With a side of angry.
I’ll admit it: I make snap judgments. I see some guy wearing a polo shirt and a baseball cap with an unbent brim, and the first word that springs to mind starts with a “d” and ends with the word “bag.” If I see some pudgy Hispanic girl waddling down the street in pants four times too small, my mind will immediately jump to something pessimistic and cynical about the state of the world at large. Hey, I can’t help it, it’s part of who I am. Coincidentally, I could have some kind of psychological problem, but I’m far too stubborn and cheap to hire a shrink. Good times!
What I’m laboriously trying to bring across is that I am far from perfect, and that every once in a while that quiet, mousey church girl can be giggling next to you listening to Chris Rock’s stand-up or Monty Python. Every once in a while the guttural, death metal roar comes from a very nice young gentleman who also likes listening to Louis Armstrong. Every once in a while, the sweet, moral church ladies will stab you in the back. Snap judgments, even if they are right 99% of the time, are still wrong sometimes. So, based on what I saw of the Arthur (that being scattered clips from The Critic), I was fully expecting the main character to be utterly unlikeable, and for the movie to be some kind of celebration of the boozed-up, playboy lifestyle.
It is not.
No, the movie is actually quite good in both its humor at Dudley Moore’s drunken antics and in the almost subsequent, very nearly simultaneous heart-rending tragedy of this man’s life. The titular character has never had to work, never had any responsibility. Anything he wants, he gets. And yet, as you see him cavort and slur his speech, you find yourself wanting to cry as often as you want to laugh. I know people like this, and so do you: adult children who, by some reason, still live their lives as if the entire world is their plaything, void of responsibility or good sense. In some cases, these people wind up dead, or permanently incapacitated as a result of their foolish ways. In more frustrating cases, a stupid, reactionary, spoiled child of East-coast wealth can grow up to be President of the United States. In the best of cases, however, there is a kind soul, an infinitely patient person who by hook or crook manages to keep the idiot manchild on the straight and narrow.
What keeps the film from being a complete travesty is the one character who keeps Arthur somewhere on the middle path, not technically succeeding, but not in the morgue. That character is the butler Hobson, played by the infinitely lauded John Gielgud, a man often mentioned in the same breath as Laurence Olivier. Without this character, the movie would fail, much like Johnny Depp’s turn in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Without this man doing this role as only he could, this movie would not be a success. His quiet passion and warm, yet firm discipline is truly one of those remarkable performances that affects the viewer at its core. At age 77, Gielgud made this movie into something special and set the bar so devastatingly high that there is no way the remake could possibly match the intensity, strength, and compassion he put forward. Gielgud? Try GielGOD.
Oh, please… must you fuss?
Yes, Mr. Gielgud. I must.
As wonderful as the movie was (Liza Minelli is growing on me, especially after the Snickers commercial), I can’t quite let this review off without a little bit of the old Willy & Eric signature hate. You see, in 1981 the character of Arthur: slovenly, self-absorbed, obsessive over trivial matters… this was considered an archetype of the idle rich, and something the average person could point at and go “thank goodness us regular Americans are beyond such frippery” and then go back to the Bessemer Process or AIDS research or something no doubt noble and divine. Sadly, this is no longer the case just for the shockingly wealthy, this poisonous lifestyle has trickled down into the base of our society, turning almost all of us into smug, self-assured Arthurs of our own personal paradise. What is the cause for this? They are legion, but one of the greatest offenders is that social juggernaut known only as… Facebook.
He is looking right at the word with the proper amount of scorn and piss.
You see, Facebook is not real life. Facebook is not Heaven. Facebook is one of the earliest circles of Hell, wherein you are catered to upon your every whim, a God of your own universe, but the sad truth is that it is all an illusion, and that it does not matter, and that the minute you logged out, you’re just a worthless piece of garbage again. So, why not stay on it all the time? Why not draw all of the attention to yourself? Why not take everything written about someone else, and warp it into being about YOU instead? I mean, hey, you’re God, why SHOULDN’T everyone be talking about you? Where’s Poochie?
This is just a symptom of a larger problem: self-deification. When one is the God of their own universe, one could ask, there can be no one better. When the smallest hardship happens in the lives of these demi-Gods, it is inflated to ridiculous proportions and the blame is usually laid at the feet of some sort of trickster demon. The sad reality is that, like Arthur, most of these people have become the items of their own demolition, and sadly they shy away from the helpful Hobsons in their lives who wish to help them. There’s a particular scene in the movie wherein Arthur is having a sulk that sounds directly ripped from the average status message of a mewling Facebook fool. Also note that he is making these complaints after exiting a racing car following a private trip around a speedway. This is a transcript of the following scene, courtesy of IMDB:
Arthur: I could love somebody… I never got to love anybody. What do I have to live for? I mean, I’m a failure at everything I do, I’m just in everyone’s way.
Hobson: Would you remove your helmet, please?
[Arthur hands him his helmet]
Hobson: Thank you. Now your goggles.
[Arthur hands him his goggles]
Hobson: Thank you.
[slaps him across the face repeatedly]
Hobson: You spoiled little bastard! You’re a man who has everything, haven’t you, but that’s not enough. You feel unloved, Arthur, welcome to the world. Everyone is unloved. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself. And incidentally, I love you.
In this world of Arthurs, we need more loving Hobsons to start slapping. After all, if you can’t believe the words of the GielGod, who can you believe?
Until we meet again, I tenderly remain,