Why Kathryn Bigelow's Directorial Genius will not allow her to make a hit movie
Why, in spite of director Kathryn Bigelow’s incredible intelligence, her extremely beautiful inside and out (knock out gorgeous movie star looks, matched by her beautiful soul within) and her amazing directorial genius, her personal neurosis, her severely damaged feminine capacity will never allow her – in spite of her directorial genius – to make a commercially successful film, a box office hit that people want to see.
(In spite of all the right publicity surrounding her winning virtually every award possible, Kathryn’s Hurt Locker has done only $11 million, while her ex-husband, James Cameron, has two all-time record US grossing pictures – the first, Titanic, one of the greatest love stories ever filmed ($608 million US alone, $1,835 billion worldwide) and the greatest special effects love story ever filmed, Avatar ($688 million US alone (and counting), $2,456 billion worldwide (and counting!)).
Why the difference in the grosses of these two astonishing directorial geniuses?
Kathryn’s has no heart, no love story, little or no feminine compassion or kindness. She has the capacity to create tension in a film as almost no one else has. Kathryn has that incredible ability to make a film that transcends being a film and becomes, as the critic Rex Reed said about Billy Jack years ago, “… it becomes real life.” But with Kathryn’s films, it is the most painful slice of real life she gives us. In Hurt Locker your stomach is in a knot the entire time with one of the most negative, hostile and painful endings ever when Kathryn has our hero leave his loving, caring, responsible wife and his beautiful son to cater to his thanatos, his suicidal death wish and insatiable need to constantly prove his manhood by risking death and killing people while doing so.
The one thing you never do in a Kathryn Bigelow film is come out feeling inspired, good about yourself, or ten feet tall. You come out as if you’ve been not just kicked in the gut, but that you left the dentist’s office after having not just one root canal done, but four.
The brilliant director gives us an x-ray into her lack of feminine capacity at the very end of the picture when our suicidal hero comes home. First, in two scenes with his adoring wife, who has borne the gigantic horrid responsibility of raising their son alone while waiting for the phone to ring any moment, telling her of her husband or her son’s death. We never even see the warm greeting he gets from her and his son when he first comes home.
The only two scenes we see between this great looking couple is the wife ignoring him while busy cooking dinner, and shoving him some vegetables to cut up to help her. His boredom wreaks with doing this simple task. The next scene between the two is in the grocery store where he’s irritated by having to choose which box of cereal to pick off the shelf, lined with dozens of cereal choices. And the only scene we see with him with his son has nothing to do with the way a father who has agonized over being separated from his son for so long would behave. Instead, he gives a speech explaining why he hates being with his son and has to go back and be a killer.
Here Kathryn’s directorial genius and lack of ability to make an emotionally fulfilling movie becomes transparent. One of the key ingredients that people demand to see in a film is “credibility”, the “What if?” principle. “What if…” this character was in this exact situation, what would he or she do – what would I do if I were that character in that same situation? Every single person we interviewed said that when they first arrived home they would be overwhelmed with joy, overcome with powerful emotions at first seeing their spouse and their son, and maybe after a period of the thrill and ecstasis of seeing your most beloved family again, they could start to get bored. Kathryn gives us none of the ecstatic joy at seeing his loved ones. Not one moment! Instead, she concentrates only on his instant boredom – so anxious is she as a filmmaker to get him back to the killing fields, which she thrives on, and masterfully creates for us.
The final scene of him walking away from the camera excited about being back to continue his rendezvous with death is Kathryn’s way of proving her thesis that war is a drug, and incredibly insightful and superb insight into the human nature of so many soldiers, mercenaries and politicians to whom war is a drug. But because she has denied us even the most basic human emotions of love and joy between a soldier and his family, and because the ending of her film is such a negative downer, instead of being excited about this insight into the horror of war, we are irritated and disappointed by the ugly ending of the film which causes us to miss the point she is trying to make.
But she reveals to us another truth – making violent macho films about war is a drug for Kathryn. Tragically for the film world, and the entire world of film audiences, unless there is a radical growth in her psyche, Kathryn will never be able to use her incredible directorial genius to give us a love story – a picture people want to see, and can’t wait to see, a major box office hit. She should take a page from her ex-husband, her good friend, and learn the secret of making a runaway box office hit, a lesson Cameron can give to every one of us who want to make films that people want to see because we have something we want to say to either enlighten them or just enrich their lives by giving them a couple of hours of laughter to relieve the dull gray we all live in every day.