Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Fly (1986)

By Eric Jessen 7/15/09

It's the utter and total absurdity that makes a movie like The Fly and many other science fiction movies so tantalizing. The Fly is gross and disgusting and yet irresistible. I found my self wincing and cringing but unable to look away. It's a strange fun experience. David Cronenberg, one of the masters of weird, took a simple horror movie from the 50's and added his flair for the revolting. The claymation is intentionally ugly and yucky. (It reminds me of Peter Jackson's Dead Alive.) But don't be fooled. This does not just titillate all of our fancy for the nasty and foul. The Fly is smart and intelligent. It's disagreeable to our stomach but hearty food for thought. There are great performances, witty dialogue and delectable undertones.
Let's start with Jeff Goldblum. He is fantastic as the neurotic loner scientist Seth Brundle. Seth is developing a teleportation device. He meets a journalist Veronica (Geena Davis) at a science fair meet-the-press event and they immediately hit it off. Goldblum and Davis' clever back and forth conversations are wonderful. They have sex, they fall in love, but then Veronica's ex-boyfriend and boss Stathis (John Getz) interferes. Seth thinks he's been used by the journalists for a story, and in a drunk jealous tizzy he decides to, for the first time, teleport himself. But as Seth is being teleported a fly sneaks into the “telepod,” turning Brundle into the genetic offspring of himself and the fly. Brundle slowly turns from man to a very hideous giant fly, or as he calls it “Brundlefly.” His face becomes course and lumpy. His entire body deforms. He can no longer digest solid food so he liquefies twinkies and candy bars by spitting on them with acidic foamy stuff (this is apparently similar to the way flies eat.).....(I'm shaking my head.)....It makes me feel queasy just thinking about this.
But again, remember, you might not think you'll like it, or dare ever say you liked it, but everyone has the itch for the “eeewwwwww gross.” Watching The Fly feels like being a little kid again, playing in the dirt. And this movie has many redeeming qualities. Let's get to some of the undertones. Brundle is becoming a freak. His slow but impending death is made clear to him every day when he looks in the mirror. He even keeps a medicine cabinet full of detached body parts (ears, teeth....). When you think about “Brundlefly,” he is not that different from any human. He is similar to the elderly or the diseased who can see death coming in their wrinkles, arthritis, and deteriorating vision. The elderly and the diseased, like Brundle, also become outcasts.
Another interesting aspect to The Fly is Brundle, as the half fly, and Veronica's strange relationship. She still sees the man she once loved in Brundle's deformed face and changing personality. It's fascinating to see the two come to terms with Brundle's irreversible changes and the loss of their love.
But wait, there's more. In a great twist, Veronica becomes pregnant with Brundle's baby. It's unclear whether the baby will be a Brundlefly or a human. They had sex before Brundle became a fly and after, when he still looked like a man. Veronica, overcome by fear, wants to have an abortion but Brundle wants a baby. The convoluted dynamics of the situation make for a thrilling end.
The Fly is gross, disgusting and disagreeable to the stomach but you'll love it.

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