I have of late been struck by the number of films are so easy to laugh at but which are nevertheless really awesome ideas as movies. I wonder if it is because I have grown more cynical and am giggling at what i see as transparent attempts by the studio system(which let’s get real , is a few rich guys) to inspire stories that are completely antithetical to the said system , in a vain attempt to look as if all points of view are spoken for in the big media industrial propaganda machine produce… or Maybe the big bosses are smoking crack …and are ACTUALLY under the illusion they have the beating heart of small indies……or maybe they are doing it for their kids. With The East (2013) I am going with the latter theory.
As an idea , The East is a genuinely deep (in the hippie sense) film. Corporate lawyer/spy infiltrates cult and gets drawn into the actual debate. Works. What’s not to like? There are echoes of history, when the FBI infiltrated hippies in central california and sometimes destroyed peaceful kids living an existence roughly comparable to the fabled lives of tween TV stars in Hollywood today (sex, coke, lots of groupie nudity, lots of time outdoors unwashed and without no adult supervision in sight). For another, the story seems topical because it compares an imaginary version of real America against a caricature of the washington based US domestic spy machine. Plenty can come out of such a story right? do we have another Costas Gravas here?
While the east is as hard hitting as whitebread turkey sandwiches , the film’s issues aren’t really that everyone in it is pretty white and genteel , even the black people are , it is that it comes off as a massive jerkoff session of a few studio bosses, trying to cope with their daughters’ sudden attraction to environmentalism and the occupy movement.
So we have a caricature of a Vermont cult (which itself is a caricature of “what those poo’ kids do in their community dorms, playin’ spin the bottle an’ havin sex an taking communal baths , washing one another’s dirty diseased bodies….lovingly….) which dreams up acts of terrorism which would make osama belch mustard gas from under the sea, and a surprisingly inept private investigation agency headed by a really old Patricia Clarkson (when revolution comes, her dresses are what cause the people’s rage), and then suddenly everybody is raiding everybody else, don’t our DARLINGS look WONDERFUL in those bedsheet togas ? I’m glad we had this sleepover.
The pity here is somewhere deep inside there’s a real story which might have been of real people, if only we could disregard the boston bombers for the distraction they were. It might have easily been the story of an overprepared over armed state prepared…no…itching to do violence against its own people because industrial capitalism has become the art of castrating individuals . It might have been a meditation on the principles enunciated by someone in a past era that withdrew with horror from a civilization he percieved as evil saying “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”.
The giggle worthy screenplay instead has hillarious sendups of “what we imagine they are like” scenes of the poor and the cultishly Vermont leftie .. They shit in the woods , they bathe in the lake and wash one another’s naked bodies. they play spin the bottle the police raid them once in a while. they dumpster dive for food (as a principle, the film tells us with a straight face) IOW they are just like US when we do crack …except they have…Yeast..
The East : E for effort.