Michael Showalter’s “The Baxter”

“The Baxter” (2005)
a Michael Showalter film, as part of the 2005 RI International Film Festival

Hooray for this movie! I didn’t know Showalter could be serious. Oh, it was funny of course, the comedy was dead-on as was to be expected, but it was also a well-done film with a good storyline.

The comedy supported the storyline, as opposed to it being the storyline, a la “Wet Hot American Summer”, or “let’s make a two-hour sketch”. I am in full support of both ventures. That’s what I meant by not knowing Showalter could be “serious”: I had only seen him do- and therefore was under the impression that he was only capable of the doing- the latter. So that was nice. And though the overall storyline might have been predictable, even bordering on Hollywood formulism, it was also very creative and cute, engaging and entertaining, and it had its tonic twists. And there was no sex. (Sex in movies bugs me. Ben Elton summed it up perfectly well in “Popcorn”. I’ll get into that some other time.)

I particularly appreciated Michael Ian Black’s character and his relationship with his (presumably older) wife, played by Catherine Lloyd Burns. They don’t seem to get along entirely well; Lloyd Burns leaves the room and turns on loud music in another. Ian Black yells, “Could you turn that down!?” The wife cranks up the music and replies, “How’s this?”

Ian Black turns to Showalter and says, “God I love that woman,” his voice riddled not with sarcasm but with admiration, and a tinge of lust (a combination which, Stephen King says in “Bag Of Bones”, equals love).

The portrayal of women in this film in general was quite pleasing to me and my paranoid-lesbian-man-hating-feminazi ways. Though they are still all “scaws” (skinny, conventionally attractive women), they are realistic characters and are not objectified. This- combined with the film’s generally likeable, unalienating storyline and its edge of really good comedy- makes me think that this is the type of film/play/story I’d like to make/create/write. Progressive in its friendly politics, effective in its mass appeal. Evolution, not revolution.*

(*A note to the more revolutionarily-minded reader: It’s not as though I think there is no need for less forgiving, more extreme political messages in the arts. On the contrary. We need them just as much, like we need as many perspectives as possible for as many audiences as possible: broad, narrow, friendly, angry, everything. Lately I’ve been leaning towards the more accessible “stepping-stone” types of political messages in my own creative pursuits.)

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