By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Which may, in the end, account for all the overwrought sexual imagery and metaphors. The Perfect Storm finally comes off less like an ode to the modern hero than a lament about how the modern world fails men, robbing them of their places as lovers, fathers and workers. Not for nothing is the most successful swordfish boat captain in Gloucester a woman. Given this, it‘s ironic that in their eagerness to turn the fishermen into working-class heroes who are in it for glory rather than lucre, the filmmakers slight the readymade heroes in their midst: the Air National Guardsmen who jump out of helicopters to scoop ill-placed sailors from the sea. But like the yachting crew, who are tossed about the screen whenever the action on the Andrea Gail grinds to a halt, the rescuers never emerge as individuals. This is frustrating, not only given the inherent drama of men jumping into the Atlantic, but because after the storm reaches its full measure, much of what unfolds on the fishing boat consists of the men either screaming at one another or hunkered down below as, in a surreal touch, the VCR whirs on, seemingly without end, with the image of Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name.
The Eastwood image is a nice touch, not only because Petersen directed our reigning icon of retrenched American masculinity in the thriller In the Line of Fire, but because The Perfect Storm teems with anxiety about what it takes to be a man. It‘s an anxiety broadcast in the coils of ropy muscles, in the grizzled beards and grizzlier manners, in the ludicrous fights and chandeliers bouncing off the ceiling from bouts of vigorous coitus. There’s anxiety as well in the captain‘s sneers, in the way he repeatedly chides his men for acting like boys, and how he seems to shrivel, even to lose reason, in the face of his female rival’s success. And there‘s something more than just anxiety, something strange and freaky, in the way he saves his tenderness for the storm itself, whose abuse he seems to welcome like a desperate lover. (“She’s not going to let us out!”) By the time the military guys are shouting “Get it up, get it up!” to one another during one particularly harrowing rescue, while the ocean churns and foams, surging and sucking them into the void, it‘s hard to feel that Hollywood is rarely more nutty and entertaining than when it’s operating so completely and unconsciously in the dark. In this film, where being a man is a matter of life and death and being a woman is a matter of metaphor, everyone ends up stiffed.
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