Thursday, May 22, 2008

An Officer and a Gentleman

What a refreshingly delightful movie this was! I distinctly remember seeing this movie in Doordarshan metro channel back in India when I was doing my, let me guess, 6th standard. I didn’t quite recollect the story of the movie but I did distinctly remember having a feeling of intense satiation. It was because of this, that after almost 15 years that when I got my Netflix subscription, this was one of the movies that I wanted to watch.

I must say watching this movie after all these years; it left me with the same feeling. It was almost like a time-trap! When I was watching the movie yesterday on my couch at my Redmond apartment, it was almost as if I was sitting on that netted sofa back in Chennai home. I could almost smell the heavy humid Chennai air. Strange are the ways of the mind!

In my opinion at the heart of the movie is the stark nakedness with which the director portrays reality. Whether it is the womanizing father who cannot come in terms with the reality that he has a son to take care of or whether it is the dilemma which haunts Paula (the heroine) when she realizes that by falling in love with the navy hotshot she almost became the so called ‘Puget-deb’, the stark nakedness in which the situations, the emotions and the plot is depicted is so endearing. The movie does not make any effort to justify nor explain away any of the actions done by the people in the drama. Thankfully it does not even dwell on the glory of the navy tradition more than it is necessary. Compare that with some of the movies like ‘Top Gun’ which even though I found it likable was almost like a clever advertisement for US Navy!

Richard Gere. Oh My God! What an excellent choice to play the role of the stoic self-centered marine wannabe who is the result of a little domestic disaster. I don’t know which I liked better: the way Richard Gere acted in the movie or the iconic character that he portrayed. The character that Richard Gere portrays: Zach Mayo or “Mayonnaise” is almost like a conundrum. Zack is stoic and repressed in childhood, self-centered and motivated at the beginning of the training and towards the end almost develops a sense of comradeship. During the course of the movie, we see Zack being haunted by the disappointments of his past and finally how he faces them. We learn about this when he lets go of his stoicism and opens up to Debra when they are in intimacy. In a way, I see the whole movie as somehow depicting the coming-of-age of Zack.

Contrast that with the character of Paula played by the oh-so-charming Debra Winger. She declares unapologetically that every day she sees her mother, she knows what she does not want from her life. She wants to be an ‘aviator’ wife and fly out of the conservative factory town where she is stuck now. Initially shown in tandem with Lynette who shares the same dream as Paula but as the story progresses, the fork in their characters comes out so distinctly at the same time so unjudgingly. While Lynette schemes of trapping Sid into matrimony, who happens to be Zack’s buddy just as Paula is Lynette’s, by claiming she is pregnant, Paula is just inclined to have a good time. After this episode, Paula is in a dilemma. If she expresses her true love for Zack (which she eventually develops) she will reduce to the position of Lynette in the eyes of Zack. The plot somehow unravels rather fluently.

The genuineness of the characters almost touches you. As does the humble plot. I guess that’s why I really liked the movie. I must admit perhaps the story is disgusting. So is the character of Zack sometimes. But the sheer genuineness and the classy feel is what perhaps pulls the whole movie through.

The screenplay is so effective yet so inconspicuous. I like it when things are effective yet it does not assert itself every now and then.

The entire movie is shot our own Evergreen state of Washington. In fact almost always you see the roads are rain-washed and the outdoor shots are always set against the low-overhanging rain-clouds. J

This post will not be complete without me saying about what I consider as the Aha moment of the movie. This is when Zack, dressed impeccable in the naval white uniform walks with steady gait becoming of a naval officer into the factory floor where Paula works. One can almost imagine his fleeting smile when he first sees Paula and then hugs her from behind and sweeps her off the floor and carries her to the outside. Then you see Zack carrying Paula towards the exit and Paula takes the navy hat off Zack and puts it on herself. At that moment the screen freezes and the iconic moment is made in the history of cinema and perhaps etched at the back of our minds!

No comments: