and Rulebook Casefile: Characters Only Wanting What They Want In a Lonely Place

I’ve updated the Checklist road test for In a Lonely Place and you can check it out here. Now let’s look at one of the new answers in more depth:

Upon cursory examination, it might seem that In a Lonely Place violates one of our core rules: After all, Laurel keeps essentially asking Dix, “Do you know what your problem is?” But don’t people only want what they want? Well, yes, but this is the exception that proves the rule....

In this case, Laurel decides to save Dix in a very believable way:
  • She realizes that she’s beginning to sacrifice her needs to his, and it disturbs her. She know that this isn’t right, and so do we as we watch it.
  • She is willing to say, “Do you know what your problem is?”, but, crucially, she can’t figure out the answer. She doesn’t really understand because her feelings for him get in the way. It is only as her love recedes that she begins to see him clearly.
  • He remains blithely dismissive of her attempts to get him to change until the last scene, when she finally gets through to him because she no longer loves him, which means that she’s willing to really let him have the truth. This fits in with my earlier observation that only people who hated my guts have ever delivered criticism blunt enough to hit home with me.
This is the movie that shows why it’s not good to devote yourself to solving your boyfriend’s emotional problems. At the end, Laurel realizes that sublimating her own self-concerns and needs has done neither of them any favors. Dix needed a hard slap, not a gentle hand, and now, thankfully, he got it.

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