ONE STAR – Destructive Values

Life in these last years of the millennium has become so tense that many fear we are living on the edge of disaster.  Their nervous eyes watch the world with an apprehensive dread, looking for that one event which could trigger the breakdown of not only their own safety, but society as a whole.

       Though we do not share such fears, David Koepp has tried to create an image of people who do.   As writer and director of “The Trigger Effect,” Koepp tries to allow us to explore the fear, solitude and pathos of a young suburban family.

       The problem is that his images simply are not believable.  He does not convince us, either logically or emotionally, that the loss of electricity in Los Angeles would throw a family, however tense, into their level of panic.

       What he does do is give us an image of a family which has such a lack of morals and maturity and connectedness as to be repulsive.  Rather than caring for their predicament or identifying with their choices, we found ourselves disgusted and wanting to leave instead.

       But perhaps that is Koepp’s point.  Perhaps he is saying that lives which have no morals, have achieved no maturity, and have not learned how to cultivate true and loving relationships, are not only repulsive but inherently vulnerable to the slightest threat triggering their destruction.  Perhaps such people are vulnerable because they have no moral foundation.  Perhaps that is in fact the cause of the tension many in our society are experiencing.  We are like ships without an anchor, tossed by the wind and waves.

       The story revolves around the lives of a husband and wife who live at the end of a middle-class, Los Angeles cul de sac.  Matt (Kyle MacLachlan) and Annie (Elisabeth Shue) are obviously distant and unconnected.  Matt says to Annie, “I don’t think you love me any more,” but the conversation dies by her silence and yet sexual response.

       Not only are they poorly equipped to deal with marriage, they avoid conflicts with a building contractor disrupting their home, two men in a theater disturbing their movie and a neighbor whose eccentricities threaten their own safety.

       They play a game of “paper, scissors, rock” when the baby cries, even though they know the baby is very sick.   They seem unconnected to either their own child or the larger world.  They are a pitiable example of human potential.

       So when the electricity goes out, Matt and Annie cannot cope.  Their first response is irritation; their second response is to party.  Annie invites their friend Joe (Dermot Mulroney) to join them.

       When he accepts and they begin to drink, it becomes clear that there is attraction between Annie and Joe, but even that attraction is something no one knows how to handle.  Matt is as much mystified as he is horrified that his wife would be flirting with his friend, and Joe and Annie are naive about the importance of clear boundaries among friends.

       When the family decides to flee the city and go to Annie’s parents’ cabin, the film presents its only redeeming event with the development of trust, though it begins at gunpoint, between Matt and an antagonist who was a recurring threat throughout the film.  The only act of kindness, trust, caring which can be pointed to in the film occurs w hen the two of them get into a car and join together to help someone else.

       “The Trigger Effect” is not a film worthy of the topic of the stress and frustrations of modern life.  Though the film has some interesting attempts to portray symbolic messages, as in its beginning scenes with coyotes descending upon a kill, it lacks the presentation of a situation or characters with whom we can connect.

       Most glaringly missing from a film of the disaster genre is a realistic “trigger,” since the loss of electricity is not only unlikely, based on the intricate supportive grid, but it is not sufficient to merit the panic portrayed.

       Most needed to create caring for the characters is a family in which there is more than just stress.  A real family will have a depth of faith, hope, and love which would come into play at such times of trouble.   The real drama would then be on how people with real depth deal with real trouble and discover not only those things which panic us, but those things which support us as well.

Posted on June 1, 2011 and filed under 1 STAR, DESTRUCTIVE VALUES.