For the sheer pleasure and relaxation of it, I paid $14 bills last night to see Burn After Reading at the Arclight. The 7:20 pm show, with a lot of wallah-wallah and hub-bub-bub-bah-bub following the showing of the new W trailer. (Which isn’t online yet.)
And an hour or so later, right in the middle of the first delicious J.K. Simmons scene, a two year-old girl sitting in her dad’s lap two seats to my left began talking and whining and squirming around. Kept it up, no ignoring it. 20 seconds later I leaned over and said, “Do you mind? Please?” The dad, a guy in his late 30s or early 40s, gave me a look that kinda said, “Hey, okay. But she’s my daughter and she’s got stuff on her mind!” But the little girl didn’t say another word after I spoke up.
Most kids will obey a voice of fair but firm authority. The problem is the parents. What kind of parent brings his/her two year-old to a talky misanthropic Coen Bros. movie that’s full of jaded anger and intimations of sexuality and in which people get killed on-screen? And what kind of parent doesn’t take his/her kid out to the lobby when the kid starts acting up?
There’s a brief scene in Burn After Reading in which Frances McDormand and one of her blind dates — a doltish, inexpressive guy in his late 40s — are eating dinner at a restaurant, and he’s not talking with her or looking at her or acting in any way like a gent. He’s just eating his food and staring intently at it, as if he’s reading or counting money. This is how coarse and insensitive types eat, the Coens are reminding us. Boy, do I know it.
When I go out to dinner and see guys staring intently at their food while ignoring women sitting across from them, I become seriously perturbed. Because this is how animals eat. Horses, cats, wolves, cows, goats. Whereas a gentleman looks up at his dinner partner frequently — constantly — during dinner. Before, during and after bites of food. He makes eye contact; he offers thoughts, remarks, pithy observations; he expresses interest in what his dinner partner has to say even if she’s boring.