White Christmas, Rosemary Clooney, The 2016 Election, The Ruined Body, and My Mother

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White Christmas Trailer

This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release 1954

Spoilers? Nope

Yesterday as I ran some pre-Christmas errands, I turned on the radio to a classic Christmas music channel. I like the old stuff. I think if I hear Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” ever again I may puncture my own ear drums. Especially when things like Louis Armstrong’s “Zat You Santa Claus” are out there. As I was on the way to the grocery store, the station played Rosemary Clooney’s “Count Your Blessings.” For those of you who have lived your life in a cave, this is one of the featured songs from the holiday classic White Christmas. The recording I heard yesterday was a more recent one—I could tell. It was just Clooney, not Clooney and Bing Crosby. And Clooney’s voice was different, still wonderful, but older, raspier, more mature. She recorded basically up until her death in 2002, so I’m not sure what year I heard her singing from, but when I heard the song, I started to cry. And I’m not a crier.

2016 has been both a wonderful and difficult year. On the upside, my kids are doing well and I got my first book deal. On the downside, I’ve been in a state of depression since Donald Trump became president-elect. People in my own family actually voted for him. They didn’t care that he sexually assaulted women. They didn’t care that his running mate thinks my LGBTQ friends and family members deserve electro-shock treatment or worse. They didn’t care about the racist things he said and they didn’t care about obvious signs of his fascism, corruption, and kleptocracy. Trained in family loyalty, I didn’t know how to speak with or interact with family members who had just voted against my own daughter’s right to marry, to be Out, to hell, fucking even exist, I deactivated my Facebook account and haven’t spoken to those family members since the election. At this point, the betrayal I feel is so deep and thorough, I do not know if I will ever speak to them again. (I can’t even mention my sorrow over the deaths of Prince, Alan Rickman, Guy Clark, David Bowie, etc. etc. in 2016 or I will derail this whole Catch Up.)

One of the reasons I started to cry was because pretty much everyone in my family loved the movie White Christmas. Or at least they tolerated it enough to enjoy it around Christmastime. As unimaginable as it seems, I remember the days before all of this high (and low) quality content at our fingertips. I remember checking the TV listings in the newspaper of in the TV Guide to see what time and station White Christmas would be on. My mother especially loved this movie. The dresses, the voices, the dancing of Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye.

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My mother, late 1940s

My mother also really loved Rosemary Clooney, who I believe she identified with. She never said, “I really identify with Rosemary Clooney.” But now that I’m older and a mom myself, I can see that she did. Clooney had a difficult life—bipolar disorder, prescription drug abuse, many close friends and family members, including Robert F. Kennedy, died tragically. (Clooney was either in the room, or the room next door, when he was assassinated.) Clooney had a nervous breakdown, lost her fortune, suffered two divorces, bore five children, all while working. My mother’s problems were similar, but without the fame and fortune. My mother was also a prescription drug addict, had mental health problems, had seven children, and she also had lost so much in her life—all three of her brothers to cancer and her father when she was a young mother herself. My mother’s relationship with my father was not good. It was never what she wanted. HE was never what she wanted.

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Rosemary Clooney, 1940s

I heard Rosemary Clooney’s older voice and I didn’t just have a single memory. I had an image. An image that I don’t even know if it happened, or if it is just an amalgamation of good times that did happen. I saw us in our tiny living room, most of us on the floor because there was never enough seating and my mother always got one whole couch to herself. I remember the blue carpet that we got as a handmedown from my grandmother. A lamp near my mother’s head that I had once seen shake in one of Michigan’s rare earthquakes. A large majority of the family watching White Christmas. My dad sitting at the kitchen table, smoking a cigarette, not able to see the TV, just hear it. A cup of coffee in front of him. An ashtray by his elbow. I can remember my excitement—my favorite songs then “Sisters” (which my sisters and I still sing somewhat sarcastically to each other) and “We’ll Follow the Old Man.” You couldn’t hear them any time. You couldn’t google and listen on YouTube, or even buy a CD. This was a once-a-year opportunity.

It was a good image. A good memory. There is no hint of betrayal that I currently feel. Just excitement for Christmas Day and a sense of longing at the pretty costumes in the movie. The lovely songs. No knowledge of the pain (or the joy) to come in my life.

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Mom and me 2016

My mother was happy when Rosemary Clooney made her comeback. I don’t think she saw it, but she was pleased George Clooney had gotten his aunt a guest spot on the popular show E.R. She was nominated for an Emmy for that appearance.

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George Clooney and Rosemary Clooney 1995

As Rosemary Clooney got more work on television again, I was living away from home, working, getting engaged, getting married. But I would still make the trip home for Christmas each year. I also paid more attention to how my mother spoke about Vera-Ellen’s body and her rumored eating disorder when we watched White Christmas, now on fancy VHS. My mother spoke of Vera-Ellen’s disorder as shameful. But I could also hear the envy in her voice as she looked down at herself, at what she considered to be her own ruined body.

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Vera-Ellen dancing in White Christmas 1954

I sat in my minivan yesterday and I didn’t know what to do with all these emotions Clooney’s voice evoked. I thought of how hard it is to be a woman in the world. How hard it is to have a body that is considered to be without worth. I thought about the pain of losing family by death, by neglect, by misunderstanding, and by deed.

I thought of how two people in my pre-Christmas image/memory are dead after brutal lives and more brutal illnesses. I thought of how I’ve managed to go see my mother in the nursing home a few times, but that chasm is so great between us (the person I am and the person she thinks she knows) we can’t do much but talk about other family members, old memories, and my pets. I thought of how my country, throughout its history always both beautiful and tragic, had spat up such a narcissistic lying brute to be our leader.

Why?

How do I have a relationship with people who are so unfeeling and uncaring that they would vote for someone who stands against every Civil Right for the marginalized that has been gained over these last 60 years?

Count Your Blessings is a simple song from a time we pretend is simpler, but it really wasn’t. Look at the cast of White Christmas—look at the lives of those stars. Mental illness, eating disorders, divorce. Look at the systemic racism in Hollywood. But the song itself represents a simplicity we as Americans long for.

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all

But this sweet, rhyming song might be the only way forward. Listing blessings. Taking action. Praying for peace. Seeing the good when there seems to be nothing but bad surrounding us. (I’m fucking looking at you, 2016.)

And I fall asleep counting my blessings

Merry Christmas, Catch Up Readers. (Because despite what the conservative narrative says, liberals say that quite often.)

*Thanks to Google images for the lovely old photos. I don’t own them and am in no way claiming their copyright. The photos of my mother are mine.

Map to the Stars

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This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release: 2015

Rating: R (for sexual content, nudity, and general fucked-upness)

Currently Streaming on Netflix? No

Spoilers? Nope

I don’t know how Maps to the Stars ended up in my DVD queue on Netflix. I saw a trailer? Someone recommended it to me? The movie came in the mail to me August 20, 2015 and quite frankly between work, family, and a lot of personal stuff going on, I forgot it was here. This week I was like “Oh shit. I forgot I do the ‘two DVDs a month Netflix’ thing with my streaming and I’ve had a movie here since August.” I was able to watch the movie last night and I. Loved. It. I didn’t realize until the credits ran at the beginning it was a David Cronenberg movie. One of my favorite Jeremy Irons’ movies is Dead Ringers, which is also a David Cronenberg film. And while Dead Ringers is fabulous (and even a warped and twisted version of sexy), it is also WAY disturbing, so I was glad I caught Cronenberg’s name so I could brace myself for the fucked-upness that was about to be on the screen.

The movie opens with Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) coming to California—we don’t know who she is and we don’t know if she is lying or telling the truth when she tells her limo driver Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson) that she is close, personal friends with Carrie Fisher. As the movie unfolds, we realize that Agatha is the schizophrenic daughter of Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) and Christina Weiss (Olivia Williams) and sister of Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird). Through Carrie Fisher, Agatha becomes personal assistant to Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) and Havana is a client of self-help guru and pseudo-psychotherapist Stafford Weiss.

Much of what follows could be seen as shallow Hollywood tropes. Now, as much I love movies, I don’t know Hollywood, and God willing, I never will. I am very much a person of place and my place is overall, Michigan (though I am willing to negotiate this when I retire. Especially in the months December through March). When I was younger I remember being quite star-struck by movie stars but now at 47, I realize that stars are just people. And a lot of times, not very nice people. I certainly wouldn’t say no to taking a selfie with Chris Hemsworth, but I would be far too lazy to go up and ask him for one. So mostly what I know of Hollywood culture comes from books and movies and what people have told me. This film seems to hit some of those stereotypes—the aging actress (Havana Segrand), the drug-addled child star (Benjie Weiss) with the controlling mother (Christina Weiss), and the false self-help idol (Stafford Weiss) helping stars fell less guilty and more entitled about their place of privilege in American society. What makes the movie rise about those stereotypes (and how much do I love this?) is a poem. The poem is the cadence, the anthem of this movie. It is repeatedly repeated.

On my school books

On my desk and trees

On the sand and snow

I write your name

 

On all pages read

On all white pages

Stone sand paper or ashes

I write your name

 

On the jungle and desert

On the nests and gorses

On the echo of my childhood

I write your name

 

On the marvels of nights

On the white bread of days

On the married seasons

I write your name

 

On the fields on the horizon

On the wings of birds

And on the mill of shadows

I write your name

 

On each puff of dawn

On the sea on the boats

On the demential mountain

I write your name

 

On health regained

On risk that is no more

On hope without memories

I write your name

 

And by the strength of one word

I start over my life

I was born to know you

To name you

 

Liberty.

-Paul Eluard.

Now if you know a little bit of this poem’s history, this movie goes from being “Gosh, this version of Hollywood is creepy” to a poised and controlled message about mental illness, dysfunctional families, and the authenticity of human beings. Eluard’s poem was dropped in leaflet form in World War II over Nazi Germany. With that little historical detail, the storyline, the poem and the march of the characters each to their own personal horrific fate expand far beyond a satire of Hollywood and journey into the Jungian darkness of the human soul.

Not a feel-good, fun movie, readers. But don’t miss this one.

 

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes/Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release: 2011, 2014

Rating: PG-13

Currently Streaming on Netflix? No (But if you have a bloated cable package like I do, I’m sure you can find both of them.)

Spoilers? No more than a trailer

 

Let’s just start by saying that it takes an awful lot to get me to watch ANYTHING with James Franco in it. If Franco was only a mediocre actor it would be one thing, but in addition to being a mediocre actor, he’s an awful poet who has gotten published in very serious places basically because he is famous and has money. And this makes me very ragey, because I am friends with a lot of very good poets who would like very much to have a book published by Graywolf and whose poetry is better by every artistic and empirical standard. And he has literally taken the spot of someone who depends on their art for their livelihood. Someone who depends on a book for their tenure. Yes, I know capitalism affects art every day. It is just so so sad to see it to this extent. (His. poems. are. really. really. bad.)

So that fact that I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes twice despite my middle-aged professor disgust and disappointment in James Franco, tells you how much I love this franchise. I was young in a time before cable. A time of four channels if you were lucky and certainly no Internet or your favorite movie on VHS, DVD or BluRay to watch over and over again. So, after school, there was a movie broadcasted five days a week on a channel out of Toledo, Ohio. (I grew up in Michigan but close to the Ohio border and the antenna picked up Toledo much better than Detroit.) I cannot remember the name of the feature—it was called something like That 4’oclock Show or The Big Show at 4:00 or whatever. The quality of their offerings movies varied greatly—sometimes they were Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, sometimes it was The Greatest Show on Earth but at least once a year or so, there was Planet of the Apes week which usually included Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. These all blur together in my mind a bit (note to self, rewatch all original Planet of the Apes movies). I was in elementary school when I could come home and watch TV—as I got older I had after school activities and/or a job. But I was ENTHRALLED by the talking apes and firmly on the humans’ side (of course).

When the franchise was rebooted in 2001 with Tim Burton directing, Mark Wahlberg playing an astronaut and Helena Bonham Carter playing a progressive ape, I had a five-year-old and two-year-old and I think I saw a picture of the movie in Entertainment Weekly. The only movies I saw in those days were kid-fare and whatever I could rent in my “free” time on VHS. (Many years later I watched the reboot and it was… okay.) But Rise of the Planet of the Apes (with James Franco *sigh*) is a pretty compelling movie AND it gets you to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which is AMAZING. The visual effects of Dawn are stunning, with the actors playing apes wearing motion capture suits, rather than the make-up and suits of the old Planet of the Apes and the 2001 reboot. The decision to use this technology results in the viewer being able to totally suspend their disbelief. The viewer isn’t at any level saying, “Wow, Helena Bonham Carter looks a little freaky in ape make-up.” I was awed by the seamlessness and realness of the action—not just CGI, but the actors WITH the technology.

The story of Dawn is also homage to the old movies, as well as those age-old questions–what is humanity? why is there war? Why can some people (and apes) forgive the wrongs done to them and forge new lives, and others hold on to those same wrongs, wanting only revenge and annihilation of the enemy that has done them wrong? The villain in Dawn is not only human beings and our guns, but also Koba, who has been experimented on repeatedly by human beings and wants them all enslaved or dead. Watching Koba fall from his loyalty to Caesar (the main protagonist, the chimp who was raised by James Franco’s character Will Rodman and his father, played by John Lithgow, in Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and give in to his hatred of humans is one of the most compelling and horrific parts of the movie. There is also an underlying parenting/psychology parable here as well—Caesar was loved by humans, making him capable of love and forgiveness. Koba was tortured by humans, sending him down the path of destruction and hate.

Even if you never enjoyed Charlton Heston screeching, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” I think you will like these two latest offerings. Dawn evidently did quite well at the box office, grossing almost $709 million worldwide. And the third installment in the trilogy will hit theaters in summer 2017. Catch up on the third installment’s prequels and see if you can figure out why “humans don’t like smart ape.”

Shutter Island

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This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release: 2010

Rating: R (for violence and horrific flashbacks to the emancipation of Dachau)

Currently Streaming on Netflix? No (It WAS and now it’s gone. 😦 )

Spoilers? Slightly more than trailer

Here’s the thing about Shutter Island (one of my favorite movies that’s come out in the last five years) you have to make time to watch it twice. The first time through you’ll just be trying to figure out what is really going on in the film. In the second viewing you can pick up all of the clues and foreshadowing screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis and director Martin Scorsese give you. I’m serious here, the second time watching this movie is where the maximum enjoyment is. WATCH THIS MOVIE TWICE.

It’s 1954 and Leonardo DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, U.S. Marshal, who comes to Shutter Island, a facility for the criminally insane, with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) to hunt down escaped patient Rachel (Emily Mortimer). Everything feels a little bit off as Daniels and Aule enter the grounds of the facility. The guards are nervous, and there are a LOT of guards. The head psychiatrist Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) refuses to let the marshals have access to any personnel records. A hurricane is approaching and no one is allowed in Ward C, a former Civil War fort turned high-security prison for the most violent of the violent criminals on Shutter Island. Daniels tries to discover what is going on, but he is plagued by WWII flashbacks. Daniels was one of the United States soldiers to emancipate Dachau and visions of the piles of frozen bodies and starving, tortured survivors flood his mind when he’s under stress. In addition to his obvious PTSD, Daniels dreams of his dead wife, and sometimes even “sees” her while he’s awake. She whispers advice to him and viewers are not quite sure Daniels should be listening to advice from a dream ghost.

The viewer is a little off kilter throughout the entire movie. Part of this is due to the heavy, foreboding soundtrack. Part of it is the physical darkness of the movie—Daniels has to light matches repeatedly as he enters Ward C to get clues as to where Rachel is and what exactly is going on on the island. Part of the off-kilter is the encroaching hurricane, the phones are down and there is no ferry access due to the wild wind and sea. Daniels is suffering from migraines and flashbacks, and Cawley and the other psychiatrist Dr. Naehring (played by Max von Sydow) are definitely hiding something and/or reluctant to talk to Daniels. All of this makes for a fun, suspenseful viewing experience.

The acting in this movie is incredible. DiCaprio is just gold in this. He’s paranoid (maybe rightly so?). He’s deeply sad and stressed. He’s glib, macho and at times, tender. Ruffalo is a calm foil to DiCaprio’s energetic performance and Kingsley is at turns comforting, creepy and confrontational. (I wanted to use some alliteration in this Catch Up, obviously.)

The movie clocks in at two hours and 18 minutes and it flies by. There are actually “two” endings to the movie—even if you saw the first one coming, you may not see the second one coming. I haven’t read Dennis Lehane’s book so obviously those of you who have will have some inside scoop. This movie is a lot of fun (and also quite sad and disturbing in parts) and if you love a good thriller, you want to put this on your rent list. (And you’ll never hear the words “Baby, why are you all wet?” again without a shudder. See what I did there???)

The Fall

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This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release: 2013

Rating: TV MA (for nudity and some seriously creepy murders)

Currently Streaming on Netflix? Yes

Spoilers? Mild

Once again cheating here at the Catch Up to talk about TV—this time the BBC drama The Fall, starring the incomparable Gillian Anderson, who grows more compelling to watch with each passing year. Several friends had recommended The Fall to me but I was a bit leery after it took me over six months to work my way through Dexter. I wasn’t sure I wanted to enter the world of serial killers again so soon. I’m certainly glad I did because this impeccable drama isn’t about catching a different serial killer every episode—it’s about catching ONE serial killer in Belfast.

Eleven episodes are available on Netflix and they are one hour each. This is a very manageable binge if you are binge-minded (especially you college kids because hello FINALS WEEK).

Anderson stars at Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, who has been brought into review a murder that remains unsolved after 28 days. A few days into her investigation, Gibson notices a link between the murder she is reviewing and a previous Belfast murder. At the same time we see Gibson begin putting together the pieces of the two murders, we also meet Paul Spector (played by Jamie Dornan—who I guess plays Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey? Ick!). Spector is a grief counselor, husband and father of two, and he also happens to be killing the attractive, dark-haired, professional women of Belfast whenever the mood strikes him. I just icked 50 Shades of Grey but Dornan is really incredible in this show—handsome, charming, homicidally angry and obsessive, but yet at the same time, tender with his children. The character of Spector is all the more terrifying because the show takes time to develop him, it doesn’t just pass two quick brush strokes and call him a monster.

As the series goes on, Spector sees Gibson and becomes obsessed with her—even though she is not “his type.” In one particularly haunting episode, Spector steals Gibson’s diary and begins to play mind games with her.

Gibson is a wonderful character, at turns hard-headed and vulnerable. When she discovers a video on Spector’s phone of one of the women he has kidnapped and tortured, she begins to cry silently. Viewing her tears, I didn’t know if she was crying out of empathy, because she had failed to catch him before this happened, or because she was angry and upset. Regardless, it was a deeply moving scene.

After years of watching police dramas where white males solve crimes but surround themselves with a “team” of women and people of color as tokens, I cheered as Gibson over and over again confronts the sexism of her boss, the media, and the other investigators. “Someone once told me men fear women because women might laugh at them,” Gibson says. “But women fear men because men might kill them.” Gibson also is quite frank about her desire for sex, but not relationships, with men. At one point her boss (who Gibson slept with once, years ago) tells her that he would have done anything for her, including leave his wife and family. “That,” Gibson responds, “Would have been a mistake.”

Another thing I really enjoy about this show is the fact that each of Spector’s victims is a fully developed person and character in the drama. It is not a show that focuses on the disposability of the unnamed woman.

Sometimes when Netflix coughs up its recommendations for “strong female lead” I roll my eyes because it seems like it’s more of a recommendation of “Look! Here’s a woman who gets some serious screen time in this particular TV Show!” But The Fall truly showcases Anderson’s amazing talent and is a creepy pleasure to watch.

Note: Season Two on Netflix ends on a cliffhanger but Season Three has been ordered and should come to the United States later in 2015.

Another Note: Anderson’s British accent is pretty legit—she lived in England for a large portion of her childhood. She also lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For some reason, she doesn’t mention that as much.

Top Five

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This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release: 2014

Rating: R (for nudity, drugs, swearing and a disturbing scene with Cedric the Entertainer, two sexy prostitutes and lots of feathers)

Currently Streaming on Netflix? No—available OnDemand and on BluRay and DVD

Spoilers? Mild

My husband and I saw Chris Rock on The Tonight Show last year promoting this movie he wrote, starred in and produced. Rock joked that since no one had called recently he had to make his own work. Since my husband and I rarely make it to the movie theater anymore (so many obligations at night) we looked forward to Top Five’s DVD release so we could enjoy it at home. We are long-time Chris Rock fans (since his Saturday Night Live days) and we were expecting the movie to be funny as Rock manages to lend a funny edge to even the most lackluster comedy (see: Grown Ups I & II). What we weren’t expecting from this movie was its satire of show business, press junkets (similar to America’s Sweethearts where Christopher Walken rolls in the last ten or 15 minutes of the movie with his “Blair Bitch Project”) and the one-day romance between Rock (who plays Andre Allen) and Rosario Dawson (who plays Chelsea Brown.)

Allen is a comedian who wants to turn serious after three cheesy but hilarious Hammy the Bear movies. His current project, where he stars as a Haitian slave during the revolution, is about to be released. Several clips are shown as he does his press junket and the movie looks laughably bad. Engaged to a TV reality star, he is just hours away from a Bravo-televised deluxe wedding and he agrees to let a New York Times reporter spend the day interviewing him in hopes of helping the box office of his slave-uprising epic.

Brown, the NYT reporter, is beautiful and interesting—a writer, a poet, a photographer and a recovering alcoholic, just as Allen is. Brown strives to get Allen to trust her (The New York Times eviscerated all of his Hammy the Bear movies) and just as Allen begins to trust her and even fall a little in love with her, he discovers a secret about Brown and is tempted to flush his four or five years of sobriety down the toilet because he is so disappointed in her.

The Top Five trope throughout the movie is various characters listing their Top Five rap or hip-hop artists. (One of the funniest scenes in the movie is a cameo by Jerry Seinfeld where he lists his Top Five and makes it rain in a strip club.) One of the most beautifully shot scenes in the movie is when Allen says goodbye to Brown and asks her Top Five (Salt-N-Pepa is included!)

All and all, this is a charming, romantic, funny and yes at times vulgar, movie—so I found it perfect fare for a Friday night. Rock obviously knows his strengths as a star and as a comedian and viewers will have fun identifying all the co-stars and cameos—which include Cedric the Entertainer, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Tracy Morgan and Kevin Hart.

Gaslight

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This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release: 1944

Rating: NR (It’s G/PG but would be creepy for little kids)

Currently Streaming on Netflix? No—available OnDemand and on BluRay and DVD

Spoilers? No more than that awesome, melodramatic, classic trailer linked up above

 

This movie and its 1940 predecessor (which I have never seen) are the reason we have the phrase “gaslighting.” Gaslighting “is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted/spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception and sanity.” This movie is an ideal to watch if you ever wonder how anyone could “let” themselves be abused or have ever asked “why on earth would a woman STAY with her abuser?”

Ingrid Bergman stars as Paula Alquist who, at 10 years old, discovers her aunt’s murdered body in their home. Paula, who for obvious reasons now loathes the house, (we call this PTSD in the 21st century) is shipped off to Italy to study music. There she meets an older pianist and falls in love. She marries him, sacrificing her promising musical career. Paula has had no mother and no father in her life for almost a decade, and all she wants is to be loved and have a family. Paula equates all of England with her aunt’s traumatic murder, but that is exactly where her new husband Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) wants them to move. Paula expresses her displeasure but wants to please her love and they do move to England. Arriving, Paula is in for the first of many ugly surprises, as Gregory insists they move into her aunt’s home since she owns it through inheritance.

Ensconced in England, in a house with horrible memories, Gregory begins his attack on Paula’s psyche. He moves objects. He talks to her like an invalid. Things go missing. Paintings move. Gas lights in the bedroom dim and brighten. There are strange noises in the house. Gregory leaves and returns at strange hours. He enlists the aid of a maid (a very young and smoking hot Angela Lansbury) as an ally, telling her in his charming way that his wife doesn’t know what is for her own good. In addition Gregory hires an almost deaf housekeeper who never hears the sounds Paula hears. Gregory bullies Paula consistently through the guise of love until Paula questions her own sanity. He slowly and systematically cuts her off from family friends and others who might be concerned for her welfare and then as coup d’état, tells the housekeeper and maid not to let anyone in the house or to let Paula leave it, for her own “good.”

Luckily for Paula, Brian Cameron, Scotland Yard detective, (Joseph Cotten) was a big fan of Paula’s aunt, who was a prima donna he saw perform when he was a child. He has taken a special interest in Paula and notices that Gregory seems shady at best. Brian has always wondered who killed Paula’s aunt, and Gregory looks a little familiar to him.

As the movie reaches its climax, Paula confronts Gregory. (I believe this scene was probably crucial in getting Ingrid Bergman her Academy Award for this role.) She is so angry and cutting—it is a beautiful to behold and the viewer wishes every woman (or man) who has been abused by a master manipulator, someone who took their love and trust and goodwill and turned it on them to make them question their sanity and their competence as a human being, would get a chance to face their abuser in the same manner.

What I find so interesting about this movie (in addition to its overall strong script and all-around solid acting performances) is that domestic violence and abuse was not exactly front and center in 1944. Certainly there wasn’t the information we have available about it now, nor the social services. (We still don’t have enough social services but we have many more than were available in the 1940s.) Yet, this movie captures perfectly what can happen when one person with a trusting heart, and one person with malicious intent (or a lot of issues) can do to just the average person who trusts them.

Even if the psychology of violence and abuse doesn’t interest you, you are sure to enjoy the performances of Bergman, Lansbury, Boyer and Cotten. This classic continued to hold up well, even over 60 years later.