[5 January 2011]
Tracy Hecht’s Life in Flight promises deep rooted truths, but delivers only surface level ideology.
The film stars Patrick Wilson (Little Children) as one of those depressed-beyond-belief husbands seeking some sort of liberation from his domineering, materialistic wife (Amy Smart). Good thing he runs into Lynn Collins (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), a spunky, free spirit who spends her days gazing at the birds hovering outside her sprightly decorated office. Romance ensues (sort of), drama happens (kinda). Not enough to sustain my interest for Flight’s brief-but-long 75-minute running time.
Too bad. Because the story holds true, especially by contemporary standards. Men’s roles in some aspects of society have diminished, almost to the point of obscurity. The father figure no longer dominates the household ala Father Knows Best (not that that’s a bad thing). Instead, in some households, men shrink into oblivion while women run the show. At least that’s what Hollywood would have you believe.
I won’t journey beyond such a statement (at the risk of sounding sexist). I realize not all households behave as such. Yet it’s telling that cinema (and TV for that matter) continually beleaguers audiences with weak, imbecilic male figures chained to bitchy, even narcissistic spouses (hello Knocked Up). Ask yourself when you last saw a cinematic couple in which both parties shared admiration for one another. Is this a case of cinema reflecting society, or vice versa?
Here was an opportunity to delve deep into a study of the modern American family, and its subsequent breakdown upon entering the 21st century. Regrettably, Hecht, while skillful with the camera, dishes out dialogue insufficient for the material at hand. The film plods along as a result, filled to the brim with lackluster personalities who speak and behave in stereotypes. Look! There’s the always-caring best friend chopping up food in the kitchen. Look! There’s the enigmatic couple who has everything our protagonist does not. Look! There’s the evil corporate executives forever plastered with strained, disingenuous smiles! We’ve seen it all before, which is fine, but Hecht fails to arrive at a residual conclusion, or spin the proceedings in a way previously unseen. (In her defense, this is her first time as writer/director.)
That’s not to say Flight lacks merit. I’m convinced Patrick Wilson is the next big thing – the man can act. Like a young Paul Newman with a touch of Tom Hanks, his is the type of mug that blends into any role. Sure enough, the man’s resume boasts a sturdy ensemble of characters, each different in their own unique way – Night Owl II in Watchmen (2009), William Travis in The Alamo (2004); he even played Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera (2004).
Life in Flight may not present him at his best, but even so, Wilson carries with him a noticeable presence. The lengthy scenes between him and Collins sparkle with energy and heart, and remain the film’s true saving grace, however miniscule such a compliment may seem.