' ' Cinema Romantico: The Dish and the Spoon

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Dish and the Spoon

I don’t always like the movies in which Greta Gerwig stars, but I almost always like Greta Gerwig in the movies in which she stars. She is fearless. She will open a film, like she does in Allison Bagnall’s low rent, digital "The Dish and the Spoon", sobbing sans makeup in a crummy car, ditching her cellphone, driving to a gray and rainy Delaware resort town and then, in the money shot, trudging along a windswept beach in pajama pants with a bag of convenience store calories in one hand and a six-pack of Dogfishhead in the other. This is the polar opposite of glamour.

There is another moment when Rose (Gerwig) calls up her husband on a payphone and screams at him. Then, suddenly, she stops screaming. She gets quiet. She listens and repeats “Yes” and “Okay” over and over and hangs up. But, what happened? Who picked up on the other line? Someone picked up, right? What did he/she say? Why did Rose turn so meek? This is a film that thrives on a lack of information. We know Rose’s husband cheated on her and she has left in a roaring huff. Beyond that, however, we receive no details on her husband, on what brought them together, on the status of their union, on the woman with whom he cheated, etc. She goes to stay at her parents’ summer home. A summer home? Okay, her parents must have money. So why does she have no money? She lost her wallet, yeah, yet something still feels off. Throughout we are left to fend for ourselves, and when we see her driving with an open container, threatening to “kill the bitch” and stealing cash we begin to suspect perhaps she willed her husband to cheat.

She encounters, as she must, a 19 year old English boy (Olly Alexander) – who never earns a name. With his unkempt hair and peacoat he evokes a young Bob Dylan in appearance and evokes someone as confused in real life as Rose, spinning stories of how he came to America for a girl and how his mother may have committed suicide. She takes him in, so to speak, because he has nowhere else to go. At first she is content to lead him on a quest to find the “bitch” who ruined her marriage and “kill” her but eventually it becomes something a little more and, in turn, something a little more disturbing.

Tone is everything here. For all its production modesty, "The Dish and The Spoon" is more the sort of film that chooses exploration of its themes over a distinct sense of reality. For instance, there is an exemplary WTF? passage that involves Rose prodding “Bob Dylan” to dress up like a girl while she sort of dresses up like a boy and they go out on the town. It’s, uh, weird, yet it is underscored later when they dress up for a fake wedding photo, claim to be husband & wife and then attend a dance class dressed as 16th Century Puritans. There is an excessive break from reality occurring - for both characters, yes, but mainly for Rose, probably brought on by her husband’s infidelity but possibly (who knows?) looming for much longer. The inevitable snap-back is frightening and frighteningly inevitable, and Gerwig’s decision to play her mental freefall so plainly makes it difficult to read.

The snap-back re-leads to the real world but no one here seems to feel genuinely happy about it. A film that leaves so much to the imagination leaves you wondering if perhaps these two gawky souls found more comfort in their madness. Which, of course, isn’t comforting at all.

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