Children Get Older
by ALEX CARNEVALE
Captain America: Civil War
dir. Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Hello, My Name Is Doris
dir. Michael Showalter
Getting older seems so difficult: unless things actually improve with age. Tony Stark and Doris Miller have lived substantially more than half their lives and they find the prospect of going on daunting. One thing is absurdly clear: they intend to make serious changes in their personalities in order to accommodate this new reality.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is consciously uncoupled from Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) when Captain America: Civil War begins. She was very unhappy when he murdered a generation of Eastern Europeans battling a robot voiced by James Spader. She was willing to accept his drinking and flirting with other women, but all the death really soured the relationship.
The primary relationship of Doris Miller (Sally Field) was with her mother. The woman was something of a pack rat, and Doris inherited some of her mother’s inclinations while keeping her data entry job at an advertising agency. When the agency’s new art director John (Max Greenfield) tells her that he likes her glasses, she becomes obsessed with him.
Tony Stark’s obsessions take a different form. After the tragedy of the last Avengers film (it claimed Joss Whedon’s credibility as well, a serious loss), Stark has kept his eye on a Queens teenager. He shows up at the boy’s house, sits on his bed, and relays instructions as to what to tell his family and friends. This actually happens in Captain America: Civil War, the most tone deaf movie since Taken 2. But really, discovering Spiderman is only a distraction in Captain America: Civil War. Stark is most focused on subduing the will of another, less susceptible person.
Steve Rogers (a magnificent Chris Evans) holds things together by dint of his colossal charisma. Captain America: Civil War subtly alludes at a love relationship between himself and the winter soldier Bucky Brooks (Sebastian Stan) who he tries to protect from the government and the other Avengers when a man attempts to frame Bucky for a terrorist attack. The two make a very handsome couple, and short shrift is given to Rogers’ beard Sharon Carter (a bloated looking Emily VanCamp), a disloyal intelligence operative.
Steve actually is quite old, and previous films chronicling his return to the world focused primarily on how he would adapt after being frozen or something. These jokes never made much sense, since besides the advent of the computer, almost nothing has changed in American life that cannot be understood by watching three hours of cable television.
All the people Steve cared about are dead besides his winter lover. Tony Stark was abandoned by his close ones by dint of his own behavior — except for his parents, who he lost at a young age before he could make them proud. His new family was more recently ripped from him when Pepper started dating her own male assistant, who was much more savvy when it came to understanding her idiosyncratic romantic requirements.
Stark’s new family is a bunch of mutants. Most of them are men. He is not really effective at forming relationships with women; in previous films he simply harassed them into a disturbed submission. In Captain America: Civil War, he confines the telekinetic Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen, more radiant than ever) to her chambers with instructions for an android (Paul Bettany) not to let her out. He has reached an eerie detente with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) who doesn’t seem to view him as a romantic prospect whatsoever, despite the fact this was a key feature of the comic.
This is sad for Natasha, who plays the role of therapist for the disturbed people involved in these mass murders. Johansson tries really hard, but Mark Ruffalo is nowhere to be found and she has little chemistry with the other possibles. Her outfits are unfortunately mediocre, as if no one involved with this production even thought very much about her.
Captain America: Civil War is mostly focused on the men, which is fine, since Hello My Name Is Doris has enough to say about women for both movies. Sally Field works overtime here, oscillating facial expressions so that we can see she is more full of emotions than anyone else in her story. Without her vamping there would not be much to admire about Doris Miller.
When the object of Doris’ affection finds love near a blonde woman with a questionable singing talent (Beth Behrs), Doris immediately plans to sabotage and ruin the happiness John has found. She posts lies on his facebook page in order to break up the lovely couple. We are still supposed to sympathize with her — I guess taking into consideration the questionable idea that the elderly are not fully responsible for their behavior.
Doris’ friend Roz (an amazing Tyne Daly) is deeply worried about her disturbed infatuation. By the time we reach Doris’ age, Roz suggests, individuals of all genders should understand the meaning of this childish concept. Just as different substances scale as uniquely appetizing, so too do people. Roz no longer feels such elementary pangs of humanity for others; the self-acceptance she radiates seems to be what eventually gets Doris to act as a mirror.
There is still a wisdom in youth before it is corrupted by later events. In Captain America: Civil War, Nigerian king T’Challa (the mercurial Chadwick Boseman) sees a man kill his father, so he reacts by heading off to repay the favor. Roz’s granddaughter Vivian (Isabella Acres) possesses a similarly straightforward perspective as she counsels Doris on her stalking. In her world, if a guy pays attention to you, he probably likes you. It is only further on in our lives that attention is traded so easily, for so little in return.
When Tony Stark was young, people constantly observed him because he looked and sounded good. They required no other reason — what need would there be for one? After the basic impetus of beauty fades, human beings have a tough time adapting to any kind of indifference from the universe. We must be essential: not simply caught in the flow of our lives. The only pleasant surprise is that in these humbling moments we are most ourselves.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
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