Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thoughts on a Viewing: November 3, 2009

• As the credits roll, we are shown a map of the United States as a sort of dawn breaks, lighting the country from east to west. The maps is topographically textured, showing clearly the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. The map also shows state borders, with each state a different color, like the map in the Baldwins' Seattle kitchen. Also, the U.S. stands alone; no Canada to the north, no Mexico to the south (interestingly, Alaska and Hawaii are not included in the map, presumably because it would have thrown off the shot's framing). The map reminds us of the great distance that will separate the film's main characters. More importantly, though, it clues in the audience that this is a story about America. The sweep of the light reminds us of the growth of the country, from east to west. The school-room quality of the map says that this is a movie about the country as we commonly understand it. It's about our commonly held ideas about America. It is a grand statement of the movie's purpose. Impressive.

• A beautiful piece of dialogue, delivered by Tom Hanks: "Look, it's Christmas. Maggie, my wife, she really did it. I mean she loved.... She made everything beautiful."
In the immediate context of the film, Sam Baldwin is referring to Maggie's enthusiasm for the holiday. "She really did it... She made everything beautiful." These lines refer, it seems, to Sam's dead wife's proficiency as a home decorator. Tom Hanks's skillful delivery, however, elevates the lines to a summation of his character's feelings for his dead wife. Masterful.

• Baseball. It's all over this movie. Part of it is, I'm sure, just another evocation of the American identity. But what else might it mean? Puzzling.

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