04 November 2019

Splash & Country

"Personal Touch" is a feature where Charlene can talk about the Touchstone movies that Mike, and his co-host, Chad, cover in their podcast "Out of Touchstone".  Charlene is more of the silent partner in the venture (she helps produce the show), so she's using the HoneyNerds blog to comment on what she thought about the films discussed in each podcast episode.  

Out of Touchstone: Episode 1 "Mermaid Foreclosure"

Before I get into my reviews of the films, I'd just like to say that this podcast is a labor of love and Mike and I have really enjoyed watching these films and talking about them.  We hope new listeners will also enjoy the chat about the films, as well as the history.  If you give the show a listen, please consider leaving a review (5 stars is preferable!) and any constructive comments or thoughts on our format and style will be gratefully received!  Thank you!

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Splash (1984) 

I'm just going to say first that my initial experience with the lore of mermaids comes from Disney's The Little Mermaid.  It was one of my favorite films growing up, and it's still my favorite Disney film, as Ariel is my favorite Disney princess.  So my anticipation in watching Splash (a movie that pre-dates The Little Mermaid!) was in many ways because I was looking forward to a live-action version of the animated film.  

And while my mindset was not open-minded, there were some curious echoes of the great animated movie to come.  The romance is "love at first sight", Daryl Hannah's Madison can not speak at first, and there is a singing crab.  Just kidding!  It's a lobster and it's eaten by Madison.

But seriously, once I moved past my Ariel-tinted viewing lens, this film is very much its own entity.  It's also the first film under the Touchstone Pictures banner.  Walt Disney Pictures decided to expand its catalog with more adult-oriented films and released it under the Touchstone name.  Watching this movie with that in mind, I feel like this film is a clear attempt at merging humor that appeals to children with adult language and themes.  Which worked on the whole.  

The main character - Allen Bauer - is a responsible, considerate, hard-working adult who seems to be generally unhappy and surrounded by people determined to make his life difficult.  Allen's reactions to his circumstances create humor, while the cartoonishly incompetent characters around him herald the immature jokes and gags.  I was most perturbed by John Candy's character.  He plays Allen's brother Freddy and is gross, dishonest, pervy and lewd.  He drops coins near women to look up their dress (as a child, AND as an adult), and it's clear his behavior is seen as "boys will be boys."  Thankfully he's not a character that would be acceptable in media today - not without specific commentary on the fact that what he is doing is wrong.  It's unfortunate that I wanted to see less of Freddy in the film, as John Candy seems like such a likable person.

The romance in this movie is quite interesting.  I found it believable that Allen and Madison have a connection, but the "love at first sight" trope is such an uninteresting way to get an audience invested in the relationship of two people.  I always prefer seeing how and why the characters find their connection.  But if I may, I will congratulate the film in creating a female character that unabashedly goes after her man, and also embraces a physical relationship.  Which it seems she goes for with just the intention of experiencing it and not for marriage.  It's refreshing that it is Allen who wants the traditional love and marriage scenario from their relationship.

Splash is a fun film - it doesn't try to be realistic in its characters or plot - but it is a very sweet and earnestly told tale.  I could have wished for more exposition and understanding about the mermaid world, and for a more nuanced romance, but it's an adult story with a fairy tale ending.  And I love fairy tales.

Country (1984)

Country is an unfortunate film in my mind.  It has the potential to be a decent movie but suffers from the sin of omission.  The style and editing are too leisurely to do the story justice.  The film focuses on the perils and uncertainty of being a farmer, and that affects interpersonal family relations.  Jessica Lange as the stalwart mother was the highlight of the film - she held the family, as well as the story together.  However, the tensions and the drama build very slowly so it is hard to become invested in their plight.  Even when their story is mirrored in another family's struggle and their fate is more tragic, I found my interest very thin.

The film is important for the story though.  It highlights the struggle of small farmers and the greed of corporate business.  The need to turn a profit is valued higher than a good family surviving.  Sure, the film can be heavy-handed in its message, but I think it brought to life an experience that many people might be unfamiliar with.  It is a heavy, depressing subject though, and that also makes this film sometimes difficult to watch.  I can understand why this film was not the family-friendly fare suited to Disney, and was relegated to the Touchstone brand.  

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