Trifecta #13: The Guitar, Man



by: Jeremey Gingrich

You can’t go out and party every weekend, so on those nights you want to take it easy, has put together a bi-weekly column to help you with your movie selection. The Trifecta is a recommendation of three movies that set a mood, that showcase an actor or director, that acquaint the viewer with a geographic location, or maybe even have some obscure link like a Best Boy or Key Grip.

Musical talent has never been something I’ve possessed. I love music (Who doesn’t?), but I could never knuckle down and learn an instrument. Too much practice, too much work, and I have the attention span of a field mouse when it comes to things that don’t come easy. I have always harbored the desire to learn guitar most of all; partly out of respect for the instrument, but mostly out of knowledge that women are drawn to guitars like moths to a flame. You take a woman back to your place, she sees the guitar, you casually mention you play a little bit, she convinces you to (reluctantly, of course) play her a song, and somehow things just work out. End of story. Game, set, match: guitar. This trifecta combines three movies with my favorite scenes of guitar performances, some more obvious, some hidden treasures in a movie you didn’t expect.

The situation described above, girls drawn to a guy with a guitar, is almost exactly what happened in a surprising acting turn by Will Ferrell in Marc Forster’s STRANGER THAN FICTION. Ferrell plays Harold Crick, a numbers man who learns he is a character in a novel, written by Emma Thompson’s author, Karen Eiffel. He also learns, in hearing her narration in his head, that he is going to die. He takes this last chance opportunity to learn the guitar and to actively pursue his love interest, a baker named Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhal). In having dinner with Ms. Pascal, he sees her guitar in the living room and realizing there will soon be no tomorrow for him, plays her a song. He plays “Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric and sings along softly with his eyes closed. He opens his eyes in time to see Ms. Pascal, sitting next to him on the couch, mesmerized by him… and the clothes melt away as Wreckless Eric belts out the main chorus. Also, Harold Crick uses the simple yet effective line to pick up Ms. Pascal, “I want you.” Not to be confused with Ron Burgundy’s “I want to be on you.”

A surprising entry into the guitar scene trifecta comes from the Sean Penn movie INTO THE WILD. Emile Hirsch plays Christopher McCandless/Alexander Supertramp in a great turn as the true story of a man who abandoned material possessions, burned or gave away his money to live and eventually die in Alaska. As he makes his way to the frozen North, he stays at a commune with two freethinking lovers played by Catherine Keener (in a great but small performance) and Brian H. Dierker. At the commune he meets Kristen Stewart’s young character, Tracy Tatro, and she falls hard for him. But alas nothing shall deter Supertramp from his goal, but he does offer to play and sing a song with her. He accompanies on piano, while Kristen Stewart (who proves here and in ADVENTURELAND that she is more than the TWILIGHT movies) plays guitar and sings the John Prine song “Angel from Montgomery.” This song is a sweet, tender country/folk song with a heartbreaking chorus, harmonized well by Hirsch and Stewart, and made me head out to iTunes to buy the song, the Bonnie Raitt version, which is saying a lot… because I hate Alabama.

The last entry focuses on a scene from the 2006 film BLACK SNAKE MOAN, directed by Crag Brewer. The movie itself is a tribute to the redemptive quality of music, and the lead characters, played by Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci, are people in need of redemption. Jackson plays Lazarus, an old blues guitar player angry at the world over his wife leaving him for his brother and has “lost his swing” in regards to playing. Ricci plays Rae, a girl whose boyfriend (played well by Justin Timberlake) is deployed with the Tennessee National Guard, and deals with past parental sexual abuse by crawling into a variety of beds with a variety of people (“bed” is actually a loose term). The film’s titular song is an old Blind Lemon Jefferson tune from 1927, but Sam L. pulls out his old blues guitar and plays it for Rae with such passion and sorrow that you can see the emotions reflected in Ricci’s eyes as she flashes back to her years of abuse. The shots are even framed perfectly, as Rae is sprawled out on the open floor in front of Lazarus, who howls the lyrics as a storm brews outside. Every time I watch this scene I flirt with the idea of learning the guitar, if only for this one song.

Trifecta Length: 378 minutes (INTO THE WILD is 148)

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