Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why "Memorial Day" Is Worth Your Time: Reason #2

From the very first meeting we had on "Memorial Day," back when it was just an idea, I've said that this isn't a "war movie." I still believe that, but it's hard to work against the convenience of that term. So let's accept that this is, to some extent, a war movie. Within that genre, I would argue that "Memorial Day" might just be the first war movie for women.
What you don't see is that Grandma is watching this whole thing.

Now, I hesitate to even say that, and it feels strange to type it. It seems to smack of sexism. After all, we now live at a time when 20 percent of all new recruits, 15 percent of all active-duty military and 11 percent of forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are women. Women see war, and women see war movies (though not nearly as much as men, that can't be disputed). Plus, the main characters in "Memorial Day" are, in fact, men. So what do I mean by that? 

In "Memorial Day," we see a woman (Betty Vogel, "Oma") who has spent decades living with a husband who won't talk about the war. What happens to her on an emotional level when her grandson finally cracks that code and breaks the silence? In Iraq, it takes a doctor ("Lt. Tripp") to accomplish the same feat for the older Kyle. Betty is far removed from the war; Tripp is smack dab in the middle of it. But they both pick up on all-too-familiar patterns of male stoicism, and they both do their part to fight that battle. 

For the people who market war movies, the assumption is that your main appeal is to young men who want to see stuff blow up. "Memorial Day" challenges that assumption on several levels. Yes, we have stuff blowing up. And tanks. And planes. And guns. So if that's what you want to see, you won't be disappointed. (We have the first flying P-38 to appear in a film in some 60 years, as a matter of fact.) But this story isn't just about how men relate to war. It's about how women relate to the men who relate to war.

And, like many things related to this movie, I don't think that's ever been done before. 

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