After watching Chinatown, I . . . well, let’s just say I reacted to the film. A lot.
I then went to Rotten Tomatoes to see how other people reacted to the movie. I couldn’t believe my damn eyes. As of September 5th, 2010, Chinatown has a 100% rating. A 100%. That’s unfathomable. That doesn’t even happen.
I’m so going to Movie Hell.
This review will contain SPOILERS. Lots and lots of SPOILERS. You’ve been warned. Also: this is a less of a review than an excuse for me to publicly work through my feelings on the film. No random notes this time. Sorry, folks . . . although, wait, I do have one random note I just have to throw in: the henchman bad guy who cuts Nicholson’s nose in the film? I wrote a couple notes on him, saying that while short men can be fearsome and while threatening to cut off someone’s nose and feed it to your goldfish is wonderfully inventive and creepy, this dude’s voice (and bow tie) are so irritating that I found him to be not particularly intimidating, and maybe we should have cast someone else in this role. Of course, today I found out that this guy was played by none other than the director, Roman Polanski. Heh.
Now, to the meat of this review. Let me say this : I’m not silly enough to think that Chinatown is a bad movie. Far from it, actually. I like the performances; I like the dialogue; I like trying to keep up with the mystery as it unfolds. I liked Nicholson from the very get-go, with his world-weary sigh and overall demeanor: “All right, Curly. Enough’s enough. You can’t eat the Venetian blinds. I just had them installed on Wednesday.” I like the look of the film; I like the tone. I like that they never give you a monologue detailing exactly what happened to Gittes in Chinatown the last time he was around.
I like a lot of things, but that ending, man . . .
That was one mean bitch of an ending.
And I don’t even want to hear anything like, “Well, life doesn’t always end in puppies and rainbows, Carlie.” I am well aware that not every story is meant to have a happy ending. I have liked movies where every character dies, and I have liked movies where the bad guy wins. But when Chinatown ended, I just burst into tears.
Of course, it’s only fair to point out that I am an easy cry. Always have been, always will be. I mean, I’ve never cried at a commercial or anything, no matter how many sad puppies they throw at me, but movies, TV shows, books, work, my parents, my ill-fitting clothes, and my internet not working . . . my first instinct when I’m frustrated/depressed/pissed off or otherwise unhappy is to bawl my eyes out, and that’s just the way I’m wired. But the way I felt after watching Chinatown, the . . . I don’t know, the rottenness that hit my stomach? It was sudden, and it was heavy, and the only thing I could really think was, “Christ, this is a HORRIBLE movie.”
Cause I’m okay with Faye Dunaway dying. I even like the whole head-hitting-the-car-horn foreshadow thing they do. And I’m okay that Nicholson couldn’t save her, that everything goes hopeless and sour in Chinatown. I’m okay that the good guys don’t win.
But, man, when John Huston picks that girl up out of the car, when he takes her home to molest her, to rape her, the way you know he’s going to . . .
I apologize for the melodramatic wording, but . . . well, fuck it, I just felt wretched.
There’s an argument to be had about movies inspiring that kind of reaction, that the mark of a good film is the rage or grief you feel after it’s over . . . but it’s not really an argument I’m interested in partaking in at this point. Here’s how I feel: Chinatown‘s ending? Probably the right one. Faye Dunaway dying certainly was right. I’m a little torn on the girl getting nabbed–after all, if Evelyn Mulray could just AIM HER FUCKING GUN, then the Evil Daddy would be dead, the cops could still kill Dunaway, Gittes could still feel like he failed her, and the girl would not end up giving birth to her own daughter/sister. I think this would have worked for me. Stories where everything ends badly on every single possible angle don’t always do a lot for me, outside of Shakespeare, of course, and even then there’s usually some handy moral lesson to be learned, like patience (i.e, indecision) is not actually a virtue, Hamlet!
Still, Chinatown is so complete as a tragedy that I’m not sure it would have been so well-received and so critically lauded if they had ended the story the way I wanted it to end. So, okay, fine: Chinatown wins. The movie’s a tragedy through and through, and the ending isn’t cheap. It’s well earned. Chinatown‘s a good movie. It’s even a great movie.
But I got to tell you: at this point, I never need to see this film again. Ever.
Moral of the Story: If you’re going to use a gun, take the time to learn how to USE it. Seriously, Evelyn, you were two feet away from your father, and you shot him where? The shoulder? Aim for the fucking head, people. It’s not just a rule for facing off zombies.