I just saw three movies in a row, all happened to be organized in the same way: from the inside out. Maybe it’s all this snow getting to my head, but I didn’t like this way of storytelling. I am surprised, because I do like the nonlinear plots of Pulp Fiction and Memento. But for these three movies, I wanted a straight-up story, from beginning to middle to end. Twists always welcome. I am glad I watched the movies though.
This is the structure for the way they are organized:
Act One Scene One: Incomplete Flashback—something big is about to happen to a main character, but before you can say “What the F—
Scene 2: The Beginning—the story starts from the beginning, waaaaaaay before the flashback moment.
Following scenes—the plot plods ahead until all of a sudden–
Middle Act: the first scene is repeated–this time in chronological order, so that the scene is complete and in full context.
The Rest: The story moves on from there.
1. The White Tiger
Scene 1: A highway in India. Two Indian men, one Indian woman in a car, about to crash—
Scene 2: Balrum, an Indian man drafts an email about how he escaped his impoverished origins and became a wealthy entrepreneur.
Following Scenes: A young Indian boy born in school. He’s very clever, but can not continue his education past elementary grades because he has to go to work and make money for his family. We see the jobs he takes.
Middle Act: The complete accident and its aftermath.
The Rest: He becomes an entrepreneur.
Does it work? Sure. Although, I think a straight-up story told from beginning to end would have been better, but the movie still is pretty good, because the acting is so good, especially that of the lead, played by an Indian actor and singer named Adarsh Gourav. It also stars Priyanka Chopra, who is married to one of the Jonas brothers. The movie is promoted as a tongue in cheek “how-to” story–how a servant can become an entrepreneur and join his master’s caste.
The White Tiger was written and directed by Iranian-American Ramin Bahrani, and based on a 2008 novel by Indian-Australian Aravind Adiga. Bahrani and Adiga were roommates at Columbia University in the US.
Scene 1: Mother looks for child in child’s room. Child is not there.
Scene 2: Unhappy girl who feels like a boy. Father accepts it. Mother does not.
Following Scenes—the child and father go off on a horse into the wilds of Montana.
The Middle: Once again, child not in room.
The Rest: Mother and police search for child and father.
Did it work? Not really.
I liked the transgender theme, but the movie played like an afterschool special, a little predictable, a little nonsensical, with a little overacting. Question: where did they get the horse? Seriously.
Although, I love Steve Zahn, who plays the father, and Ann Dowd, who plays a police woman.
3. The Vigil
Scene 1: Woman standing in front of man with gun
Scene 2: Yakov in someone’s apartment at a support-group meeting for people leaving the Hasidic faith. He has left the Hasidic fold.
Following Scenes: A rabbi hires Yakov to do something that he used to do when he was in the fold: be a shomer for an evening. A shomer watches over the body of a deceased community member. Someone abruptly left his post as shomer and the rabbi needs a replacement STAT. Yakov could use the money, so he sits guard in the wee hours of the morning, just he and the dead body in the house, with the widow in the upstairs bedroom. She has Alzheimer’s Disease and is a little batty.
The middle and the rest: All sorts of shenanigans take place.
Does it work? Maybe. Don’t look now—it’s a HASIDIC HORROR MOVIE! Combining themes of religiosity, superstition, antisemitism, to name a few. It’s like a B movie. Pure camp and fun.
It will be out one week from today (Friday 2/26/21). I saw it early as part of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Fest.