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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Better to read the book. The magic of Douglas Adams is in prose, not plot. And his wry sense of humor is obviously tough to convey on-screen. At least I found it to be a cringe-worthy experience watching the attempt.
My experience watching this film was marred by a hard-of-hearing, loud-of-speaking grandpa and his grim-faced 20-something grandson who found it necessary to converse several times during the film. Occasionally it was time for gramps to recall his military service (in a scene where the Marines were elbow-crawling under barbed wire in the mud, the elderly one announced: "I did that!" Good to know, grampy-poo. Now put a grenade in your pie hole and let me focus on the film.) At others, it was time for sonny boy to announce the Notre Dame score that he was reading off his glowing PDA screen. When the credits started rolling, grandpa announced sternly, "Well, I didn't much care for it." The grandson nodded in agreement and grunted, "Not enough killing." What a darling duo! I wanted to make a snide remark scolding them about their rudeness, but realized that they would be assholes here, now and forever and no smart-ass comment from me would de-sphincterize them.
While watching Jarhead, I also figured out what I want for Christmas: a giant poster of Jake Gyllenhaal wearing those two (one strategically positioned) Santa hats. Hubba to the hubba, the boy was cut for this film.
OK. Now to get serious. There were great moments in Jarhead, but it's not a great movie. Certain scenes were amazingly gripping, both visually and emotionally. One charged moment shows a theater full of aggro Marines humming the "Ride of the Valkyries" song as they watched an attack scene from Apocalypse Now play across the screen. At first I was appalled at the bloodlust the soldiers' fist-pumping enthusiasm revealed, but then realized that that's how warriors have to think to make it through the day.
While there was a lot of fat on the bone as far as the storytelling goes and character development was lazy, I think the artistic weaknesses of this film are forgivable considering the purpose it will serve in reminding numb crowds of movie-goers that there is another war going on right now and it is hell.
After I saw Jarhead, I read an an L.A. Weekly article about an L.A. man who lost his Marine son in Iraq when the soldier stepped on an undetonated bomblet (probably dropped by U.S. forces at the start of the war). The father was told several conflicting stories by the military about what had taken his son's life, but he finally learned the truth and has become an adamant anti-war activist.
Back in 2002, the son had face a traumatizing experience during training near Kuwait. Two Kuwati men attacked some Marines, resulting in firefight in an apartment building. This led to women and children being killed in the crossfire. When the son found the bodies of the innocent victims, he felt as if he was a criminal. After the incident, he sought counseling. Unfortunately, a military doctor brushed him off, saying, "Marines kill. Marines don't cry."
I read one reviewer's comment that this film felt irrevelant in light of current events. That pisses me off. There is nothing irrevelant about being reminded of the day to day ugliness of war, whether the engagement lasted four days or four years. So I can forgive Jarhead for its imperfections, because it opens up a welcome can of worms. (See? I can still pun it up, even when pissed.)