criticism · endings · film

Arthur

Just got back from the cinema after seeing the remake of Arthur. I thought the film was alright, I’m not sure Brands performance was career killing, but then I wouldn’t say I know enough about acting or American pop culture to say whether it is or isn’t. There were however a couple of things about the film that I thought really let it down. So after the cut is my little run down of those couple of things. So, if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want it spoiled then watch out, because there will indeed be spoilers.

Beware! Spoilers! Arthur spoilers! Excessive use of exclamation marks and the word ‘spoilers!

So the film is essentially about choosing between love and money. Arthur has money, then he finds love, and is in a position of not being able to have both. A fine setup for a light romantic comedy. Predictably he chooses love and all is right with the world. Except in the closing moments of the film, in a totally pithy, throw-away line it turns out even though he threw it all away for the girl he got the money anyway.

This just killed it for me. The idea that this rich brat was now going to have to live a normal, humble life meant that his decision to pursue the girl had proper consequences consistent with the story up to then. After he seemingly throws it all away he looks a bit bedraggled, wearing a cloth cap and a plain jumper and you get the feeling this man made a hard decision and was a better person for it. At that stage you don’t know that he is going to get the girl (even though rom-com tradition essentially dictates that that is what is going to happen). He goes into a bookshop to buy a copy of her children’s book which seems even more poignant as you are thinking that for once he can’t really afford it. In those closing scenes he is the image of a man finally standing on his own two feet and it seems triumphant. Of course he wins the girl and then, in what felt like a real fumble, he reveals it’s ok really because he got his inheritance after all.

It cheapened it for me and it felt like sentimental pap rather than the triumphant victory it could have been. That love really does defeat riches and once Arthur has realised it he is free from money and can live simply and happily from then on. A happy ending does not need to be some hedonistic outcome where everyone gets everything. It could in fact be happier with a hint of loss and sadness thrown in with it. Rather than making the outcome of the film the acquisition of both love and money why not stick with the theme of the entire film up to that point and juxtapose the happiness of finding love with the sadness of losing riches. Nothing highlights something as well as comparison with an opposite. Happiness and sadness, loss with gain; the ending was lazy and cheap and turned its back on the entire film up to that final scene.

Perhaps I am expecting too much of a feel-good romantic comedy which, I suspect, was put together as a vehicle for Brand rather than a film that was in production and looking for its lead. But I think the film would have had a more upbeat ending if it had ended with him sharing a plain meal in a small house, happy with the girl and free to do whatever he wanted with his life from then on.

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