Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

12 October 2015

Spring

I was sort of into Spring for most of its runtime. I started off just really excited to see my friend Shane Brady in one of the roles, and so I honestly spent the first 45 minutes of the movie being like But where's Shane??

Shane only shows up for a little bit, so then I had to let that go and really deal with what was in front of me. So, here's the deal with Spring:

First off, this is not a horror movie. I honestly do not understand why anyone is calling it that. Spring has its moments of grotesquerie, to be sure, but this film is, at its soft, sentimental heart, a romantic comedy, and it knows it. This is not a bad thing, and the grotesque elements in the movie make the romantically comic aspects of the movie interesting, and, at the very least, put a nice twist on the traditional boy-meets-girl plot.

Lou Taylor Pucci, the film's star, and his co-star, Nadia Hilker, are both extremely likable. I've loved Pucci since he was in the fabulous Thumbsucker back in 2005, and he has stayed energetic and interesting to watch. Hilker plays a character who we must believe is able to cause Pucci's character fall in love in a mere five days. And... I have to say that I believed it. The woman is completely, utterly lovable, and her manner and attitude are attractive in the extreme. This is due, partially, to the witty first two acts of the script, which contain loads of delightful banter and charming mystery.

 (**Spoilers Below**)

But once we hit act three of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's movie, Spring loses steam. Plot points are repeated twice and three times ("But what exactly is going to happen at sunrise on the vernal equinox?? Tell me again, just so that we are clear."), and the scary, mysterious elements of the picture are all jettisoned. The filmmakers move from making a creepy movie into telling a conventional love story.

Shane Brady
Even worse, the creepy, even disturbing images from earlier in Spring are transformed into punchlines. The film plays all of its mystery over again, but this time for laughs. First as tragedy, then as farce. This means, too, that all of the suspense is let out of the film, as well. The stakes, which were fairly high even at the film's beginning, before Pucci has met his dream-girl-monster, completely disappear. She's a monster, but although she tells her boyfriend and us that she doesn't know what could happen and that he should run as fast as he can when she starts to change, the film is having too much fun for that now, lingering on her monstrous appendages and prehensile tails like so many hilarious sight gags.

Which means that the big will she or won't she toward which we are headed is no longer a question of what is going to happen with her grotesque transformations, or whether or not she is going to kill Pucci (or someone else), or whether or not the strain of the whole thing might be too much and kill her. Instead, by the end of Spring the only thing the film is interested in having us wonder is whether or not the woman "really loves" the man. Is it true love or isn't it?

And to be honest, this question just isn't that interesting

This is particularly so because the film's investments in true love, in heterosexual love pairing, and in reproduction are so palpable. Both of these characters had parents who stayed together for their whole lives (no divorce here!), and each had one child for whom they sacrificed everything. Even Pucci's mentor at the Italian farm where he works still pines for his dead wife, and stands outside of churches with her picture in his hand crying. Zzzz.

What may strike one as even more odd is that although this is a film made by friends and filmmaking partners Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, Spring thinks friends are not necessary at all. Once you've found the one you love, there's no need to get close to anyone else. Friends are not really worth much. Pucci's mom and dad have no family or friends – they only needed each other and their child because, like, they had true love – and Pucci's one friend, as much as he loves him, turns out to be not helpful at all. Ditto the friends he meets in Rome, who are both total assholes. As for the main female character, she appears to have accumulated exactly zero friends in her two thousand years of existence.

Spring, in fact, makes clear how heteronormative futurity actually works. The film's main thrust is not just true love, but true love and baby makes three. Even more, the movie says not just that the family is the most important thing in the world, but that it is the only important thing in the world. Anything else just gets in the way.