The Life of David Gale – Two Points of Interest
I know I’m breaking the law by writing about a non-Meryl movie, but I saw this (older) movie recently and wanted to point out a couple of things that noticed about it.
This movie received an incredible amount of negative criticism because people found the story line to be pointless and the acting sub par. For the most part, I agree. The opera-loving cowboy who was supposed to provide tension throughout the movie was more annoying than menacing. The whole “you have to solve this mystery (to which I hold the answer)” twist was only interesting to me because the first time I watched the movie, I started in the middle. When I got the chance to see the movie start to finish, I too was dissatisfied with the ending.
There were two elements of the movie which I found very interesting and which I have not seen addressed in other on-line reviews. First, David Gale’s lecture on Fantasies was especially good and I thought, especially true.
Here is the excerpt from the movie script:
David Gale addressing his philosophy class at Austin University:
“You fantasize about? World peace?”
(as no one responds)
(as some guys applaud loudly; others then boo them)
“A Pulitzer? Nobel? M.T.V. Music Award?”
“A genius hunk — ostensibly bad but secretly simmering with noble passions, and willing to sleep on the wet spot?”
(As women applaud…LARGE WOMAN yells)
“I’ll take two!”
“A Victoria’s Secret model – just slumming between law school and running her family’s Vastly Endowed Foundation for Tragically Sad-Eyed Children?”
(The crowd laughs, David changes tone)
“Okay, good, you see Lacan’s point. Fantasies must be unrealistic. The minute you get something, you don’t, you can’t, want it anymore. To exist, desire needs absent objects. So desire supports itself with crazy fantasies…”
“This is what Pascal means when he says the only time we’re truly happy is when day-dreaming about future happiness.”
“Or why we say, ‘The hunt is sweeter than the kill’ or ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Not because you’ll get it, but because you’re doomed not to want it if you do. Think about it next time you’re at a wedding.”
I do not consider myself an expert on philosophy or even psychology (never took a class on either subject), but I am a student of human nature. I like to think about what makes people tick and what compels them to make the decisions that they make and perhaps even understand myself more fully by what I observe in others. During a few of my early morning mullings in the shower (prior to shower crayon purchase), I was trying to consider why so many wealthy people seem to be unhappy and had wondered if it was related to having everything they want – and therefore not having anything to dream about or long for. I think desire is a necessary part of the human condition and if a person wants for nothing, it creates an imbalance of the spirit. Or as Gale says in his class lecture: says “the only time we’re truly happy is when day-dreaming about future happiness.”
The other part of the movie that hit a nerve with me is how easy it is to deconstruct a person’s life. A student with a grudge and a bit of cleverness was shown to bring about false rape charges against David Gale causing the end of his marriage and the ruin of his career. That’s how much damage one malicious and well wielded lie can cause. The worst part is that people seem to want to believe them, especially when it’s about someone who seemingly lives a moral life or has achieved recognition and acclaim. It’s especially juicy when the victim has a long way to fall. Perhaps it is simply the reverse of the fantasy – If I can’t have it, then he shouldn’t have it either. Whatever the reason it is an incredibly ugly side of human nature and unavoidable if someone is driven to destroy you.
This movie is old enough that you should be able to find it on cable somewhere. It’s worth watching once. There will be parts that you hate and you may never want to watch it again, but at least consider the concepts I’ve pointed out and perhaps you won’t be as disappointed.