thatcow

My Everchanging Moods

In this movie from John Sayles, we are introduced to a large interlocking cast of characters. This isn't unusual for Sayles. Whether it is Men With Guns or Lonestar, one of Sayles gifts is to fully depict the local culture and people. He has a great ear for dialogue and I was settling in for another Sayles yarn.

In Lonestar, Sayles weaves the past and present, race and politics, grudges and love. In Limbo, Sayles moves us to Alaska where the people are the flip side of Northern Exposure. They are edgy, both in spirit and in society. It's clear that Sayles is trying to make a point about the environment. Alaska is turning into an "Eco Disneyland" and we aren't doing much about it. Blue collar jobs are drying up and the economy is turned squarely to tourism and logging. But logging is controlled by Big Industry and tourism seems to be squarely in the hands of the local governments.

From this setting emerges Donna and and Noelle. Donna is a talented, but luckless bar singer. Noelle is her begrudging daughter. They meet up with Joe. Noelle has a crush, but Donna seems to fall even harder, or maybe just hard enough to soften the rough edges of her life. Joe is a decent and earnest man.

Joe's brother reappears and the four of them head off on an expedition to provide travel services for big spending, big game hunters. Somewhere in an inlet, we find out that Joe's brother has been running drugs and that he owes a big debt to some very angry men.

So, it appears to be a struggle between somewhat good and somewhat bad forces. But then Sayles crooks the story again. Joe, Donna and Noelle are left to fend for themselves in the vast, uncharted lands of Alaska. It becomes a story of man versus nature. Maybe Sayles Alaska isn't going to stand for yielding to man's need for lumber and vaction land. Maybe this Alaska is going to turn the tables.

Unlikely to have chosen this arrangement, the three characters learn to adjust and bear each other. Joe is a careful and quiet character that refuses to extend himself past his known boundaries. That spirit keeps the three of them alive, but then things must change. How will they be rescued? Will the drug peddlers track them down and kill them? Is it man or nature that can be our biggest threat?

Sayles story is certainly not a traditional tale. There are many bends in the plot. Some work fairly well, but I'm not sure what ties the towns people and our three leads together. They could almost be separate stories.

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