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Friday, July 10, 2009

Movie Review: The Last Supper

Rating: R (Restricted) (Violence, extremely bad language.)
Studio: Sony Pictures
Release Date: April 5, 1996
Run Time: 94 minutes

Painted in mile-wide strokes of black satirical comedy, The Last Supper turns intolerance into a parlor trick, then repeats it ad nauseam in case we missed the joke. Still, redundancy can be fun when applied to the premeditated murder of right-wing extremists by self-righteous left-wing zealots; director Stacy Title is an equal-opportunity offender, never taking sides. The grisly high jinks commence when a truck-driving, child-molesting, Hitler-loving ex-Marine (Bill Paxton, acing the role) is accidentally killed while dining with a clutch of snobby liberal grad students, played with uniform excellence by Cameron Diaz (showing early promise), Ron Eldard, Courtney B. Vance, Annabeth Gish, and coproducer Jonathan Penner. Having acquired a taste for blood, the wine-poisoning liberals stage "last suppers" with hand-picked targets (Charles Durning, Mark Harmon, Jason Alexander, and ultimately Ron Perlman), eventually attracting a suspicious sheriff (fine work by SNL alumnus Nora Dunn). It's got all the subtlety of a pile-driver, but The Last Supper craftily defends free speech by exposing its most vicious violations. --Jeff Shannon
Let me start by saying that this is a horrible movie. Not horrible from a cinematography standpoint, though some of the acting is just plain bad. Overall, the movie is fairly well done but the reason it is horrible is because of the messages it sends, both intended and unintended.

As the quoted summary suggests, but fails to delve into completely, the movie is about 5 graduate students, all extremely entrenched in their left-wing, liberal ideals. So much so that they can't really tolerate opposing viewpoints. Especially when those viewpoints are extreme in nature themselves. They kill their first victim, after inviting him over for dinner, in what could be argued as self defense. Thinking they've done the world a favor by ridding it of a bigot, they set out to invite other guests to their home and, if they prove to be right-wing extremists as they suspect, are given arsenic-laced wine. This is all done in the cause of bettering the world by ridding it of another intolerant conservative.

The intended central theme is that extremists from either end of the spectrum are not that much different. Sure they disagree vehemently on the issues, but what they are willing to say and do in order to defend their positions are analogous. This point is completely lost in a sea of pigeon-holing conservatives, and making it seem as if liberals, even extreme liberals, may be misguided but have purer intentions than do extreme conservatives.

Take the first victim that is killed. He is a truck-driving, ex-military southerner. So of course he hates blacks, gays, jews, and anyone different than him. This is where the movie really falls down. It paints conservative into corners. This first victim isn't misguided, he is pure evil. The movie suggests that on top of being a bigot, he also is a child-molesting pedophile.

So while the extreme liberals are trying to improve the world, the parade of conservatives they march through and kill are painted as pathetic, selfish people. Take the priest that becomes the group's second victim. He turns out to be a homophobic gay-basher that wants to see all homosexuals rounded up and sent to an island with food enough for only 2 years. The point seems to be that if you think homosexuality is a sin then you must hate the people involved with that sin and not care for them or their souls.

Then there is the male chauvinist sexist. The point seems to be that if you feel the male is the stronger of the sexes, then you must think rape is fine because deep down women really want it. In other words, chauvinism = rapist.

The conservatives, other than the final invitee, end up being caricatures. There is the anti-abortion protester that claims she'd stoop to murdering abortion doctors if it would save the life of the unborn. There is the 17 year-old abstinence advocate that is ridiculed for "being anti-sex" even though she's never had sex herself. (In fairness, they spare her life despite a discussion about killing her.)

So while all of the conservatives are evil, the liberals are motivated in their murder by the greater good. They continually have a discussion about meeting Hitler in 1909, and killing him in order to save millions. So if you are a bigot, a sexist, anti-abortion, or think homosexuality is a sin, then you are aligned with the likes of Hitler. While conservatives are on par with Hitler, the murdering liberals are simply trying to make the world a better place.

Conservatives are also painted as uneducated, backward thinking cave people. Their intelligence is ridiculed throughout. Liberals are educated and superior in almost every aspect of life, even if their actions are less than desirable. The only conservative that is painted as intelligent is the last guest that is invited. He is a conservative talk-show host in the mold of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. He ends up not being all that conservative, and it is implied that he says the things he says to motivate his brainless, unthinking, stupid listeners to drive up his ratings, buy the products advertised on his show, and to buy his books. The point seems to be that if a conservative is intelligent, then he isn't really a conservative but is just exploiting conservatism for personal gain.

One thing that needs to be pointed out is that no where in the movie is it ever said, or even implied, that the murdering of these conservatives is immoral or wrong. The movie showed how the blood lust of the murders began to corrupt the individuals involved, but never that the actual murdering was wrong.

This speaks to one of the biggest holes in leftist belief: anything can be rationalized as being okay. Unlike conservatism, that is based on objective right and wrongs, liberalism is rooted in relativism and subjectivity. Therefore, if murder contributes to the greater good, then it isn't wrong. If there is something positive (I have no idea what myself) about ripping unborn humans apart in the womb then it can be justified. Homosexuality should not only be tolerated, but accepted and embraced because there is no such thing as sin. A truly liberal society would end up collapsing on itself due to a lack of objective standards and ideals.

Whether or not it was intended, this ends up being one of the messages of the film: anything is justified if it contributes to the greater good. What is lost is the fact that murder is wrong, period. Even if you were to murder Hitler in 1909 in order to save millions it would still be wrong. While the movie never makes that clear it is an objective truth regardless.

The movie in the closing sequences, tries to make the point that the extremes of right-wing and left-wing activism is a problem in our society, and that it is with moderates and centrists that the real truth and morality exists. This message is lost under a tsumani of messages that extreme conservatism is worse than extreme liberalism. While I would expect nothing less from Hollywood, the message ends up being that a world with murdering liberals is still better than a world that has hate-filled conservatives, regardless of how unrealistic those conservatives are portrayed.

I only watched the film to completion to see how it would turn out. Though the end of the movie leaves the fate of the 5 graduate students to the viewers imagination, the implication is that they end up drinking their own poisoned wine. You get the impression that, while they didn't like who they had started to become, they are still quite satisfied with what they accomplished. While they end up not being the best people on the planet, the fact that they took 11 "hate-filled right-wingers" with them means that the world is better off to the tune of 11 to 5.

In closing, if you go to it is interesting to see the different takes on this movie. Liberals see it as a black comedy that is farcical in nature. Conservatives see it as pro-liberal, anti-conservative. In the end I give the filmmakers credit for making a movie that at a minimum was thought-provoking and induced debate. However, I see this movie as the epitome of what Hollywood became during the 1990's: a playground for the egotistical, superioristic left.


Writer X said...

I'm always on the hunt for good movies to rent during the hot summer months. This one sounds dreadful. I don't even remember it when it came out. Thanks, LoneWolf.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be writing from a very specific point of view (which I guess is true for everyone.) But just to offer some counter points to the theory that the movie was anti-conservative (which it was, but not to the point of pro-liberal): 1) Not one of the liberals was particularly likeable. 2) They say that they are targeting the ones that can do real damage, so certainly their dinner guests are as one sidedly extreme as they can find. They never insinuate that they are representatives of the general populous. 3) The "all powerful liberals" are really just doing what the moronic, nazi pedophile told them to. "Dying's easy. If you can find something to kill for..."

If anything, I'd propose the idea that the film was meant to say that being blindly far in any direction is destructive and scary.

I'm not trying to say that anything you said is specifically untrue, just suggesting that perhaps your perspective lead to a fairly narrow view of the possibilities.

LoneWolfArcher said...

"You seem to be writing from a very specific point of view"

Guilty as charged. I think you can also gather that from reading just about any of my posts on this blog.

"If anything, I'd propose the idea that the film was meant to say that being blindly far in any direction is destructive and scary."

Not sure you read the entire review because that is exactly what I said I feel the intended point of the film was. I just think they missed that mark by a wide mile. In the end, while they tried to say "far left was as bad as far right", what really came across was "far left is bad, but still better than far right".

"I'm not trying to say that anything you said is specifically untrue, just suggesting that perhaps your perspective lead to a fairly narrow view of the possibilities."

Films like this are all about the viewer's perspective. Which is why I pointed out in the review the difference in the reviews based on the reviewers political leanings.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for allowing my post, despite the fact that it was a slight counter-opinion. (It seems so petty when people only push through confirmations of their ideas.) And thanks for responding back to it.

I did fully read the original post. I thought it was very well said and I understood what you were saying.

I didn't intend to refute any of your opinions. I just wanted to offer a voice that thought that Rosen's script was a touch closer to its intended target than the original post let on.

I enjoyed the film quite a bit.

Thanks again for taking the time to voice your thoughts, as well as letting others voice theirs.

LoneWolfArcher said...

As long as opposing viewpoints are on topic, not offensive, and level-headed I will always allow them!

I have denied very few comments in the course of this blog, most have been of the "you stupid neocon -expletive-" variety.

Thank you for disagreeing without being disagreeable.