Monday, February 1, 2016


"Wear the sheriff's badge, put your toys away
They let us go saying let us pray"

Metric - Youth Without Youth

Brick was rather well received, if online reviews are to be believed, by both pros and... uh, cons? In any case (though it was no blockbuster) its juxtaposition of film noir in a bright suburban high school setting impressed through everything from style to dialogue to pacing and plot. I am also impressed, in retrospect, by some minor inclusion of that taboo corollary to villainous thuggish toxic masculinity, the villainous manipulative toxic femininity which pulls its strings, but as gratifying as that may be it's not the film's best social influence.
Skimming through user reviews on IMDB I see a couple of admonishments not to take the flick as commentary on contemporary youth culture. Fair enough, if Rian Johnson himself declared the setting secondary to the plot, a conscious spin on hardboiled detective stories to keep it fresh, but then Alien didn't primarily set out to create a great action heroine either. Write the role as neutral, then assign it polarity. What Alien did for gender, Brick does for youth.

As much as we envy youth we despise the young. For all the political correctness police decry ageism, most humans still define themselves partly by their superiority to their offspring and the next generation by extension, and Hollywood reflects this conceit in tiresome reiterations of "coming of age" plots in which youthful straw-men exist only as passive chrysalids to fail in imitating and be molded by the adults around them. Brick isn't some moralistic drug-war scare about drugs in suburban high schools but it did (perhaps incidentally) make a crucial point about the young. Its adolescent characters act as independent agents with their own motivations and not larval forms of adults repeating comfortably stereotypical childish concerns. It's not something anyone wants to hear in a species which rattles off phrases like "they're my damn kids" as easily as "it's my damn toaster" but throughout its quick-talking detective story flamboyance, Brick is as believable with teenagers as it would've been with grizzled factory workers.

That it was set in a high school implies nothing.
That it can be set in a high school means everything.

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