Catcher in the Huckabees

There was the week that I wasn’t busy at all, followed by the week that I never seemed to stop going. It happened one more time. Then, two things happened at once.

I finished reading Catcher in the Rye and I saw that Huckabees movie.

In Catcher, Mr. Antolini summarizes the point nicely.

I have a feeling that you’re riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. …

It may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, you site in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college. Then again, you may pick up just enough education to hate people who say, ‘It’s a secret between he and I.’ Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer. I just don’t know. But do you know what I’m driving at, at all?…

This fall I think you’re riding for–it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started. You follow me?

But, in the end, Salinger is just a tease. He shows us a great meltdown, but gives us barely a quarter of chapter 25 on the matter of redemption. We get 4 or 6 pages of Pheobe at the museum and zoo, suitcase in tow. Holden had to catch her. He could throw himself off the cliff, but not at the same time he had to catch Pheobe. We don’t really get satisfaction, because it’s not a decision Holden makes to be there to make the catch whether or not someone needs to be caught. It was a decision he only made in the moment someone needed catching. But maybe that’s the only time it’s important. Then again, maybe Pheobe was there to catch him. The ‘goddam’ novel is too Holden-centric to possibly know.

Frankly, it’s interesting at best and, more likely, a lousy piece of shit the more I think about it.

Huckabees, on the other hand, is a complex, Markovski-centric (but still well-balanced), beautiful and terrifying work of art. So much philosophical thought is packed into its 106 minutes that college courses should be ashamed. (Or maybe just embarrassed, since some of the blame has to fall to the students.) It gives us not 1, but 4 meltdowns. And at least 2 satisfying redemptions.

Tommy Corn: How come we only ask ourselves the really big questions when something bad happens?

Albert Markovski: The interconnection thing is definitely for real.
Tommy Corn: It is! I didn’t think it wasn’t! It is!
Albert Markovski: I know, I can’t believe it, it’s so fantastic!
Tommy Corn: It’s amazing!
Albert Markovski: I know.
Tommy Corn: But it’s also nothing special.

Bernard Jaffe: When you get the blanket thing, you can relax, because everything you could ever want or be, you already have and are.

Albert Markovski: …until you can’t remember what happens when you stand in a meadow at dusk.
Bret: What happens in the meadow at dusk?
Albert Markovski: Everything.
Mrs. Hooten: Nothing.
Albert Markovski: Everything.
Mrs. Hooten: Nothing.
Albert Markovski: It’s beautiful.
Tommy Corn: It’s beautiful.

Maybe it’s just that I’m 50 years too late to appreciate ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ And that ‘I Huckabees’ fits my idiom. Maybe 1950’s readers were content to create their own redemption for Holden Caufield and today’s generation wants redemption spoon-fed with a healthly dose of potential sequel under the yogurt. But even that fruit-on-the-bottom is gone now, next will be the chunks of real fruit. Finally, there will be this perfectly homogenized yogurt pudding that will come in six-packs straight to home video. It will be produced by Disney-Kraft or Dreamworks-Dannon and will come with loopy-straw spoons shaped like your favorite characters. They will be made by the same plastics company. They will be the same shape, size, and color.

Go see it now, before Lucas or Spielberg own it and remaster it into a blockbuster.

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