Inception is not a “twist” movie – knowing any one portion of the plot doesn’t give you any insight into the movie as a whole. Christopher Nolan took nearly a decade to write the script - polishing and shaping it over the years. It is gorgeous. It breathtaking. It is meticulously constructed. But it only has two female characters. And neither of them are engaging or interesting or possess the depth of their male counterparts.
First up: Ellen Page. I love Ellen Page. She is being put through the same ringer as Zooey Deschanel – a smart, talented young actress who starred in a few movies, built up her indie cred, was embraced by the mainstream, and then, without warning, BACKLASH. (Next up: Dakota Fanning. SHE’S IN EVERYTHING THESE DAYS. If she were a dude she could play a queer character and then would be a Serious Actor Of Importance [Note: May not work if you are the ”worst actor in the history of filmed entertainment”] and could start being offered the roles that make careers). But Ellen Page is not the problem here. The problem is the dialogue. She is given one or two emotional notes to play through the entire movie and most of her lines simply allow Leonardo Dicaprio to explain fake movie science to the audience.
Next we have Academy Award Winning Actress Marion Cotillard, who won an Oscar for portraying Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose. Her role in this movie is a little meatier, but she essentially spends the entire movie in the refrigerator. For those of you not up on your Modern Feminist Theory Related to Comic Books, a woman in a refrigerator is a woman who has bad things happen to her to drive the plot forward. The woman in the refrigerator is the reason the main character is on a rampage, she is the driving force behind his revenge, but she is also, you know, in the refrigerator. If I had to choose between being dead in an appliance and alive and on a killing spree, I’d have to go with the latter. And for those of you who still have not seen this movie, I have not ruined anything for you. In fact, when you DO see this movie, and the Cotillard story line plays itself out, the combination of the reveal and my trenchant analysis will collide in your mind and you will be moved to donate lavishly to the Beatdown. Ahem.
Once you realize the two female characters are cardboard cutouts AND/OR simple plot devices, this movie becomes a giant sausage fest. Which brings me to Tom Hardy. Tom Hardy is an English actor who has appeared in the films RockNRolla and Bronson and the miniseries Band of Brothers and apparently wrote a couple of books about women being all sad and dying and stuff. Anyway, he is HOT.
Before Inception was released, the media dropped a bombshell: Tom Hardy had once enjoyed his fair share of snoodytoodling. Couple that with a widely circulated picture of Hardy throwing major duckface and looking like rough trade, and the gay blogosphere blew up. Except SAD TRUMPET the quotes were cherry picked from an article he did two years ago for Attitude. The full article made it clear that he was talking about childhood sexual experimentation, and not, you know, emceeing a wet boxer contest at Southern Decadence like I had hoped. Immediately sources “close to the actor” came out of the woodwork to clarify that the original interviewer took things out of context, that he was talking about playing a gay role, not actually having sex with men himself. That seems to be at odds with the interview itself. To quote:
Have you ever had any sexual relations with men?
As a boy? Of course I have. I’m an actor for *beep*’s sake. I’m an artist. I’ve played with everything and everyone. But I’m not into men sexually. I love the form and the physicality but the gay sex bit does nothing for me.
In RockNRolla, Hardy plays a gay gangster named Handsome Bob, not an actor. So unless he gives all interviews as a queer version of himself in some sort of Andy Kaufman qua Tony Clifton bit of performance art, his camp is doing damage control. Of course Inception puts all of that speculation to rest, with Hardy’s character eyehumping Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character for the entire film. Which the Internet noticed. And the Internet did what the Internet does best: root out gay themes and write slash fiction about it. Eames, the character Tom Hardy plays is never explicitly revealed to be gay (or bisexual, or pansexual, or heterofexible) but he still has very palpable sexual tension with his male co-star. Which makes him this generation’s Sal Mineo.
Earlier this year, Ramin Setoodeh wrote a piece in Newsweek, “Straight Jacket”, in which he claimed former Will & Grace star Sean Hayes couldn’t play a convincing straight character in the musical “Promises, Promises” because audiences knew he was gay. His costar, Kristin Chenoweth quickly shot back, telling the writer (who is gay himself) ”It’s a character and it’s called acting, and I’d put Hayes and his brilliance up there with some of the greatest actors period.” Last year Rupert Everett took time off from wandering into plastic surgeons’ offices with pictures of Kevin Kline to warn gay actors not to come out of the closet. There is an argument to be made that both Setoodeh and Everett are simply describing the harsh realities of working within a competitive industry. But actively seeking to lower the visibility of queer artists perpetuates what Vito Russo called “The Celluloid Closet.” Neil Patrick Harris and Portia de Rossi have consistently proven that queers can and do play convincing straight characters. It is, in fact, the first role most of us learn to play.
But, yes, Inception. It was an enjoyable film. It had a lot of Joseph Gordon-Levitt which was appreciated. Could have used some women, though.