Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tommy (movie review)

I'd just assumed I'd seen this before as hasn't everyone seen Tommy?  However after a few minutes I realized this was new material to me.  I'm glad to be taking a director-centric approach to movie watching.  Ken Russell films are my latest focus.

Tommy is set during the Narnia generation, when kids had to leave their families by train, for the English countryside or even the Americas, to avoid German bombing raids (Germany was experiencing much the same thing, with Churchill ever eager to test the new weapons systems at his disposal -- Hitler and Franco too, in Spain).  Sometimes junior would come home to find mom with a new dad, given the real dad had been downed over enemy territory.  Tommy finds himself in a similar situation.

The new dad, a William Shatner type played by Oliver Reed, the studly priest in The Devils, is as inexperienced as the mom when it comes to child psychology.  Neither has read Dr. Spock or has much insight into Oedipus Complex issues, somewhat typical in boys of Tommy's impressionable young age.  Both overreact when the ghost of the real dad raises its ugly head in Tommy's thinking, and have to seek psychotherapy for Tommy as a consequence.

Fortunately, the new dad has an eye for talent and snags Tina Turner as a therapist.  She provides a "safe space" as we said in est, and feeds him "Voodoo Donuts" (as in "popular Portland treats"), at least figuratively, and Tommy blisses out long enough to at least reconnect to parts of his former self.

Thanks to Tina's intervention, he improves at his game quite dramatically (besting Elton John), though is still a PTSD case and only makes it up to the "Jesus freak" level, which never works out, before arriving at Game Over much where he (or the real dad) came in, ready for a rebirth of some kind.

I've skipped to the end though, missing the therapist mom could have had were she feeling less forsaken and abandoned early on:  Jack Nicholson.  The obvious chemistry between them suggests she might have developed her mind more before getting reconnected with a male counterpart, and this might have benefited Tommy in the long run.  But that's all hypothesis contrary to fact i.e. specious speculation.  She did fine snagging the new dad and they stay together to the end.

An interesting wrinkle for me is I had my head in the pages of Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism?, when it came up to see this movie.  I'd been reading all about operatic renderings of psychological complexes, and here I was, suddenly immersed in just such an operatic rendering, albeit not by Wagner, but by The Who, a band with much greater name recognition and better known music in my "teenage wasteland" generation.  Nietzsche and I had very different childhoods, that's obvious, including in the music department.