Shelf and Screen: Progress and Redemption

Over the past two years, I’ve enjoyed a handful of first novels in the sf/fantasy genre. One of last year’s enjoyable reads was from Tobias Buckell, so I was heading into his second novel, Ragamuffin, with some excitement. The title tips me off that it’s a sequel, but the opening third of the book takes the reader off the planet Nanagada and into deep space to adventures with a cloned warrior/cyborg who just wants to go home.

The middle third picks up the storyline from book 1 about ten years in the future. Somehow, it was less than satisfying, though not lacking in action and adventure.

One quality by which I judge sf is the imagination of the author. This book doesn’t lack. Literary qualities like plotting and characterization are important. I’d give this novel a B and C respectively. There were parts of this book to enjoy, but by the last third of the novel, I felt impatient for it to end so I could move on to the next book on my shelf.

This book tells a violent story. Maybe violent people are one-dimensional by nature. If so, it shows. Maybe the imagination aspect isn’t as important in what I’m reading these days. In these two novels, bad things happen to people you’re reading about. But despite the fact some of these people are hundreds of years old, it doesn’t inspire them to grow.

On the other hand, bad things do happen to the people in the film The Feast of Love. Anita proposed it as a daytime date movie–she told me it’s been getting relentless tv promotion. The local reviewer gave it three-and-a-half out of four–which is the bottom line for what I will go to a theatre to see.

Roger Ebert seems to have missed the point of the movie, which I enjoyed a lot more than he did. I was a little surprised, because of all the major reviewers, I find I agree most often with his insights.

I found the film to be less an ensemble cast jumping in and out of love and bed, but an interesting growth experience for two deeply wounded men. What happens when tragedy hits: the death of an only child, the end of a marriage? In the book I read this week, the characters start shooting.

In this film, the two men feel the torment. But like most of humanity, they don’t start blowing away the rest of the world. In fact, the sap repeats his mistake and gets the same experience. Then he does something utterly foolish, but then he finds a woman who really loves and understands him–just when the viewer thinks he hasn’t learned anything at all. His eyes are gradually opened in the progress of the film, and with his final love experience, he seems to have absorbed the advice given by his sad mentor, played by Morgan Freeman. His eyes are opened.

Freeman’s character might be the bigger sap, a professor who is battered by the unexpected death of his son, but who still gives out advice to his friends. His journey–a walk in the middle of the night–starts off the film and picks up in the final fifteen minutes allows him to open his eyes and find a personal and satisfying resolution for the loss of his son. It’s interesting that the youngest couple in the movie–the people who seem the most foolish of all–provide the catalyst for the old man’s healing.

I found the CNS review to be interesting. They’re right that the carnality is over the top. The story could be told without it. It tends to underscore the ruthless empty life of two of the film’s characters. The claim that the film contains “drug use” seems untrue. One character confesses he used to be a user, but also talks about his commitment to NA, even showing his girlfriend his six-month chip. Does talking about it constitute “use?” I suppose talking about the sex instead of showing nudity wouldn’t have helped.

Can I recommend the movie? Depends on you. I warned my wife that the online review I checked suggested she would be offended by the carnality. And she was. I don’t find myself getting aroused by seeing other people make bad sexual choices, so I can’t say that the film offered me any temptation. Does the depiction of people making immoral choices deaden my own sense of morality? I don’t go to the movies to find help making choices–one way or the other. I thought The Feast of Love was an excellent movie about two men who needed to go deeper into their lives to find growth, awareness, and redemption. It was better than any book I’ve read lately.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in film, On My Bookshelf. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Shelf and Screen: Progress and Redemption

  1. Pingback: Movies » Shelf and Screen: Progress and Redemption

  2. Allison says:

    I wrote the screenplay for Feast of Love and I was moved and impressed by your lovely, thoughtful, sophisticated review. Thanks so much,

    Allison Burnett

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