Amerika

Something, Anything (2014)

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Some movies one chooses to entertain. Some one chooses to feel profound. Others are chosen because they take a grim reality and make a kind of beauty of it. Something, Anything looks into the void of modern life from a passive perspective, and absent two major flaws, evokes what more of us should be thinking about, and what is gratifying to see clarified in such a striking way.

The film centers on Margaret Montgomery, a recently-married woman with a job in real-estate who starts to have doubts about… well, everything. Her husband is distant because he views her as a means to an end, her job is directed at personal profit at the expense of others, and her friends view her as a social distraction or dolls for their own manipulative playhouses. The result is that in the midst of much activity, Margaret is completely alone. When a life-changing event comes her way, she scoots out of the disaster and retreats to a solitary life with a relatively menial job, small apartment and simple schedule. At the same time, she is distracted by a letter from a monk, who writes what may be the only authentic sentiment she hears in the film, and becomes fascinated by the monastic lifestyle, even discarding most of her worldly possessions in order to get better clarity in her own mind. The film contrasts external freedom, with money/job/popularity, to internal freedom or the ability to know oneself and through that, to be able to see the world clearly.

The film possesses two fatal flaws. The first is its Christian tendency which would not be offensive except in that it directs the film toward a pity object, namely English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, which is another form of grotesque empathy for the third world that lost white Christians use to convince themselves they have found meaning. The second is the ending, which relies on broad strokes of a brush in a film that has made a point of evading those in favor of introspection, but this is understandable as it is very difficult to convey internal development onto the screen. These glitches drop this movie from a recommendation to a passing phenomenon, because otherwise it perfectly portrays the emptiness and false choices of an externalized modern life, in a cross between Steppenwolf and Office Space.

Something, Anything is not a happy film. It is a film about how we fail to do any soul-searching, and make ourselves into plastic cutouts that stumble through life reacting to perceived needs without any knowledge of why we do these things and thus no ability to appreciate them. Like the best of modernity-critical works, it shows us how people essentially use each other as means to an end, and how there is never a goal beyond personal desires and it is suffocating people. Filmed sparsely and with deliberate attention to minimalistic detail, the film is visually beautiful and accurately represents the brainless emptiness of this time in a way that channels the viewer toward wanting to demand more instead of simply laughing, burping and purchasing something else to distract the numb brain for another few hours.

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