Surrender Dorothy

Discussion in 'Reader Reviews' started by dwatts, May 5, 2005.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    I actually watched this film a couple of weeks ago, but have been pondering it a little bit. I guess I'd thought I'd watch it a second time, but the arrival of more DVD orders have pushed it to the back of the pile a bit. Still, that says nothing about the film, and more about my annoying habit of buying movies at a faster rate that I can watch them.

    Surrender Dorothy is a low-budget film, shot on 16mm in black and white. Astonishing then that it can look as good as it does on DVD.

    At its heart, Surrender Dorothy is a dark story of a man obsessed with wanting the one thing most men want, a woman. Yet, while he has a strong, manic personality within his own world (his head, his apartment), when visiting the outside world (and I use the world "visit" deliberately, since most of the time his introversion makes him completely interior, even in company) he is rather feeble and downtrodden.

    Of course, should the man ever find a woman to share his life with, things would be far from perfect. Trevor (the lead characters name) has been so entrenched in his own vision of perfection, that no woman could ever live up to his ideal. It's more than simply a woman that he needs, he needs a studied portrayal of his ideal - an ideal that might change slightly at any moment, or be tuned as he finds the reality of his dreams unsatisfactory.

    This arc leads to one of the missed (based on what I have read) messages of the film. That is a story of spousal abuse. We have it all here, beatings, rape, the use of drugs to subdue. The "partner" in this case, Lanh, is constantly walking a fine line, trying hard to satisfy Trevor because of a need that runs deeper than self-respect.

    Of course, the most oft sighted reason for abused partners staying in relationships is "Love". There is little love in "Surrender Dorothy", well, love of people anyway. Substituted for love here is drug addiction. It's a simple analogy to make, and works to also make the film a little more contemporary. It also allows us to see Lanh as a strong person, whose personality is dissolved by his own demons.

    The plot of this film, or rather the plot written on the box art or in some reviews, is misleading. It would have you believe that Lanh has robbed a drug dealer, and must hide out - hence becoming a victim of Trevor's disease. However, this misses a key point, which is dealing (sic!) with drug addiction. Lanh is into the hard stuff, Heroin, and more than the fear from the dealer, it is that Trevor becomes a supplier that really anchors Lanh to the apartment they share. In fact, the dealer theft element quickly disapears from the picture, and we're simply left with the story of two men, each of them spirally out of control due to their respective (but different) mental illnesses. In one simple, yet effective piece of dialog, we have Lanh say to Trevor, "You're sick!", to which Trevors replies, tantalizingly holding a filled syringe aloft, "No, you're sick."

    Alright, it's probably time I dropped a bit of a bombshell for those getting a tad confused - spousal abuse? Arn't you talking about two men the whole time? Sure I am.

    Surrender Dorothy features at its center, two men. You know, in a day and age when we can lay our hands on brain eating cannibal flicks, male on female rape scenes lasting more than ten minutes, and uncut (faked, but effectively faked) necrophilia in pristine transfers, in an age where the hardcore horror fans barely seem to register a cringe or a groan through over-exposure, there is one thing certain to still knock us back in their seats - the sight of two men kissing!

    Surrender Dorothy has a bit of a reputation as a "gay" film. Which is wholly unfair, unless you paint a film as being "gay" simply because it has two men kissing in it. Why unfair? Well, for one, neither of the leads here are gay. Trevor isn't gay, he's just impossibly shy, and emotionally ill-equipt to function in our "normal" world. Lanh isn't gay, he's a drug addict who has yet to discover the depths to which he'll sink in order to satisfy his addiction. But yeah, most homophobes could point their finger at this film and call it a "gay film" and find a way to avoid watching an effective movie because of the fear that it might somehow offend their heterosexuality. Me - I watched it with my wife and was glad I did, I hope you can too.

    Having watched it with an open mind, I can honestly say I don't think it qualifies as a gay film on any level really. It's not selling a life choice (in fact, it does a real good job of portraying some pretty nasty elements), and no-one is going to find this film erotic.

    Still, I acknowledge that some people might find this film a challenge simply because of the suggestive nature of these two men being homosexual. As mentioned earlier, it's pretty amazing that in this day and age, with gore and sex easily available, men "showing affection" is a big "Wow - that's nasty!" factor, but lets just say this film uses this point to the max.

    The fact is, the film sometimes shocks by doing nothing much of anything. Just playing with our own imbedded fears, or predictable psychological triggers. I found it interesting from that standpoint alone, to be honest. Searching for something that will have you with your hands ready to be drawn across your eyes? Look nor further. You brave enough?

    Just incase anyone is confused as to the central plot here, let me spell it out. Trevor realizes that he's never going to be able to get over his own emotional limitations, he's never going to operate in the "normal" world. Lanh's life, on the other hand, tips the balance - the balance where the drug he is addicted to must finally come before everything else, no matter what. Having no possessions, the only thing he has to give is his body (though never his soul, which he clings to). It's a not so delicate balance (since Lanh's need is so great and he's now physically addicted), and one that plays out slowly, yet inevitably. As it turns out, Trevor doesn't understand the depth of his own needs, and the further he goes, the further there is to go.

    In short, Trevor will allow Lanh to stay at his apartment, to hide him from the violence of the drug dealer, to feed him. However, Lanh must pay for this, pay by being a mannequin. That's right, Trevor is going to play Dr. Frankenstein - he will create his perfect woman. Note, it's a woman he wants, not a man. Yet the most pliable person he knows is this drug addicted man who will do anything for the next fix.

    Men's visions of beauty are wonderfully lampooned. Stocking and garters have been a mainstay of male sexual obsession for years, but they're rendered pretty stupid when you see them on a man, tottering on obscenely high-heels that clearly no-one was ever meant to put on their feet (not that men won't ask their women to do so).

    So there you have it. To what lengths will Trevor go? How far with Lanh allow this to go? Make no mistake, this is a dark film. Outside of the gay theme, there is a story here that makes "Misery" seem quant at times.

    Is this film for you? Well, if you're a gorehound - no. If you're watching movies simply to see the red stuff flow, forget it. If you watch gore films because you like to be challenged, or because you like to feel something from a film, even if it's recoil from some nasty or suprising moment, then yes. It also works as a thriller. This is a Misery set in contemporary Philadelphia. Take out the fanciful book writer angle, fill it in with a drug addict, take out the wooded valleys and fill it in with a grimy metropolitan locale, and substitute one womans desire for a specific partner with the need for any fascimile of the perfect vision - and you have a similar well being mined. I reckon this packs a far greater punch though.

    It's an interesting thought, but I just can't get it out of my head that for many, maybe even most genre fans, this film will probably be too much. Makes me wonder if the constant demands for more gore could ever truly be effective. There is so much more in the world, and so many other taboos that offer food for those wishing to force us to confront ourselves. In such company, a haunted house, wax museum, or the walking dead seem almost funny.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2005
  2. Luna

    Luna Guest

    Wow, this sounds like a very interesting film. Thanks for the tip! I have added it to my Netflix queue. :)
     
  3. tobaccoman

    tobaccoman White, Proud, and Stupid

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    Sounds very interesting, but I doubt I'll ever have the chance to see it.
     
  4. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    -- I have added it to my Netflix queue.--

    Good for you, Luna. Please post comments oncer you've seen it!


    The only question that remains is, why did I put this in "other movies" instead of "reader reviews". Doh!

    EDIT: I did a slight edit in the review. I should know better than to write reviews straight into the board with a spell check :D
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2005
  5. Erick H.

    Erick H. Well-Known Member

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    I saw Roger Ebert review this film once,he saw it at Sundance(I think),it sounded pretty offbeat,but didn't get much of a release.
     

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