Five movies on how to start life from scratch

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In a series of crises, many have a desire to start from scratch: to abandon everything and wrap up in the Philippines. Well, or at least go to a psychologist first. Everyone will choose what is closest to him, and to inspire action or, conversely, a little sober up will help, of course, cinema. We have collected the most contrasting selection of films in which the characters reload themselves with varying degrees of luck. There was a place for uplifting hits, classic arthouse and little-known melodrama by Martin Scorsese.

“Alice No Longer Lives Here” (1974)

It is customary to associate Martin Scorsese with sweeping gangster sagas rather than lyrical melodramas, but there were no less outstanding works in the director’s early work. The film “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” came from actress Ellen Burstin, who became a big star after “The Exorcist” and received a carte blanche from the producers for her dream project. Scorsese appeared on the stage as if he were a hired performer, but in the end it was his sad and ironic look that made a banal story about a woman in her forties who wanted to start from scratch, so honest and insightful.

The film begins with a stylized flashback to the childhood of the heroine, referring to the “Wizard of Oz”. However, the colorful details of the fairy tale will very quickly be replaced by details of dull and unpleasant life: Alice exchanged her dream of becoming a singer to the role of a housewife. A gloomy truck driver seems to be a reliable but sometimes bruising support. Not by age, a smart son is about to become a difficult teenager. The sudden death of her husband catches the woman by surprise, but still forces her to act. The heroine sells everything she can from her old life and goes on an odyssey to her small homeland, keeping in mind a half-forgotten desire to sing on stage.

“Alice no longer lives here” consists mostly of charming suburban vignettes, casual encounters and separations, silly jokes and life wisdom. All this is not to contribute to a complete reboot (at some point the heroine experiences another failed relationship, and then gets stuck at work in a diner), but suggests that not always and all this, in general, need – it is enough to look around and finally become the master of one’s own life.

“The Incredible Life of Walter Mitty” (2013)

Renowned comedian and director Ben Stiller in the last decade is clearly interested in the theme of radical work-life balance and the desire of the little man to break out of the disgusting routine. Stiller has twice developed such plots in the series – in the office techno-thriller “Division” and the drama about the dreamy warden “Escape from Dunnemore Prison”, and before that he vividly marked this topic in a film about a boring clerk, who still finds a reason to rush into a life-changing journey.

Walter Mitty’s The Incredible Life has already become a benchmark for travel blockbusters: the film teases the most beautiful northern landscapes, fjords and volcanoes, hinting that somewhere among them there must be a point for a resumption of life. Over the past two years, Stiller’s inspiring message that all wonders are available after a couple of clicks in the airline aggregator has faded for obvious reasons. But Walter Mitty works no worse than any motivational coach. Especially since in this story, shot at the junction of fairy tales and realism, in fact, it is not clear to the end whether the protagonist actually went somewhere or just limited himself to fiction in his head. The non-illusory inner path has been done – and this is the most important thing.

Stiller maintains a balance in emotional dynamics: when it seems that “Walter Mitty” rushes to adventurous extremes, the film immediately turns to the mundane drama of life, and snow leopards and sharks are no worse than mental anguish and complexes. Well, the song Space Oddity by David Bowie in the history of cinema has always been well inscribed in the plot, and here its acoustic version touches even the Greenlandic rock.

Profession: Reporter (1975)

And now to the heavyweights. The name of the European classic Michelangelo Antonioni sounds more like a scarecrow for anyone who just wants to choose a simple film for the weekend. However, if you look closely, it turns out: the existential film of the Italian tells exactly the same tragedy of an observer, a little man who suffers from the fact that life is stubbornly passing by, and, in fact, seeks to escape from himself. Unless the protagonist of the film “Profession: Reporter” solves his problem in an even more extravagant way – literally transforms into another person.

Jack Nicholson plays the distracted British journalist David Locke (here’s another interesting resemblance: Walter Mitty was also a press officer) who got stuck on a business trip somewhere in the middle of the Sahara. He somehow gets to the hotel and finds in the room the corpse of the businessman David Robertson, with whom he saw the day before. Knowing that the deceased has no family or friends, Locke puts on his clothes, pastes a photo in his passport and, returning to Europe, begins to live the life of Robertson – as it soon turns out, an arms dealer persecuted by African rebels.

Playing hide and seek with the past makes Locke / Robertson wander around London, Munich, Barcelona and then again in Africa – all this Antonioni shows in a stingy semi-documentary manner, completely abandoning the soundtracks. The further away, the more vague the protagonist’s idea becomes and the wider the space for the audience’s philosophizing about what a person and his freedom are.

The Truman Show (1998)

The conceptual masterpiece by director Peter Weir and screenwriter Andrew Niccola was one of the first in the film to raise the question of the truth of our reality (“The Matrix” was invented much earlier, but was released a year later). The film also became one of the harbingers of the boom of reality shows, and by our time not only has not lost relevance, but also became even more topical: in the era of social networks and constant online monitoring of anyone, we all became much more like Jim Kerry.

According to the plot, thirty-year-old Truman Burbank lives in an idyllic American suburb, working as a stable insurance agent. He has an almost perfect wife and friendly neighbors, and in general his life is so pleasant and prosperous that even dreams of becoming a sailor and ever seeing Fiji are constantly receding in fear. At some point, Truman’s personal utopia begins to crack at the seams: a random acquaintance tells a man that he lives in the scenery of a TV show. Her words are later confirmed by a spotlight falling from the “sky”. Not a star, of course, but it would also be a hint that it’s time to get out of the false comfort zone.

Of course, desire alone will not be enough if before that your every step was determined by other people’s desires: throughout the film the theme of “biting” is a common thread, a reality that will inevitably nail to the ground arguments like “who needs you there?” and “What else do you lack?” However, “The Truman Show” convincingly proves that only banal sincerity will suffice in this struggle: it is not for nothing that Truman is the only character in the picture who is never pretended to be anyone. But really, didn’t he end up out of his anti-utopia into something worse? The question is open, but this, in fact, is the main message of the film: the first and most important step – always in obscurity.

The Red Rocket (2021)

A porn actor nicknamed Mikey Saber (a breakthrough role of Simon Rex, who was previously known only for his role in “Very Scary Movie 3”) abandons his shameful craft and returns home to his hometown of Texas. There he is already waiting for his wife, whom the hero once left with nothing, and a picky mother-in-law. The man lives in their shack on bird rights: he helps with the household, saves money on “communal”, sells marijuana, and sleeps on a smoky sofa in the living room. When Mikey has a chance to fix everything and become an exemplary family man, for some reason he has an affair with a local donut seller – 17-year-old Strawberry.

Sean Baker is a director who, like no one else, manages to sing white trash. Poor white Americans who have fallen to the social bottom in his films become the heroes of fairy tales (see Baker’s previous work “The Florida Project”) or, as in this case, Nabokov’s works. “Red Rocket” suggests a comparison with “Lolita”, but all the parallels are limited, perhaps, only to a romance with a minor. For the rest, Baker is ironic about the concept of a “fresh start”, showing the reverse side of the American dream. It turns out that if an immoral idiot gets a second chance, he will ruin not only his life, but also the fate of all loved ones who decided to trust him.

Yes, “Red Rocket” is not a typical uplifting movie – it rather shows what not to do if you still want to stay hopeful of a reboot. The way Baker portrays the micro universe of his heroes, consisting of a small “delusion”, cheap semi-finished products for lunch and the Trump electorate next door, of course, there is some romance and even attraction. But the conclusion is still obvious: deliberately stuck in a comfortable mess, you risk one day to start not from scratch, but from somewhere in the deep minus.

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