Saturday, April 28, 2007

Em 4 Jay

Jay: "I'm not useless, am I?" (as if he believes he isn't).
Em: "Yes. You are."

That kind of sums this movie up. Jay and Em are a young couple, living in Melbourne's St Kilda.
Instead of getting a job and working, they're both junkies. They've both had jobs, of sorts, in the past. I wouldn't exactly call them lazy, as they do work, after a fashion, quite energetically. It is just that their work involves doing live sex shows and, when that gets too tawdry for them, doing armed robberies of all-night stores. This is their job - they talk about being a success, there is a deadpan funniness to Jay's statement that they'll never get caught because they're too smart - not because that's what all junkies and criminals say in movies, but because he is quite profoundly stupid (Jay: "I have a fifth sense about things". Em: "Everyone has five senses"). Oh, and who robs the pizza place they have just had dinner in?

But like any business couple who start getting their first success, they want to celebrate: they go to one of St Kilda's tonier restaurants, where they're very conscious they don't really fit in but think if they act like they do, it will be fine. Unfortunately, they're doing drugs as they dine and by evening's end are sprawled backwards in their chairs, damn near unconscious.

It is an interesting relationship: there is never any suggestion that they'll break up (Jay only has to look at another woman and Em has a fit), but they seem to bring out and accept the worst in each other.
She's pretty negative about his abilities, and concerned that his robberies are getting more violent, needlessly so, but does nothing to stop him. And so he goes on his merry way, first getting a bigger knife and then, despite her telling him not to, a gun. It does look like there was a possibility of a turning point here: while he is on his mission to get the gun (which works to confirm their path into a bleak future), she is trying to re-connect with her sister. We now see Em through the sister's eyes: someone who is shaking uncontrollably. You get the sense that the sister might have tried in the past to pull Em out of her hole, but she's certainly not up to doing anything today.

And so the movie carries on to its pre-ordained conclusion. It is a joyless life being portrayed here, apart from when they're having sex, and the one rare time they manage to have fun, playing in a costume shop. The characters are very difficult to warm to, but I don't think we're supposed to: the movie is a fairly unflinching look at two losers. The two central actors are both fresh in Australian cinema (curiously, both played minor characters in Blue Heelers) but nonetheless gave a fairly compelling performance.

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