Thursday, November 22, 2012

Will Smith: Six Degrees of Separation

I lost my blog! I'm not super knowledgeable about the world of technology, so I actually lost my blog. That was an entertaining thing to explain to my Mom...How do you lose something on your computer?? Well...the internet is a large, complex place. Anyway, I did finally find my blog, so here is my next post!

I'm not sure how many more Will Smith movies I will be posting about. I'm kind of getting Fresh Prince overload, so I'm guessing some of you might be, as well. So I will probably move on soon. I might do a Christmas special series and watch some of the Christmas classics that everyone grew up on (everyone but me, that is). I wasn't much on the classics as a kid, so if I do that, I'd be watching a lot of them for the first time (or at least the first time in a very long time...).

Tonight I'm watching Six Degrees of Separation. I've never seen this film. I've actually never even heard of this movie. I've heard of the theory of Six Degrees of Separation. I actually played a game in one of my Social Network classes in college that had to do with the theory that there is an average of six degrees of separation between each person on the planet. You know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who is the second cousin-in-law of Brad Pitt's dog walker. We had to go to a random article on wikipedia and then using the links on that page we had to get to Kevin Bacon (or whatever we decided to try to get to). It was pretty entertaining (and almost always took less than 6 links!).

Anyway, so the synopsis of Six Degrees of Separation:
An affluent New York couple (and dozens of other people) find their lives touched, intruded upon, and compelled by a mysterious young black man who is never quite who he says he is.

My Thoughts
Seeing Ian McKellen in something other than an X-Men film is a little jarring, but he plays Geoffrey Miller quite well. And I'm always a big fan of Donald Sutherland. This movie does have quite a few of my favorite actors, but so far, I'm having a hard time following what the movie is supposed to be about. They flip-flop between scenes, going to flashbacks and back to present time with no transition, and a couple of clips of Will Smith thrown in (seemingly practicing his life story). I'm hoping it starts to make more sense as we go...If not, I hope my writing at least makes sense, though I can't promise that, either.

So, I suppose, basically it's the couple, Ouisa and Flan Kittredge, telling the story of how they met Paul (Will Smith). Seeing Will Smith as a 'Harvard student', complaining about his thesis being stolen, using his proper, large vocabulary with perfect enunciation is quite a different image from what we usually expect from the Fresh Prince. He happens to know everything about their apartment building and their children and Harvard. And he tells about how his father is directing 'Cats'. I can't imagine working that hard to memorize someone else's life just for a con. Watching Will Smith cook, definitely made me hungry, though.

It seems like most of this film is Will Smith speaking academic-talk, while the three grown-ups stare at him wonderingly, and my lower brain cells are left wondering what he is talking about. I need to read Catcher in the Rye and then watch this movie again...then maybe I'll understand a little more of it. I mean, I went to college, but this Harvard version of Will Smith makes me feel like a kindergartener trying to understand calculus.

I haven't seen Cats either, so I didn't get many of those references. But I did like when Will Smith brought up how focused we are on the beginning of life and end of life, but what about the 80 or so years in between that we have to live. Why isn't anyone worried about those years? And why are all second graders art geniuses? Do famous artists just steal their paintings from their children? Or maybe go through their second grade portfolios and frame them?

Surprise awkward naked Will Smith scene! Was NOT expecting that...I'm not gonna talk much about that one in a blog, though...You'll just have to watch the movie. And if you've seen it, then you know what I'm talking about...

Another X-Man character, Bruce Davison, shows up as another couple who has been conned the exact same way by 'Paul.' They take their stories to the police, but nothing has really happened illegally.

"It's not a conspiracy! It's a family!" Anyone say, same thing? :-)

Then there's another character who has been conned in practically the exact same way. It's a very complex movie that I think is trying to make some deep revelations in a simple conman story, but you may have to watch it more than once to really get any of the deeper ideas. I spent most of the time watching this movie thinking "Who are these people?"

So why did he pick this random group of people? Their children all went to the same boarding school. How have they never met? They enlist their kids to find out who this 'Paul' is, and we get to watch the very messed up familial relationships that make us all feel a little more comfortable in our own families.

The children work together to find people from their high school who know or knew Paul. This is where we get more of the Will Smith that we know. Less Harvard and more Independence Day, except a little more awkward...Even after they explained what was going on, I'm still a tad confused. Is it all about how we're bound together with each other in one or another? We're all connected by this 'six degrees of separation,' but the trick is to find the right six people...

Then, all of a sudden, Will Smith is no longer Paul the son of Sidney Poitier, but Paul the son of Flan Kittredge. Convinced this couple in Central Park that they make him sleep out there. Will Smith is the ultimate conman. Even the viewer can't keep up with what's true and what's not!

This story has spread all over their circles, and they continuously have to tell it. We get more and more details and more and more confusion and more and more characters connected by Portier's son who isn't Portier's son. The person who doesn't even exist has connected dozens of people who never would have met without him.

This random kid off the street. This conman. Comes out of nowhere and flips the lives of dozens of people upside-down. It really makes you think about the impact that one person can have on the world. How do you keep life from just becoming a series of stories? How do you keep life going as a series of experiences and not just become a 'human jukebox' spilling anecdotes and parables?

Honestly, I have no idea what this movie was about. It was definitely focused on language and it was so rapid-fire that I feel like I missed quite a bit of it. I'm not sure if reading reviews and watching it again would help...I don't now if I would recommend it or not. There are parts of it that really make you think, but other parts just leave you wondering what you're doing sitting on your couch watching this movie instead of doing laundry or washing your dishes...I guess I'll leave that up to you...

Random Trivia
Catherine Kellner was cast after she answered an ad for an open casting call for what she thought was a movie directed by the Coen Brothers.

Dough (J.J. Abrams), when looking through the yearbook with the other college children, explains "there's Greg Grunberg!", a reference to Abrams' childhood friend whom he often casts in his own projects.

When Paul (Will Smith) is talking about his thesis, he mocks the Lord of the Rings books. Geoffrey, who is listening to him, is played by Ian McKellan, who almost a decade later played Gandolf in the Lord of the Rings films.

Will Smith refused to actually kiss Anthony Michael Hall just before their kissing scene so a camera trick was used showing only the back of their heads. In an interview, Smith states that Denzel Washington advised him not to kiss a man on-screen for it would harm his career. Smith stated that he regretted not going through with it, saying "It was very immature on my part."

Will Smith's character in the film passes himself off as Sidney Poitier's son. In real life, when Smith met Poitier for the first time, the veteran actor said, "Well, you're almost handsome enough to be my son."

When Paul is on the phone with Ouisa he calls Flan (Donald Sutherland) "Donald".


  1. This is indeed a very strange movie.I first heard of it when I watched a clip of it in High School English. I think it was the Catcher in the Rye Monologue. I think the source of most of the strangeness in the movie stems from it being a stage play adapted to be a film. Well strangeness in the feel of the movie at least. The point of the film always seemed to be asking the questions you pose in your penultimate paragraph and how odd it is for a stranger to be able to change how you perceive the world. To me it always tried to be more of a high concept film. It's one that I think everyone should watch once, but it need not be on everyone's shelf.

  2. I can see that. I would like to compare the film to the stage play and see if that's a better medium for it. It is definitely a very different type of film than what Will Smith usually involves himself with. I did like the questions that the film raised about paying attention to how often unnoticed things impact you and how you impact the world around you. I just don't think I was mentally prepared for that much of a verbal assault. I agree, though, that it should be watched at least once.
    Thanks for the comment! Makes me feel more accomplished when people comment :-)