rowan livengood/Nov 22, 2016 — The movie opens to a narration from Marcus (our main character) about how there are reasons we die, and how we have personally made decisions to lead to our inevitable death. Which is pretty good foreshadowing for the rest of the film.
We then learn how Marcus’ kind of close family friend Jonah dies in the Vietnam War. This entire story is taking place in the 1950’s, and young men such as Marcus are being drafted into the war. Marcus is heading off to college and kids in college don’t get drafted. So nothing to worry about there. His father on the other hand is actually slowly losing his mind. He is extremely paranoid about his son’s future, getting upset with Marcus for not realizing that the tiniest mistake could have the biggest of consequences.
He’s off to college! Rooming with the only other two jews (oh yeah he’s Jewish) that aren’t in the Jewish fraternity. And in this college they have to attend chapel at least 10 times a year. At the end of chapel they have to turn in a card with their name on it saying they attended chapel that day.He starts to fall for a girl named Olivia Hutton a lovely name for a lovely girl. Now during the following
He starts to fall for a girl named Olivia Hutton a lovely name for a lovely girl. Now during the following scenes they have it cut between what has happened and what is happening, it’s rather confusing. But essentially, Marcus fiscates on asking Olivia out, and eventually does. On said date they go to L’Escargot the only french restaurant in town. And they get to know each other. On the ride home however, Olivia persuades Marcus to “take a left on the next street” and they pull over and they kiss! Like good for him, but then she unbuckles his pants and starts performing fellatio on him. Which was a shocker to both to him and the audience. He says he “continues to puzzle over Olivia’s actions. Hers and maybe even more so, mine.” You see, after the incident, they just drove home in silence, he contemplated why she would do such a thing. How could someone as astounding as Olivia Hutton was, do such a thing for a mediocrity such as Marcus Messner. He told himself “it’s because her parents are divorced. I could think of no other explanation for a mystery so profound.”.
He started thinking, she must’ve had done to someone else before. He ignored her in class. Olivia then finds him in the library where he works. She tells him “I did that because I like you…I know you can’t figure it out…So I’m figuring it out for you. I did that because I liked you.” And it basically got down to, “I did it with someone else, so now you think I’m a slut. But I was drunk then, and it didn’t mean anything. But with you, I wasn’t drunk. I wanted to do it to you not because I’m a slut but because I wanted to do it to you.”
The two of them exchange letters, one opening with “I used the razor when I was drunk. If I was sober I would’ve succeeded” going on to address nothing related to that, which I found interesting.
When receiving one of his letters, Flusser (one of his roommates) takes it. He’s a dramatic fellow, is in the theatre and has been practicing for a role in a Shakespearean play. He plays loud, good but obnoxious music. So when Marcus tries to get the letter back, he goes on a tirade demanding more respect, his other roommate Ron chimes in. Ron let Marcus borrow his car the night of the date between him and Olivia, and Ron treats his car like a newborn baby. So he says “What?” pointing to the letter “Oh that’s from the one that blew you? In my car? How about respecting my car by not driving around with some slut in it.” Marcus then fails to throw a punch at him, and then proceeds to change rooms. He changes to a room with no roommates and one that is in the attic of the school.
The dean of men (Dean Caudwell) calls him in, to ask him why he can’t seem to settle down. The scene goes on for over 16 minutes and, it’s incredibly hard to describe the dynamic between Dean Caudwell and Marcus. I would recommend watching the scene, you can find it here. It ends with Marcus throwing up all over the dean’s awards. We find out he had appendicitis and in turn has his appendix removed.
Olivia comes to visit him, bringing flowers, she asks to see his scar as he did hers from when she tried to kill herself. He raises his bed sheet and lo and behold his penis is down there! She starts to take care of business but then the nurse comes in. Marcus then freaks out, while Olivia remains poised and calm, saying she won’t saying anything because she’s too embarrassed to. Marcus then says “I just don’t understand how you can be so…under control, so expert.” Olivia then retaliates “Oh yes! Olivia the expert. That’s what they called me at the Menninger clinic.” “But you are.” Marcus replies “You really think so do you? I, who has eight thousand moods a minute, who’s every emotion is a tornado who can be thrown by a word by a syllable. Am under control?” I like the line “eight thousand moods a minute” the repetition of the m sound makes it just roll off the tongue. They eventually get on good terms again.
Marcus’ mom comes to visit him, and see if he’s alright after the surgery. They take a walk in the park and his mom tells him that his father is getting much much worse. He’s yelling at the customers at his butcher shop, and the lays on the horn of his car from the minute they pull out the driveway. She says she want’s to get a divorce, and has already been seeing a lawyer, she hates him. When they are in the car together and he is yelling at her, she loathes him from the bottom her heart and it scares her because she knows it’s true. Marcus tries to convince her, that it might seem that way now, but she doesn’t actually feel that way. On their back inside to his room. Olivia is there, tidying up. Marcus introduces them to each other. They all sit down and chat, his mother’s eyes keep glancing at Olivia’s scar.
Later, after Olivia leaves, Marcus’ mother sits down to talk. She says that she will not divorce his father, she will see him through and get him help. Marcus says that leaving his father alone was unimaginable, but his mother then asks him to help her prevent something unimaginable from happening. She asks him to not see Ms. Hutton ever again, you are here to be a student she says, to study the supreme court and become a lawyer, “you are not here to look for trouble with a girl who has taken a razor and slit her wrists.” Marcus comments “Wrist. It was only one wrist.” “One is enough, we have only two and one is too much…Marky I will stay with your father, but for this I am offering a deal. Marky the world is full of young women who have not slit any wrists. Who have slit nothing. They exist by the millions. Find one of them”.
Olivia hasn’t been seen in her classes the past couple of days, so Marcus calls up the dormitory where she resides and finds out she has gone home. He goes to speak to the dean and finds out that she had a nervous breakdown and had to be taken away by ambulance.
Sidenote: Some people instead of going to chapel hire people to turn their cards in for them, so they don’t have to waste that hour.
So, the next day at the end of chapel Marcus’ surrogate gets caught, and they both get expelled and drafted into the army.
Now cut to him in Vietnam sitting next to a fire with some dead guy on his lap. And he get’s chased by some Vietnamese guy shooting at him. This is the scene from the beginning with the narration about decisions and consequences. He gets stabbed with a bayonet and dies asking if Olivia can hear him.
I love this movie and book, it delivers great commentary about slut shaming and the stereotypes associated with people who self-harm.