Thursday, March 7, 2013

Better Days

This week's scene is from one of my favourite romantic films of all time.  Yeah, Better Days is pretty bittersweet to be called "romantic," but I've always been drawn to films with a healthy dose of the ambiguous and/or the subversion of expectation.

If you haven't seen the film and haven't been told the big reveal, take your warning here - spoiler alert! - this is the scene where Vida's big secret comes out. But its one of those moments that, like Dil's secret in The Crying Game is pretty much a staple of pop-culture by now. So even if you haven't seen the film, you probably are aware of the twist.

Jessica Wainbottom, who played Vida in the film won the 1984 MODA for Best Actress, and it was scenes like this one that got her there.

               INT.  CHUCK'S GARAGE - NIGHT
               The automatic door motor engages - winching up the door. 
               Two pairs of legs are slowly revealed.
                                   VIDA (O.S.)
                         What are you hiding in here?
                                   CHUCK (O.S.)
                         It's a surprise.
                                   VIDA (O.S.)
                         This is exciting. Why haven't you
                         brought me here before?
               The door is half-way open. Vida's head appears, ducking
               below the lower-edge. She peers into the darkness.
                                   CHUCK (O.S.)
                         Wait. Wait!
               Vida scoots under the door. Her age is tough to gauge -
               probably into her 40s, but if she said she was 29 there
               wouldn't be an argument. Her hair is playful in
               contradiction to her restrained clothing. She is pneumatic
               in ways that would make many 19 year old's jealous let
               alone someone 29... or 40. Her skin hides behind the
               clothes, but the form is unmistakable.
               Chuck peers under the door as she makes her way into the
               darkness. He hesitates, watching the door rise. Finally
               it's open far enough to satisfy him and he enters after
               Chuck is in his early 40s. An awkward man. He is dressed
               up, but he clearly isn't very good at picking out 'good
               clothes.' He probably judged the appropriateness of his
               suit against photos of what his father wore to his wedding
               to Chuck's mother.
                         What are you hiding in here?
                         Careful, careful.
               Chuck takes a wide arc across the garage and flips on the
               light. Vida is about half a step away from getting a jagged
               metallic point in her eye. She stops short.
               She takes in the rest of the garage. The 'point' is but one
               of many - and each is part of one of many intricate welded
               sculptures. She is overwhelmed - she had no idea.
                         Do - do you like 'em?
               She moves around the room from piece to piece. Her eyes
               hardly know where to begin, there is so much to take in.
                         Oh wow. You did this?
                         This is amazing. These are
                         amazing. You are full of
               Chuck averts his gaze, lovingly runs his fingers over the
               blistered welds of one of the pieces.
                         All that drafting and stuff you
                         do for Mr. Redd - 
                         Abstracting. Who knew there was
                         an artist in you? This is great.
                         I hope I'm not the only one
                         you've shown this to.  
               She crosses to him. Tantalizingly close.
                         You have got a hidden gift.
               Leap of faith time... Chuck turns and faces Vida.
                         Vida. I... you know what you said
                         'bout followin' your heart 'cause
                         life is too short?
                         If you aren't doing that, then
                         you aren't really living. It's so
                         amazing that you're doing this. I
                         wish I had some hidden talent -
                         you're so lucky.
                         Well, yeah. See I ain't never
                         been a lucky guy. But lately,
                         'round you, I just been feelin'
                         lucky to have knew you.
               Vida sees that this can only end badly.
                         An' Mister Redd - you're right, I
                         do let him take advantage - but
                         you know what he says... "A man's
                         gotta make his own luck."
               He presses on refusing to listen.
                         Well I ain't been. So I'm goin'.
                         I told Mr. Redd today. And
                         tomorrow I gotta van and all of
               His art.
                         We're goin' to New York.
               Not where Vida feared this was going.
                         Chuck, that's wonderful!
               She wraps her arms around him, presses against him. It
               hurts him to enjoy it, but he gives in.
                         I'm so proud of you. Making your
                         own luck...
               He kisses her.
               Okay, this WAS going where she feared. She pulls away.
               Chuck doesn't get it - he keeps going, emboldened by his
               own momentum.
                         I ain't never made my own luck
                         'til now. An' I was just wantin' -
                         hoping - that you... That WE -
                         maybe we could open our own shop
                         an make some of our own luck
               Vida is speechless. Chuck gets it, now that he has said too
                         I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
                         You can't go to New York. You got
                         a kid and you really just started
                         at Redd's and you just moved
                         here. And I was... So stupid.
                         No. You're not stupid. Chuck...
                         You look at me and see something.
                         You see something I'm not. When
                         guys look at me they see
                         something. I hear them. That day
                         in the shop. I heard what Will
                         I didn't say anythin'...
                         And I appreciate that. But I'm
                         not that... I never have been.
                         Not even... Especially now. Look,
                         I'm really screwed up right now.
                         I been screwed up my entire life
                         and sittin' on that hasn't got me
                         someone makes me as happy as you
                         do. It was eatin' me up inside.
                         So, I just followed my heart.
               Vida gently pushes him a step back against a workbench. She
               un-tucks her blouse from her skirt, and starts unbuttoning -
               there is no seduction in it, but Chuck doesn't see this. He
               reaches out to touch. She gently pushes his hands back and
               keeps unbuttoning. She opens her blouse and lets it fall.
               She unhooks her bra and pulls the straps down her arms. Her
               'breasts' come away with the bra, revealing two mastectomy
               Chuck looks on. He reaches out to her scars. Vida flinches
               but does not stop him. Chuck runs his fingers over the pale
               tissue. He looks up at her face.
                         Not very good luck.
               Chuck moves to kiss her. Vida withdraws slightly, but he
               keeps coming. She can't believe he still wants to kiss her.
               She lets him. She kisses back.

When cataloging kisses, S. Morgenstern missed this one.

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