April 25, 2007
Pumpkin: Retardedly Smart, or Just Plain Retarded?
first and foremost, I apologize for the play on words with "retard." I do not, in any way shape or form, believe that people with developmental disabilities are any less human than the next guy. In fact, I believe that sometimes, despite their challenges, people with such handicaps have a finer grasp on what it means to truly live and embrace life--both the good and the bad--then us "normal" folk.

That being said... (and yes this blog was prompted by the entry below it)

I recently re-watched Pumpkin, an art house film written by Adam Larson Broder and directed by Anythony Abrams. It's the story of a "perfect" girl who has a "perfect" life complete with inclusion in a sorority, a jock boyfriend (who she is expected to marry) and, by their mere omission at the beginning of the movie) no apparent goals in life. However, Caroline's perfect world starts to unravel as she experiences multiple "awakenings," all of which are prompted by her "unnatural" love for the disabled young man she coaches for the Challenged Games.

I'm not sure how to feel about the message of this movie. In fact, I was unsure if I was supposed to take this movie seriously. On the one hand it seems highly improbably that someone like Caroline would fall in love with someone like Pumpkin. It is a highly unnatural pairing that at one point seems like Caroline is taking advantage of the mentally handicapped young man in order to redirect her life and find self fulfillment. Furthermore, their love seems illicit and just plain wrong. Yet, when I found myself thinking and feeling that way, I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I would buy into this idea that there is a hierarchy in terms of "appropriate" love, after all doesn't everyone deserve to be loved? And if that's what the writer and directors wanted to convey, then they picked a really smart and sneaky way of portraying that idea.

Yet, at times I couldn't help but feel as though they (being the writer/directors) were making fun of Pumpkin and using him as a vehicle to add a sense of ludicrousness to the plot. Every honest attempt that Pumpkin makes at being "real" and "human" is snicker worthy. He attempts to drive the car off in anger and, having spent most of his life in a wheelchair, merely gets stuck in the driveway. He attempts to communicate with Caroline, and his halting speech makes her scream, which reverberates off every corner of the sleepy little town. He fights Caroline's Alpha male jock boyfriend, and even though he's initially losing on his wobbly legs, he somehow manages to tackle Kent and send him sprawling, quipping "It must be all the working out." The moments that are supposed to be tender and sweet aren't--they're ookie. When Pumpkin and Caroline make love for the first time, all I could think was "is this man capable of making decisions? Cause if not, this is so rape." When Pumpkin and Caroline kiss, its not an "awww" inspired moment but rather one that makes you squirm in your seat.

Finally, the last scene of the movie, where we are lead to believe that Caroline (who has spent some time at the Tech school's artist colony getting in touch with herself and writing angsty poems) has reached enlightenment, Caroline says something really highbrow and educated to Pumpkin who responds with a dumbfounded "huh?" And as the pair walks away, Caroline casts an undecipherable look over her shoulder. The first time I watched this movie I interpreted that look as happy, this time I wasn't so sure Caroline believed in her happiness. Here she was, an smart, confident woman walking off into the sunset with a man that is clearly inferior, and I, the viewer, am asked to believe that her life is going to be happier? I ain't buying that bridge.

Of course, the movie could have been written so that the two become friends and not lovers and the same message could be conveyed. But then again, the shock value wouldn't be there?

posted by Tina at 10:15 AM
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