Monday, April 28, 2008

Cineaste's Corner: "when the BOUGH BReaKS"

A Plabnox Collaboration
Best known for portraying characters with below-average intelligence, Ted Danson, thespian, demonstrates a truly protean acting ability in the inexplicably titled 1986 TV film, when the BOUGH BReaKS. It is no surprise that the film itself; a byzantine tale of a retired child psychologist’s (Mr. Danson’s) mission to solve the mystery surrounding a ring of pedophilic white males, an Asian woman, a Latino family, and a car chase; received several accolades from the television industry: a nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Mini-Series or Specials and a win—the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Television Feature or Miniseries.

The picture features a daring plotlike concoction of completely unrelated elements. Mr. Danson, as the former child psychologist Dr. Delaware, has retired from his profession because of a traumatic experience involving a clan of murderous pedophiles. It is unclear just how the good doctor was mixed up in the scenario, but he seems to suffer recurrent nightmares from the experience (Director Waris Hussein left ambiguous whether the “nightmares” are actual nightmares or mere memories). Early one morning, Dr. Delaware’s be-moustached cop buddy appears without warning behind Dr. Delaware's refrigerator, wearing dark sunglasses.


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Above: The moustache's first appearance in the film.

In this kitchen scene, the moustache obtains a slice of pepperoni pizza, which magically transmutes to cheese as he munches on it. The moustache haggles Dr. Delaware into examining a young lass who suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder but may know something about the gang of middle-aged pedophiles. The girl gives Mr. Danson no information, but he does write her a new prescription, thus violating his professional ethics.

Somehow, this interaction brings Dr. Delaware to an elementary school, where he abandons his much-professed love for children by roughly shoving them aside in order to reach a young, comely Latina schoolteacher.

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Above: Dr. Delaware, renowned child psychologist, mindlessly mows down schoolchildren in an effort to perform a mating dance for a toothsome schoolmarm.

Here the director weaves in yet another plot when we realize that Mr. Danson is not after information regarding a child, but inquiring about a deceased adult friend of the schoolteacher. Dr. Delaware finds himself roped into the Latino community, and he visits the dead woman’s mother, whom he addresses as “Senor.”

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Above: Dr. Delaware and "Senor" Vargas.

For unexplained reasons, he steals a clearly empty, transparent cassette case from the dead woman’s belongings (after parading the belongings outside and examining the tape case), fights with her surviving brothers, and then later is surprised and dismayed when he realizes the case did not contain a tape.



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Above: Dr. Delaware's multiple examinations of the empty cassette case.

A car chase ensues, and the sound editor makes an avant-garde choice by purposely dubbing a voice over of unintelligible garble from Mr. Danson into a shot of his pursuer (a motorcyclist clothed entirely in black) from Mr. Danson’s point of view.



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Above: Chase scene with dubbed voice over of unintelligible exclamations of panic: "Gam Geet!"


Dr. Delaware gathers more information by donning extra-wide reading glasses and going through some legal files. The implication of this scene is that the glasses (which extend 2 inches past his skull on either side) expedite the process by providing a panoramic view for the wearer (here, Mr. Danson).


Above: Delaware's panoramic spectacles.

The moustached cop warns Dr. Delaware that he is getting in over his head in a heated argument at the police station. Mr. Danson conveys Dr. Delaware’s inner conflict by fluctuating timidly between direct address (looking at the camera) and staying in character. Mr. Danson becomes so agitated that his voice suddenly stops emitting shouts as his mouth keeps moving furiously. After the moustache erupts for the last time, he exits the scene by waxing so close to the camera that we can discern the gaping pores on his shiny temple.


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Above: Delaware and the moustache spar at police headquarters.

Later, we discover that the moustache is gay, in an isolated dinner party scene involving Dr. Delaware, the moustache, and the moustache’s partner. The moustache appears to be upset about this and irritated by his subsequent treatment in the force, yet the issue is dropped almost as soon as it emerges in the plot and left unresolved . The only other allusion to the gay theme is the homoerotic two-shot of Ted Danson and the moustache on the DVD’s cover.

Eventually, being embroiled in a web of no fewer than five or six plots proves too much for Dr. Delaware to bear. He begins to crack after wrestling with a man in his home gym—Mr. Danson compellingly transforms his face into a leathery mask of quadruple chins set with sunken, yet bulging orbs—and waving his arm irrationally while speaking with a paraplegic university professor.


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Above: Dr. Delaware, due to his burgeoning madness, flaps his left arm.





Above: Danson paints a harrowing portrait of angst and fear.

Finally, after the good doctor meets with an Asian woman during her first appearance in the film, a pedophile appears out of nowhere and Dr. Delaware bursts into tears. Mr. Danson elects, ironically, to rest the weight of both his character’s sorrows and his body on the tip of the gun he presses into the ground. The moustache materializes suddenly, and the cops arrive, but not before stopping to pick up the schoolteacher to bring her to the crime scene with which she has no relation.


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Above: The chilling climax of the film.


Further Highlights from when the BOUGH BReaKS:


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Above: The most frequently repeated line in the film: "I'm Dr. Delaware."

Above: In the film's opening scene, Dr. Delaware's extremely puffy hair and dark, furrowed brow signal agitation.


Above: The calm before the storm: Dr. Delaware's hair, relaxed and fancy free, lazes in a hammock.


Above: As Dr. Delaware unravels, his fleshy neck responds by rippling and folding over itself.


Above: The only Continental Shelf to appear in the film.


Above: A crazed and lipless Dr. Delaware.


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Above: Dr. Delaware executes the challenging grasshopper maneuver.

Above: Ted Danson conveys shock.


Above: In order to assert his dominance over a Latino man, Dr. Delaware conquers the man's house by raising his leg authoritatively and placing his crotch at the man's eye level.


Above: As his interest in the case rises, so does Dr. Delaware's squatting figure.

Above: Dr. Delaware's hair strikes a whimsical pose when in the company of a child.

Above: The famous gun scene-Ted Danson supports his character's weight solely on the tip of his gun.

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