denzelrain.jpg
"Okay! Alright! I'm shitfaced!"
The Dinner: Multiple screwdrivers and little else at Moon Temple in Wallingford.

The Movie: Flight at Pacific Place in Downtown Seattle.

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Denzel Takes Flight in a Temple of Booze

denzelrain.jpg
"Okay! Alright! I'm shitfaced!"
The Dinner: Multiple screwdrivers and little else at Moon Temple in Wallingford.

The Movie: Flight at Pacific Place in Downtown Seattle.

* See Also: There's No Eating in Safe House

Richard Gere Should Have Someone Drive Him to John Howie

Shakes the Movie

The Screenplate: In the cinematic realm, 2012 might the Year of the Asshole, what with Richard Gere (Arbitrage) and Denzel Washington (Flight) playing egregiously flawed human beings whom the audience somehow ends up rooting for in the end. These sorts of performances are among the most difficult for an actor to pull off, which is why you can expect both Gere and Washington to be on pins and needles come February.

Flight opens with Washington--the cartoonishly named Capt. Whip Whitaker--and a hot flight attendant looking hungover as fuck in an airport hotel room in Orlando. Speaking of fuck, they've been doing that all night in between swigs of vodka and rails of blow, to the point where they've hardly slept a wink in advance of a 9 a.m. crop-jumper to Atlanta. After being rousted out of bed by a pissy phone call from his ex-wife, Washington gets right by doing another line of coke, then straightens himself out further by pouring three ounces of vodka in his orange juice once he's steered his jet out of some really turbulent weather into a sliver of clear air.

The coast looks clear until a mechanical failure puts the plane on a seemingly certain course for catastrophe. In the cockpit under duress, Whip proves himself the Michael Jordan of commercial airline pilots, executing a crash landing that is subsequently hailed as ingeniously heroic. Instead of killing everyone on the plane, only six lives are lost, including that of the flight attendant Whip was cavorting with the night before. Their post-crash toxicology reports carry dire consequences for Whip, who is told by union reps that he must stay clean should he want to avoid incarceration.

A mild alcoholic might be scared straight, but Whip is no mild alcoholic. Rather, he's a boozer of ridiculous proportions, rivaled only by Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, Mickey Rourke in Barfly or Bobcat Goldthwait in Shakes the Clown. Whip drinks when he wakes up (after a line or two of coke, more supplement than focal point in Whip's intoxicant arsenal), drinks when he flies, and drinks when he drives. He'd drink in his sleep too, were it not for the fact that he typically passes out cold after his last conscious gulp. And yet, even while perpetually hammered, he's such a deft pilot that never for a moment do his colleagues question his command in the air, even as he's turned his life on the ground into shambles.

Unlike Arbitrage, which keeps the viewer guessing until its last frame, Flight's narrative is cheapened by a morally absolute ending that fails to embrace a hard truth: That, for certain elite professionals, what makes them an asshole is also what propels them to peak performance--even if the "what" is a spigot of Stoli. At Moon Temple, a Chinese lounge in Wallingford known for ultra-stiff pours, Whip would not be subjected to such governance. He might have a pot sticker or some noodles, or he might not. What he would definitely be is left alone to maintain his edge, one tumbler at a time.

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