PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


If I Didnt Care

The noir protagonist Davis tends to watch and wait, in a predictably opportunistic and mindless manner.

If I Didn't Care

Director: Orson Cummings
Cast: Bill Sage, Roy Scheider, Susan Misner, Noelle Beck, Mirelly Taylor
MPAA rating: N/A
Studio: Artistic License
Display Artist: Benjamin Cummings, Orson Cummings
First date: 2006
US Release Date: 2007-08-03 (Limited release)
Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.

-- Arthur Schopenhauer

I've seen people get in trouble for things they didn't do.

-- Janice (Noelle Beck)

In the new noir, If I Didn't Care, Linus (Roy Scheider) is a police detective who walks his dog along the soothingly grey Southampton shore. To his left lies the sea, to his right a stretch of handsomely weathered wood homes. Here he happens on a neighbor, Davis (Bill Sage), with his basset hound, Flash. While the younger man's ironic sensibility seems blandly apparent, Linus' is subtler, in a shrewd-detective sort of way.

Davis is the designated schemer, and Linus observes and unnerves him, offering sage commentary as well. You know this because his dog is named Schopenhauer. On first meeting Davis, Linus queries his knowledge of "universal will," then deems its pertinence for the ensuing plot: "If you allow it," he says, "the universal will brings us to pain and suffering, in a world that does not care." Vaguely taken aback -- for everything he does is rather vague -- Davis notes the seeming bleakness of such philosophy. Linus reassures him, the world is not evil, "just indifferent."

It may be fitting then, that Davis is so passive. During most of If I Didn't Care, he allows more ambitious figures to perform bad acts, while he looks to benefit. Given the film's take on noir, these figures are tediously female. The beautiful beachfront home with a pool where Davis lives has been purchased by his wife Janice (Noelle Beck), who works during the week in the city as a high-priced attorney. In their first scene together, he sees her off on a Monday morning, announcing, "I'm a little light." He ignores her rolling eyes and judgmental sighs as she hands him several bills. "Is this enough?" she asks. He nods.

During Janice's absence, Davis sits in a bar and makes calls. He's looking for "partners" on an industrial property deal set up by his mistress, determined local real estate agent Hadley (Susan Misner). At its most interesting, the movie breaks up this brief affair into brief, well-composed images, a bit of flirting at the site, some group drinking at the bar, and shots of Hadley's own scheming: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," she purrs. "Besides, I'm feeling like I might get lucky." So you won't miss the point that she's trouble, the soundtrack includes a selection from Ella Fitzgerald: "Delilah was a floozy, / She never gave a damn. / Delilah wasn't choosy, / She'll do you no good." The piano fades out as the couple heads to Davis' impressive house, where Hadley immediately asks, "How many?", meaning bedrooms. She estimates it's a "Call for Price" place, meaning, those who need to know the price beforehand can't afford it.

Their night leads to complications. Hadley prods Davis for ideas about how to keep the house and set up for their children (who will need properly expensive schooling and costuming in order to "thrive"). It may help that Davis has been wanting to have kids and Janice has been reluctant, but the point seems more incidental than crucial, as does Hadley's own desire for an ideal Hamptons-style life. Her desire, that is, her will, is selfish, rather like the one Schopenhauer contemplated, but she's not much given to thinking through consequences.

Then again, neither does Davis. Though the film references Double Indemnity's murderous conspiracy a couple of times (as when Janice mocks a client or competitor who means to go "straight down the line" despite various warning signs, and when Davis rides a train, he has to be instructed to get off at "the end of the line"), the point seems more aesthetic than thematic. Davis is terminally uncommitted.

When he suggests, maybe offhandedly, that he can't be the one who murders his wife (husbands always being the go-to suspects), Hadley takes it upon herself to learn to fire a gun from an older woman whose own experience sounds apposite: "You got a boyfriend?" she asks, "Hold it like you hold his pecker." Hadley absorbs her lesson conveniently quickly, repeating the mantra as she practices squeezing the trigger. Yes, we get it: the woman is wresting control of this phallus, and generic femme-fatale-ish conventions are thus preserved.

Davis, meanwhile, tends to watch and wait, in a predictably opportunistic and mindless manner (as Linus observes of Schopenhauer's incessant, self-destructive humping of his doggy-bed, "Even a nutless wonder like him still has that old primal urge"). When the murder plan goes awry -- as it must -- both Hadley and Janice begin to understand him in new ways.

At last Davis endeavors to take control of his situation, but his carelessness ensures that he's unredeemable. A local cop finds him looking typically vacant after Davis' car has smashed into a deer on the road, the animal's bloody carcass and antlers rammed through his windshield. "Don't feel too bad," says the cop, "These things are a fucking menace," even suggesting a better way to run them down for future reference ("Next time, punch the gas").

The scene cuts to a second windshield, this one framing the cop and Linus, as they watch a Hamptons house in flames (set on fire by an angry squatter, who has been so advised, carelessly, by the cop in an earlier scene). Observing the hellish image, Linus philosophizes yet again, pondering the necessity of policemen. "To protect people from each other," he says. That would be people who want things they can't have, whose will is selfish.

While Davis' will is generally apathetic, and its results seemingly accidental, the film reinforces Linus' argument in another, more painfully stereotypical way, when the underclass takes revenge. Not only does the squatter burn down the empty house he can't have, but a couple of angry Hispanic men take action, not believing the white, Hamptons-propertied "policemen" will pursue justice for their dead loved one. Still, the world remains indifferent.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.