Friday, November 2, 2018

Venom (2018), or Millie Investigates: Does Millie Love Tom Hardy Too Much?

Why hello there, friends! First of all, thank you all for the kind welcome back! Your comments were all delightful, and exceedingly welcomed. I am back again on a Wednesday afternoon with a few hours off [LOL. I started writing this last week, and then had to go to work, and now it's 10 days later. whoops. classic Millie. I did watch it a second time though, so you're getting some real refined thoughts.[Whoops, this is actually now like three weeks later. A series of unpleasant events combined to keep me from writing this review earlier. Enjoy the fact that half of this was written like three weeks ago and then the other half tonight with no editing between either half.] ], and I decided to once again head to my favorite coffee-shop and send a blog post into the ether. It is very lovely to type and type and type all the jangled thoughts and observations out. And, because I am a hopelessly attention-seeking middle child extrovert, it is great to type all those words out for public consumption and detailed feedback!FEED ME, SEYMOUR! Anyway. I am here on the very auspicious occasion of reviewing that just-released film with all that awards buzz: Venom.  So, I did not know any thing about this film going in--except that it was vaguely connected to Spiderman, that it was vaguely supposed to flop, and that it most definitely starred Tom Hardy.It was the latter that drew me in like a spider to a web (is that a good Spiderman reference? I don't know?). I love Tom Hardy. I love Tom Hardy too much. I sat through all 9.5 hours of that movie where Leo DiCaprio crawls through snow grunting, because Tom Hardy was in it for a bit with incomprehensible accent. I watched Dunkirk last year, and cried because a) Tom Hardy, and b) Tom Hardy's face is covered the entire film (why Nolan, why?! *shakes fist in general direction*). I WATCHED THIS MEANS WAR ON DVD BECAUSE TOM HARDY, AND HONESTLY THAT ALMOST WAS A BRIDGE TOO FAR FOR ME, BUT I DO NOT BLAME YOU TOM.Side-note: I am intrinsically mistrustful of most adult men. If you ever want a mentally Rolodex'd list of bad men or questionable men in film--come see me, because The Millie NEVER forgets. However, there is a random group of men in film I just like without any red flags blaring in my head. Obvi, Keanu is the king of this realm (NEVER LET ME DOWN, KEANU). But, there are select others. Usually, one makes it into the list for entirely innocuous or irrational reasons (Joel Edgerton crying all the time really helped him out), but once there, they have my unconditional loyalty--unless they end up being a terrible human (again, Keanu, you can never betray me, man!).Tom Hardy is one of these male humans! I am just like, "buddy! I trust you! be great!" It might be his well-noted love of dogs. It might be his always slightly askew hair. It might be all the times he shut-down misogynist people trying to make a deal out of Furiosa being the hero of Mad Max: Fury Road. It might be this Tumblr post I saw once (and cannot re-find now) that posited the interesting theory that perhaps Tom Hardy is, in fact, a kind dog given human life by a grateful witch. (8-ball says: VERY LIKELY.)You get it! I love Tom Hardy. I had the early afternoon off yesterday, and it was playing at Cinerama here in Seattle. I get in free to that cinema, and--crucially--the film was less than two hours long (unheard of in the personal nightmare genre of comic book films). I made it happen.I had literally non-existent expectations: merely the faint hope that if it was better than This Means War--I would be satisfied.Let me hold you in suspense no longer--Emmy, who has texted me several times in the last day asking my opinion of the film, feeding my ego excessively while doing so--Venom is better than This Means WarLet me tell you why.First, film opens with random rocket crash blah blah blah. Suddenly, in a command room is Riz Ahmed playing "Elon Musk." I HAD NO IDEA RIZ WAS IN THIS FILM. My heart soared. But, wait, who is that cool scientist next to him? Do my eyes deceive me? They do not! It is Jenny Slate, herself! *heart eyes all over the place, joker*Stuff happens. Likely important to the plot, but not to my enjoyment of the film, so I do not remember exactly.But, then, WE CUT TO MICHELLE WILLIAMS WEARING A SUIT.I repeat: 1) Michelle Williams is in this film?! 2) MICHELLE WILLIAMS IS WEARING A SUIT AND TIE. AHHHHHHH! And, bam, outta nowhere comes the next moment of Women in Menswear Fall 2018 Cinema. What a dream. 

And, oh ho ho, looks like someone agrees with me, because Tom Hardy's first line in this whole dang film* is the following:

"You're wearing a suit. I love it when you're wearing a suit."
You and me both, buddy! You and me both!*Might not actually be Tom Hardy's very first line. I cannot be bothered to remember, and no one is paying me to make these reviews accurate.****Upon second viewing of film, I can confirm that that is indeed Tom Hardy's first line in the film.Let me just say that I my grading of this film may have been utterly compromised by the first five minutes which are an honest-to-god onslaught of things like Michelle in a suit and Tom Hardy riding his motorcycle around while he investigates the plight of people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. I was hopelessly enamored. I was sitting in my seat eating a hard-boiled egg (I hadn't had breakfast OR lunch, okay), and chuckling to myself ever so slightly, because I NEEDED THIS. We may have put a bad man on the Supreme Court, and we have mere years to turn around climate change before all hope is lost, and we may (etc etc etc) but at least I got to sit in a comfy seat for less than two hours while Tom Hardy pretended to be Charlie Kelly pretending to be an investigative reporter.I have to acknowledge my beloved Malakie for mentioning to me before I saw the film that Tom Hardy sounds like Charlie Kelly (from Always Sunny in Philadelphia) in this, BECAUSE OH. MY. STARS IN HEAVEN. He is not only literally mimicking Charlie's voice, but also his mannerisms, and gait, and hair, and gross dirty clothes. And, now, I literally cannot stop thinking of Venom as an extended episode of Always Sunny.Actual scene that 100% happens in Venom:
 Pure cinematic magic.
Really, cinematic magic is the only appropriate way to describe the entirety of Venom, and my response to it. Overall, it was really, really, really dumb. But, on the other hand, I would love to personally hand Tom Hardy an acting award for his performance. Not an Oscar, but definitely a Golden Globe.Tom Hardy was the filling and the crust in the pie that was my enjoyment of Venom. This joker comes off as 100% self-aware in his life, yet he also absurdly commits to every character in every film. But, then again, sometimes that commitment is so wildly off-kilter and unexpected that on anyone else it might look just a bit like OVER-commitment. For Tom Hardy, however, it works.He gives his Eddie a ridiculous mumbling accent that can literally only be described as Charlie Dayish. His mannerisms are all jerky, quick arm movements and slumped head tilts. He ambles.  There is a sweetness and gentleness to Eddie that differentiates him from other comic book antiheroes (or whatever they were trying to market Venom as being). There is certainly a fully-decided character (with all of Hardy's typical acting embellishments), but at the same moment--it is imaginable that we are seeing just some of Tom Hardy too--the amiable, mumbling guy who doesn't enjoy press interviews and really just wants to chill with some dogs.

It is a mistake to think as a viewer--or even as a "fan"--that we know or understand an actor's personal character or inner integrity or something. We do not. Even if it seems someone is playing "themselves" on the screen--typecast again--they are likely just playing a version of themselves for public consumption. However, there is still a relational value to that experience for the viewer; the fan. Humans needs connection. We need to feel we are a piece of the messy machine of the planet. Every act of daily connection reaffirms that placement. Film lovers siphon connection from our viewing experiences. We see things we love in a scene or performance: art that gives joy. But, we also form connections to the people creating the things we love. So-and-so is your favorite director, because it feels like they made that film for you. Whoever is a favorite actor, because when she laughs onscreen--you feel genuine joy. These are legit responses. These are legit relational connections.All of this heady and unnecessary, and likely confusing to no point, philosophizing is there to give perspective on just how I could have so enjoyed a film like Venom?!It's because of the filling and crust of Tom Hardy. He imbued this Spiderman universe side-character with a uniquely Hardyian sense. He ambles and grunts and trips and mumbles and flails and tries again. He is a sweet boy.Eddie seems to have no human connections apart from Michelle Williams' Anne, a woman named Maria who sits on the street-corner, and a local store owner named Mrs. Chen. It's no mistake that all of his relationships are with women. Even his ally on the inside of the evil science org is Jenny Slate's Dr. Skirth.Eddie's rescuer at multiple points in the film is Anne. Part of this plays as the annoying emotional (and physical!) labour women are too often called to over-perform even on behalf of an ex-fiance who lost them their job via his own selfishness, but a big chunk of it is simply that Anne is competent and able to figure out what needs to be done.There is a moment that I loved (the one other line I jotted down in my memory aside from the suits thing). Anne is understandably just like, "what the heck, man. you are out of control, etc etc." And Eddie simply replies in guttural mumble:
 "I'm scared, and I need your help."
Now, that, is a Tom Hardy classic. It's the same reason Max silently offering Furiosa his shoulder because she is the better shot is such a quietly iconic moment in Fury Road. There are other male action heroes who have symbiotic (gotcha!) and deferential connections with competent female leads (just wait until I someday write that blog-series and/or book [lol which is more unlikely] on Keanu's action films), but not many. And definitely not ones who appear as gruff and intimidating as Tom Hardy.
 It's a necessary moment in Venom, because honestly, almost all the actual Venom moments are different shades of stupid, dull, and laced with a humour fermented in the stereotype of a noxious 13-year-old boy. It is Venom who uses feminine slurs to insult (to uproarious laughter from both audiences). It is Venom who commits all the fashionable violence, and asserts the male right to rage. What I am saying here is that Venom was quite annoying, and so clearly this was not a perfect film or anything (also, some casual racism in the connection between Mrs. Chen and the hoodlum extortionist).YET, STILL. I had the time of stinkin' life. I wish I could explain myself to any proper sense. It is as if an AI was told to write a mediocre early 2000s comic book superhero movie, but it got confused and just mashed together random elements, and sorted it in a typical superhero movie narrative arc, and planned to plug on through to mediocrity and indifference from all audiences. But, then, Tom Hardy just plopped into the middle of it--and he COMMITTED. And, here we are: a ridiculous, absolutely unnecessary, 100% outdated, dangerously close to mediocre movie that transformed into a sublime delight (and unexpected box office success).The people love ridiculousness. They love Michelle Williams wearing a suit. They love Jenny Slate's squeaky-voiced scientist. They love Riz Ahmed as a smooth and slippery evil genius (his version of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac is riveting). The people love Tom Hardy!I really need to delve more into this film. I would tell you all about the body horror (Venom's tongue is haunting), and Eddie's ravenous scavenge through his freezer of potato products, and that scene when Eddie shushes everyone in the restaurant so he can go sit in a lobster tank in peace. I would tell you about sexyladyVenom (whyyyyyy), and the dog who saves Eddie, and about all the direct correlations between Always Sunny. I would tell you about Michelle Williams' ridiculous wig, and the delight of watching Tom Hardy walk down streets talking to himself. I would talk some more about Michelle Williams' suit and tie. A lot more about them. Really, I would love to just take you out to coffee or chai or something and just tell you about my personal relationship with the film Venom. I assure you: it's a relationship, not religion. Verdict: I do not love Tom Hardy too much, but the exact right amount. And, no, I will not cry thinking about his sacrifice in Dunkirk, okay. HE WAS SO BRAVE. OMG. 


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