Village Idiot

Believe it or not, I am sometimes capable of biting my tongue. You haven't heard a word from me about Mary-Kate Olsen's hunger strike, although I've suspected that brave young woman was Gandhi-like ever since Full House. I was quiet as a church mouse when Tom Cruise put on a gray wig for a movie that requires him to be believable intimidating a cab driver and using the word "homey." And up till now I've said absolutely nothing about the fact that those collegiate triplets in the Cingular wireless commercials have sent me into deeper private reflection than anything since Home Improvement's Jonathan Taylor Thomas turned 18. There are some things I just don't think it's necessary for everybody to know.

I can't be silent, however, when a great wrong is being perpetrated on an unsuspecting public, so please understand why I'm about to discuss the ending of The Village. Don't send me any angry e-mails about how I've ruined your moviegoing experience, either—trust me, it's ruined the second you spend 10 bucks on the thing. And one more caveat: I do believe that writer/director M. Night Shyamalan is a gifted filmmaker. Even Signs was fine, until it suddenly became about God's master plan for getting Mel Gibson to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior (and we all know where that got us . . . ).

The Village is another matter. Let me see if I have this straight: A bunch of liberals who never got over the urban violence that caused the deaths of their loved ones are now living a government-sanctioned existence in a wildlife sanctuary, and dressing up like red-hooded werewolves in an attempt to convince their innocent offspring not to leave their idyllic lives as syntax-challenged pilgrims? Is it me, or is this something an aged Rod Serling might have dreamed up while masturbating on crystal meth?

I don't know where to begin, except to say that, aside from the stabbing of Joaquin Phoenix (a sequence as accomplished as anything by Hitchcock), every last detail of the movie reeks to high heaven: the fact that the grieving town elders all used to work for some inner-city "Counseling Center," which reminds me of the "Science Institutes" that used to figure in the asinine plots of 1930s Saturday afternoon serials; the idea that said ex-counselors would all agree to converse like grade-schoolers in an annual Thanksgiving pageant (Sigourney Weaver deserves the Medal of Honor for getting through a line like, "What is troubling that head of yours?"); the notion that a man who's chosen to live as a pilgrim on a wildlife preserve to protect his children from the dangers of the world would send his blind daughter on a quest through unfamiliar woods; William Hurt, who's apparently chosen to ape William Shatner's distinguished acting technique (Mr. Hurt, we . . . want your . . . Oscar . . . back); and Phoenix himself, who has apparently chosen to eat all the sandwiches that Mary-Kate has gone without.

Here's my idea: Everybody who is reading this and feels my pain, please take a moment to write me with a better explanation for the events of this film. The person who supplies the most original ending will get it printed in this column and receive, in addition to all my respect and the devotion of millions, a large brick of quality cheese. swiecking@seattleweekly.com

 
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