June 7, 2007 | Comments ()

By Agent Bedhead | Guides | June 7, 2007 |


Monologues are, quite simply, a long speech delivered by one actor in a play or movie, which are often used to bring other characters or the audience up to speed on important plot developments or character motives. Some monologues are used to bring life to films that would otherwise suck the chrome off a bicycle, and still others exist merely to help a director reach the ninety-minute mark for a conventional feature film. Monologues can be exterior, in which a character speaks to the audience or another character, or they can be interior, in which the character performs mental masturbation upon himself. Finally, some monologues cause certain budding critics to take notes, memorize the words, and irritate the hell out friends and colleagues at the most inopportune of moments.

This particular group of monologues was chosen not for their purity in the sense that some are peppered by words from other characters, but one constant is that each selection serves an important role within their particular film. For evaluation purposes, the criteria were fairly laissez faire and not based on some antiquated notion of Shakespearean soliloquy or bullshit James Joyce nonsense. The bottom line was whether the monologue was enjoyable and relevant to the film as a whole. It also helped if the dialogue within was highly quotable and possibly articulated by an iconic actor that we wouldn’t mind picking up at a bar. At any rate, The Pajiba Monologues of the past fifteen years await below:

Trainspotting (1996): Trainspotting opens with our antihero, Renton (Ewan McGregor), in flight to the tune of Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life.” Through a voice-over, he tosses out a rapid-fire list of requisite choices that are considered necessary to be a functional part of society. These choices are generally rhetorical matters, and it is assumed that no one questions the need to make such decisions such as choosing to have a future and choosing to have a life. However, as Renton impishly states, “I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?” To choose not to choose, as Renton and his friends do, is single-mindedly to reject life as valueless and empty. As a result of this uncompromising position, the characters reject society’s laws and live a life of squalor and crime, the latter of which is presumably why these characters are being pursued by the police. ‘Tis no matter to Renton, for the quest for the next hit is more important than the notions of the law, work, family, and getting laid. Addicts have no time for such trivial concerns when the supply runs low and withdrawal symptoms come calling. The purpose of Renton’s continuing narrative is to establish some sort of order within the film, since a story about heroin addiction cannot really follow a logical plot and still appear realistic. The episodic nature of Trainspotting flows through the sardonic humor of Renton’s words and keeps us interested in the film, despite the empty lives the characters lead within. After all, to the extent that one rejects life, Trainspotting is a very nihilistic and depressing movie, which is where the upbeat Brit-pop soundtrack also comes in handy.

Swingers (1996): In this monologue, Mikey (Jon Favreau), has just met a girl that evening after moping around for six months next to his answering machine, waiting for his ex-girlfriend to call. Although his friend Trent (Vince Vaughn) advises him of the dating rule that after getting a girl’s digits, one must “Wait two days to call, otherwise you might scare off a beautiful baby.” Mikey decides that a quick call wouldn’t hurt, but the situation quickly slides out of his control. With each successive answering machine message, his masochistic desperation increases. The situation is hilarious and painful to watch at the same time. After this scene subsides, Mikey hits rock bottom takes a final wallow in his own self-pity and rejects all the bullshit his friends have been telling him about picking up chicks. With help from Rob (Ron Livingston), Mikey realizes that Trent’s pickup moves won’t work for anyone but Trent himself. So Mikey returns to civilization and successfully dances and flirts with Lorraine (Heather Graham) with a newly instilled confidence and self-depreciating sincerity. The extremely quotable script, written by Favreau, has spawned many a one-liner: “You’re so money and you don’t even know it,” “He’s the guy behind the guy behind the guy,” and “Our little Mikey is all growns up. He’s growns up and he’s growns up and he’s growns up.” These and many more surprisingly versatile statements can be quoted in an amazing number of situations and have become an iconic personification of the classic underdog syndrome. Hell, I wouldn’t have gotten through law school without attending poker games while watching this movie on a loop. The dialogue is insightful, witty, and Swingers is the perfect film to pop in the DVD player as background noise. Just watching it makes you feel cool.

Fight Club (1999): Fight Club was criticized for its glorification of violence, but it remains one of the most thematically complex movies of the last decade. The film’s presentation as a satire and black comedy certainly lightens the proverbial blow to the unexpectedly heavy subject matter. Jack (Edward Norton) leads a white-collar void-of-a-life but was plagued by insomnia and a lack of intimate connections. The winter of his discontent is lessened by moonlighting at various support groups for the terminally ill, but when he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), he finds an even better method of release in weekly fighting matches. Through the pain, Jack finds that his consciousness, formerly desensitized by constant advertisements and media intrusion, is awakened and replaced by a sense of individuality. The club draws a membership, and so Tyler sets out the rules of Fight Club in this scene. While the rules are issued, the men strip themselves of restrictive conventions — shoes, wedding rings, wallets — and the violent fights morph into a sort of group therapy. Over time, the weekly violence escalates into cult-like terrorism, and Jack slowly realizes that he has replaced one magical cure with another.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001): This atypical chick flick centers upon the unlikely love triangle between 32-year old singleton Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) and two men with delicious English accents — Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). In the opening monologue, Bridget adopts several comprehensive yet flippant goals to help her conquer the London dating scene. This amusingly witty list sets a brisk pace that endures as the camera follows Bridget, who is determined to conquer the London dating scene even if her New Year’s resolutions are total crap. As she ticks off the types of undateable men, even she realizes her imminent infatuation with “a particular person who embodies all these things.” Following this phrase, the elevator door immediately opens to the sight of a devilish Daniel Cleaver, a role that is played to perfection by Hugh Grant, who is far more captivating as a dirty-talking, slippery womanizer than his usual gentle film characters who recite bullshit poetry in their sleep. Bridget as a character seems almost effortless in the hands of Zellweger, who persuades the audience that our heroine is desirable and wholly captivating not in spite of her flaws but in part because of them. She is a person that many men would date and most women would befriend, and she believes that great sex, romance, and a nice boyfriend are not mutually exclusive despite her experience to the contrary. Although the film carries no heavy undertones, it does impress upon the viewer that a sense of humor and intelligence actually can improve one’s romantic prospects.

High Fidelity (2000): Rob Gordon (John Cusack) reminds us all of someone, perhaps even ourselves. He’s stuck in his prepubescent ways and has been running a record store (with real vinyl) since his early twenties, which is a manner of ensuring that he doesn’t have to grow up. This stagnation doesn’t bother him at all, and he would be perfectly content living out his years while constantly rearranging his used-record collection and compiling his slightly pretentious Top Five Formerly Great Sell-Out Musicians list. When Rob’s live-in girlfriend, Laura (Ijen Hjejle), finally outgrows him, gets a well-paying office job, and moves out of their apartment, Rob vows that Laura will never make it onto his Top Five Worst-Ever Breakup list, and he sorta convinces us, until Laura’s friend enters the record store and informs him of the lackluster “Ian guy” that Laura is now dating. Rob keeps his cool and pretends not to care, but a few minutes later, he heads to the stock room and spews forth a hysterical delayed self-therapeutic reaction.High Fidelity demonstrates that a breakup isn’t so much about losing a relationship, particularly one that’s void of all life, as it is a kick in the gut about one’s values and ideals.

As Good As It Gets (1997): An accomplished novelist, Melvin is a complete failure in his interactions with other people, and in this scene, he doesn’t even have to leave his living room to be a total asshole. Just prior to this monologue, Melvin (Jack Nicholson), grows irritated at his neighbor, gay art dealer Simon (Greg Kinnear), and stealthily dumps his dog down the hallway garbage chute. When Simon suspects Melvin of doing the deed and aims to confront him, Melvin’s blatantly homophobic remarks are specifically geared to wound Simon. Melvin actually hit a chord with myself, and those who aren’t familiar with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder might infer that Melvin’s attitude might be correlated with his illness. My belief is that his crankiness is a byproduct of the OCD, and from his obnoxious, condescending behavior to his refusal to tolerate anything but his own rigid standards, the person that Melvin actually makes most miserable is himself. Most of his daily life is swallowed up with obsessive-compulsive rituals that are portrayed in a humorous light to keep the story upbeat, but Melvin truly is wretchedly unhappy. He refuses for whatever reason to take his medication, and as a result, his entire thought process is constantly interrupted by the need to avoid sidewalk cracks, wash away germs, and tend to doorknobs. When Simon is badly beaten by a hustler and his life subsequently takes on a downward trajectory, Melvin is then faced with letting Simon become homeless or accepting him as a guest. Fortunately, he chooses the latter option, which helps him down the road to non-assholedom. As Good As It Gets is a good movie for many reasons, not the least of which is casting Jack Nicholson as a neurotic character who chooses to improve his situation instead of a neurotic character that goes totally psychotic.

Sleep With Me (1994): Quentin Tarantino popped into this film for a cameo role as Sid, the partygoer who has watched (and rewatched) far too many movies in his lifetime. While Roger Avery did the actual scripting, it’s hard to imagine anyone executing these manic, slangy lines as well as Quentin did. This notorious monologue is the only memorable section of this otherwise forgettable Eric Stoltz and Jennifer Tilly sport-fucking movie. Sid’s deconstruction of Top Gun seemed to point out the bull in the china shop that no one had dared articulate before. Everyone had already supposed that Top Gun was just one of those bad 80’s movies and maybe, yeah, there was a little something gay about those fighter pilots. Sid actually misquotes the Top Gun dialogue for humorous effect, and although the actual language is slightly altered, Sid manages to keeps the film’s intended theme intact but delivers a righteous case for the homoerotic subtext of the entire movie and particularly between about Maverick (Tom Cruise) and (Val Kilmer).

Chasing Amy (1997): With the release of the third installment of the Kevin Smith’s New Jersey trilogy, Smith widely expressed the sentiment that Clerks was overpraised and Mallrats was overcriticized. Having seen both extremes, he wasn’t too concerned about the response to Chasing Amy, and this relaxed attitude produced a much more truthful film. The result was a romantic comedy about serious topics, and its characters experience a level of insight and feeling that no Drew Barrymore romcom can hope to touch. The relationship between Alyssa (Joey Adams) and Holden (Ben Affleck) was never meant to last, but not for the expected reasons. Although Alyssa’s lesbian past does not bother Holden, the accidental discovery of her vast amount of sexual experience with men bothers him immensely. It’s not entirely evident if Holden is just as bothered by Alyssa’s lack of forthright communication or with the sexual experience itself, but the double standard is alluded to within Smith’s script with a surprising level of maturity. The dialogue throughout the movie is brutally straightforward, unflinchingly funny, and as raunchy as a relatively mainstream audience will permit. During this monologue, Silent Bob (Smith) finally speaks up about his own painful experience of “chasing an Amy,” and this wisdom eventually guides this widely-respected film to its resolution.

Kill Bill v.2 (2004): When The Bride finally locates Bill, the last member on her death list, their opportunity for conflict finally arrives. However, Bill is more interested in finding out the truth about why The Bride ran away from her jet-setting life as an assassin, so he shoots her with a dart full of truth serum, and while it takes effect, he discusses his obsession with comic books and their underlying mythology. This turns out to be the most telling monologue in both of the Kill Bill volumes, but since Tarantino is sort of fucking with his audience, some pseudoanalysis is required: Bill tells The Bride that Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the human race, that Clark Kent is Superman’s disguise, and his true identity is Superman. Bill is attempting to explain that even though The Bride chose to live as Arlene Plimpton, her true nature is a killer. This is a flawed analogy, and comic book fans will remember that when the Superman series was first published, Superman was born Kal-El on planet Krypton and sent to Earth by his parents when Krypton faced imminent destruction. Kal-El was raised by foster parents with the surname of Kent who raised him as Clark, whose superhuman abilities grew as he did, and Clark vowed to use these abilities for the well-being of mankind. Bill really needed to read up on his Superman history because he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, and the lingering question is why Tarantino, the ultimate pop culture fanboy, would write Bill in such a way. Undoubtedly, this was an intentional decision on Tarantino’s part to show that since Bill was mistaken as to Superman’s fundamental identity, it follows that he was also incorrect as to the inherent nature of The Bride.

Sin City (2005) The film opens and concludes with related vignettes featuring the Salesman (Josh Harnett), a freelance assassin in Sin City who is often hired by the Ladies, the Cops, and the Mafia. Also known as the Colonel, the Man and the Ladykiller, he appears as a smooth operator and is summoned to visit you when you’ve done wrong. The opening vignette shows the Salesman visiting the Customer (Marley Shelton) and prepares the audience for the harshness and brutal indifference that lies within Sin City itself: “The silencer makes a whisper of the gunshot. I hold her close until she’s gone. I’ll never know what she was running from. I’ll cash her check in the morning.”

SPOILER ALERT: The ending vignette presents the Salesman greeting and offering a cigarette to Becky (Alexis Bledel), the prostitute who betrayed the girls of Old Town and jeopardized the truce between the girls and the Cops. Since this scene does not mirror the comic series, it is unknown whether the Salesman kills Becky or whether she is actually in training as an assassin named Blue Eyes who is featured in some Sin City short stories. In the comic book series itself, the Salesman is known to train other assassins, and since Becky’s eyes are colored a startling blue in the otherwise black and white film, that plot development is a strong possibility. And that’s why Hollywood invented sequels.


Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and tries to avoid reality at all costs. She also insults pop culture daily at agentbedhead.com.

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Guides | June 7, 2007 | Comments ()



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