' Cinema Romantico: 2 Seconds

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2 Seconds

The Joseph Gordon Levitt bike messenger adventure "Premium Rush" hit theaters this past weekend. Contrary to my premature opinions, it is actually garnering positive reviews. More power to it. I, however, still could not square with an $11 ticket for "Premium Rush." I tried. I failed. And yet......the mere notion of a bike messenger movie left me in the mood for a bike messenger movie.

I recalled reading an article during my research in the wake of falling head over heels for the sport of Match Sprint Cycling during the Olympics that referenced in a very offhand way a road biking movie called "2 Seconds." A road biking movie in which the road biker becomes a bike messenger. A French Canadian road biking movie in which the road biker becomes a bike messenger. Yes, please! Thus, while part of America partook in JGL in a bike helmet, I partook in Charlotte Laurier - epitomizing the term "winning performance" - in a bike helmet.


"2 Seconds" (1998) opens at a Big Road Biking Competition. Laurier's Laurie freezes in the starting gate for, ahem, 2 seconds. This costs her a victory. Her coach is unpleased. He respects her skills but her time has passed. She's over the hill. It's time she retires......at age 28. Ouch. She moves back home to Montreal to stay with her brother. She takes a job as a bike messenger to make some mulah. The other couriers are initially suspicious, then welcoming, all except one dastardly courier who helpfully appears when a bit of conflict is needed. She meets an older Italian man, Lorenzo (Dino Tavarone), owner of a small bike repair shop who does things just one way - his way. He and Laurie bond. He turns out to be a former competitive cyclist. He has a few wise words for our heroine.

All this is as predictable as Roland Emmerich making yet another fantastically harebrained brainless movie (like, say, "White House Down" - per IMDB: "A secret service agent is tasked with saving the life of the U.S. President after the White House is overtaken by a paramilitary group"), although the film gratefully does not include with a bookending Big Race, and while "2 Seconds" isn't necessarily tougher or richer than that premise suggests it is much more energetic and engaging then that premise suggests.

Let's start with the start. It's not actually Laurie sitting in the starting gate afraid to come out (which is, refreshingly, never provided a psychological explanation). It's Laurie and three of her fellow road bikers comparing war wounds. But then one of them notices that Laurie has a single stray gray hair. Egads! This is worse than any bump or bruise or broken bone. By a landslide. It pairs wondrously with a later scene when Laurie and Lorenzo compete to see who has the more broken down body on account of their bicycling lives. With giddiness in their voices they recount their respective laundry lists - broken collarbones and tibias. She rests her derriere each night in a bucket of ice. He can't even sit down on account of a bad back. She has difficulty engaging in, shall we say, coitus on account of time logged in the bike seat. He mentions, uh, trouble relieving himself of fluids on account of time logged in the bike seat. This is the sort of stuff Lance Armstrong doesn't talk about. So what if he doped? Dude can't pee! Isn't that punishment enough?!

Despite it all, Laurie still adores being on her bike. The best moments are little ones watching her in the midst of a ride or watching her watch her new aerodynamic radial wheel spin with a loving grin. And despite it all, Lorenzo still works with bikes every day. It is a culture they cannot leave because they cherish it so much. It brought to my American mind professional football players in a culture rampant with destructive concussions and hurling themselves into possible injury anyway. If the game is what you know best and love most does it cancel out the negative after-effects?

"2 Seconds" goes to show that in order to survive, in order to find something in the realm of mythical true happiness, the real trick is finding a balance. The end might be a Christmas Present (neatly wrapped up in a fetching bow - bleh) but, nevertheless, the theme is conveyed agreeably enough to make you think it might be possible.

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