During the last third of Manchester By The Sea, Patrick Chandler (Lucas Hedges) visits the home of his estranged, recovering-alcoholic mom (Gretchen Mol) and her Christian boyfriend Rodney (Matthew Broderick). Soon after Patrick receives an email from Rodney, the content of which I won’t go into but which basically says “your mother is a fragile soul who needs more time to get used to things,” etc.
As Patrick reads the email director-writer Kenneth Lonergan shows us a couple of shots of the text, and in the third or fourth paragraph (which nobody in the world will ever look at but which I spotted the last time I saw the film) Broderick uses the word “privilege” in some context or another.
Except Broderick — Lonergan, I should say — spells it with an “a” — privalege. Unless it was an honest spelling error on Lonergan’s part (which I strongly doubt), this is Lonergan suggesting that Broderick’s character is less wise and disciplined than he seems, and that he probably hasn’t been graced with an elegant, first-rate education. A man who knows his Bible and believes in the healing power of Jesus, but who lives in his little bubble (as, God knows, all too many liberals do, which SNL satirized last weekend). A decent man but limited in certain ways, and perhaps intentionally so.
All of this, I swear, is contained in that one misspelled word.
The suggestion is that a fellow who doesn’t know how to spell privilege (or who isn’t careful enough to use spell-check after writing a letter) is not only under-educated but is perhaps a little reluctant to know the world more than he already does. Rodney likes the realm that he lives in , and if that means he’ll occasionally mis-spell a word, so be it.
Remember the liberal-minded, comme ci comme ca minister or priest Lonergan portrayed in You Can Count On Me? That alone tells you he’s much more of an unfettered humanist than any kind of Christian believer.
I passed this observation along to Lonergan earlier today. Or to his reps, I mean. I just wanted to know if this was an honest error on Lonergan’s part (or on the part of a production assistant who typed out the email for the film), or if the misspelling was an intentional hint of a character trait. I realize that Lonergan or Roadside may not want to confirm this as this might alienate Bible-thumpers who might be thinking of seeing Manchester. But whatever.
I remember how WALL*E director Andrew Stanton repeatedly denied that the Pillsbury teletubbies sitting in front of their screens on that huge spaceship were a metaphor for overweight, stay-indoor Americans and their digital device obsessions. Stanton had no doubt been instructed by Disney marketing to deny this so as to not alienate God knows how many millions of middle-American fat-asses who might be interested in seeing WALL*E.