Tuesday, June 05, 2007


After looking at “Wolf,” a romance verging on satirical horror, consider “Take Me!” a Robson Green vehicle, a kind of BBC Kabuki murder mystery. (Kabuki because it is so patterned, almost ritualistic.) First of all, the script must fit into an air-time template: it’s a series of six weekly episodes, each episode lasting an hour and a half (to the minute) with six “chapters” in each, divided by advertisements. Each episode must remind the watcher of what happened a week ago and then leave with some kind of surprise or turning point so they won’t forget to watch the next week. Of course, with Robson Green as the protagonist, few women will forget to watch anyway. But the effect is like a clock-cogwheel: click, click, click...

Robson Green is a charming man, a sort of sane version of Tom Cruise with a sense of humor more like Harrison Ford. It’s clear that this production was envisioned as a vehicle for him, but the drama itself is almost destroyed by the need to put in “bits” for Robson rather than concentrating on the point and through-line of the plot. Unfortunately, bits about his humor were not included. He doesn’t generally DO action. His most powerful successes, at least that I’ve seen, have been “Touching Evil” and “Wire in the Blood,” in which he plays rather Aspergery men who get close to intense emotionally perverted crime in somewhat the same way that a very cold person might get a little too close to a fire. In both serieses his partner was a sane woman with strong boundaries who doesn’t beg for face nuzzling. That's a nice tension: intellectual intimacy.

The plot’s overarch is that Green was a working class boy who grew up with his best friend working at “the plant.” His dad had worked there, too, but deserted the family. Now Green is a powerful capital-management officer who is heartlessly buying out the old company, which seems on the ropes. His best friend objects -- he’s a good guy. We can tell because his hair is a little long and he wears an Aussie paraffined-canvas rain duster. He’s not a conformist like Green in his fine suit. BUT he’s sleeping with Green’s wife, who had been feeling more than a little chilly.

Green has found out about this affair, but he says he understands how to manage such situations: analyze objectively, take steps to restructure, maintain control, try to go on as usual. Now enters the heartless place: a new gated community of brick with a curving street plan and immaculate lawns. No disorder. All new. This is the real source of the satirical horror, or could have been if they’d been concentrating. But I have a hunch that they were given access to this amazing set on the grounds that they make it look appealing. They move into a new house. Green overcontrols: he doesn’t let his wife paint the house but hires painters (orange and purple walls). There is a daughter who fiercely strikes out for morality, esp. honesty about the family relationships. There's also a little boy who is mostly filler.

The wife, who looks like a blinking Toni doll (you know, the kind with mechanical eyes that close when it lies down), and whose lines are at least half calling for her husband (“Jack, Jack, Jaaack!”) and half warnings that everyone is going to be late, has a sister living in the same bloodless place. The sister and her husband are trying to get pregnant -- no luck. They hit upon the solution: a spouse-swapping party. Of course! Why didn’t WE think of that? (Judging from the figures on these women, I would actually suspect that they were dieted into amenorrhea.)

So off they go to the party, not realizing what it really is -- thanks, Sis, for not tipping us off! There is a shallow elevated pool where women dance on the slippery surface -- or another time there are floating lights on the water. Torches flare by the entrance. Everyone drinks one thing after another from tall flutes. But no one minds following whiskey with “red wine,” no one begins to reel around or slur their words, and the next morning no one has a hangover. They all relentlessly screw except Green, who seems to have an unspecified problem. No one mentions Viagra. Is it premature ejaculation? Or does he just get disgusted? They corrupt him by challenging his ego. (Always works with a working class man.)

He becomes running chums of the guy who owns the party house. The plot is very much full of holes, which isn’t helped by the tendency of everyone of the same sex to look a lot alike. (Luckily we can tell one sex from another.) The new friend has a wife who seems a little on the edge -- like, literally, maybe she’s toying with the idea of throwing herself in front of the commuter train. Of course, suicidal urges always bring out the desire in men, so Green falls for her.

The next complication is that his father is ill and comes back into their lives, pleasing everyone but Green. Somehow, in all that deserting and bad behavior, he has come to be a Grandfather of Great Wisdom, who comforts his granddaughter after she and her father see the mother kissing the best friend. But then he has a heart attack and that suicidal heart-breaker turns out to be his “cardiac care technician.” (Metaphor alert.) So then all is resolved in Robson’s mind -- he and dad are bonded again.

The show begins with two men, Green and his party neighbor, digging a hole in the forest to bury someone, so you’re supposed to wonder who. Er, whom. I also wonder why they must dig a neat hole with square edges big enough for a coffin when in fact they’re burying a small body wrapped up in a sheet. Also, since it is a deep hole, how is it that later the woman’s hand ends up sticking out of the grave? Someone’s idea of clever horror?

Over and over one gets the idea that there were certain “marks” the writer and director (possibly also Green) wanted to hit at certain parts of the story, but that they sometimes didn’t bother to clean up the back story.

One of these fancy barren brick houses has been standing empty all this time. The woman who lives there is supposed to be in New Zealand but Green keeps twigging that she’s been killed. In the meantime his wife becomes pregnant by her brother-in-law which leads to petulance between sisters.

When we finally get to the police part of the death, Green is banished to the coast where he stays in the beguiling cabin of his female co-worker. This is the “natural” life and therefore the screwing there is “real.” The co-worker wants to come stay with him but he pushes her ever-so-gently away. Soon the neighbor’s depressive wife shows up instead. Now Green is coming back to sanity, see, so he walks on the beach and we enjoy the scenery.

The daughter -- daughters are often the Grace Kellys of these plots -- has stayed pure and indignant until now. But all these hormones floating around have gotten to her and she decides she fancies the peculiar neighbor friend of her father. This triggers the end, which comes right out of a horror movie. The daughter, charmingly and tenderly hefty after all these broomstick women, is wearing a quite lovely underwire bra with bouquets of violets printed on it. We know because the bad neighbor man cuts her schoolgirl blouse open and threatens to kill her. She also is smart enough to head-butt the now openly murderous neighbor, whose wife seems to be looking on in horror. However when the tables are turned the wife slashes her husband’s throat. There is no spurting arterial blood, but he quickly dies. There’s another flip at the end. I won’t ruin EVERYTHING, but you ought to be able to see it coming.

Green is morally restored enough (and also supplied with a few facts by his cuckolding former best friend) to see that he’s been wrong and to do the right thing. For grandiose narcissistic paranoid shagging, I can’t think of a movie to top this. But strangely, the people seem almost incidental to the place. I mean, this is how people live now, isn’t it? In super-expensive, exclusive places that are near-incestuous? Of course, many people had to cut a few corners at work to get there.

But when one comes to the end of the story, what lingers is not moral questioning, but rather a mild interest in where one can shop for curtains like that or how they got the scumbling effect on the orange walls. How much might that fountain cost? At the time one doesn’t notice that the direct-video filming is somehow distorting everything -- the parallax is off or something.

Oh, by the way, Green saves the plant through a kind of financial Deus Ex Machina (a military contract). Did you have any doubt? This is what counts. Or should have. This is about money. The screwing is just a means and metaphor.

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