I can’t believe the entire movie was about stalking. Everyone stalked. In fact, it seems that the only form of love before marriage is stalking.
I never really figured out why it was called "our mutual friend" other than the serendipitous relations between all of the characters, which makes every Dickens novel "our mutual friend" and, in fact, Heroes, and every Guy Ritchie movie about stealing.
Our Mutual Friend follows a handful of couples that have to deal with stalking, deceit, and the social divide. There is a large fortune, a will in question, poor people rising up to take on riches poorly, and rich people who fall to poverty. Pretty much Dickens 101. The main character is John Roaksmith (played by the eelish Steven Mackintosh), who is heir to a large fortune on condition that he marries someone he never met. He unfortunately loses his identity when a man looking much like him is declared dead. He decides to use this opportunity to spy on his future wife, and bides his time as a clerk while deciding when to take back his fortune.
You know that part in Romantic Comedies where the guy tricks the girl as some form of test, or he lies or he continues some deception. In the end she loves him and he does some sweeping gesture, and you end up going, "aww….. Wait, wasn’t that a dick thing to do?" Like in You Got Mail, Tom Hanks all "suprise! I knew all along!" And Meg Ryan tearfully replies "I wished it was you. I wished it was you." I would probably react with hitting him over the head again and again, yelling "WHY DIDN’T YOU FUCKING TELL ME?!?!" I can’t really watch rom coms like that anymore, because endings like those always have an adverse affect on me. Sure they are together now because of the act, but doesn’t it show him to be a less deserving person, ultimately cowardly and deceptive?
Cowardly. Cowardly was on my mind the entire way through because Roaksmith’s deception was so much worse than a Rom Com. From the beginning, he should of owned up to his identity. Hiding to spy on a girl is sneaky. And then he lives with the poor people who are becoming accustomed to his wealth that was left to them. Sneaky, again. Then he falls in love with the girl, and still he wavers. People will be hurt by this decision to prolong it, John. You should own up to it now. It’s the honorable thing to do. But it goes way farther than that. Does he tell her when he wins her heart? No. When they get married? No. Now you are just being cruel. The poor people have shown that they are affected by their new wealth, so letting them keep it any longer would be a crime against them. Still no. The only reason he tells the truth is because he gets involuntarily "outed" by another guy. Bad form. When it’s all revealed, we find out that the poor people were pretending to be affected, in on this game to win over the girl’s heart to John. When I got to that part, I was surprised. I went:
*blink blink* "So, ALL of you are bitches."
She takes the information that she has been connived and deceived into a love for the man she is bound to forever by everyone she holds dear considerably calmly. I find his conduct incredibly dishonorable. Lying was a big thing back then, and he lies big time, lies to everyone’s disadvantage, lies far past the point he needs to, and we all just calmly accept it? After so long, there’s no moral reason why you would keep a secret so extensively. After a while it just becomes cowardice.
I don’t find that main guy attractive at all. He’s small and smarmy, and he doesn’t seem to have any emotion. He was funny in Lock Stock, and okay in the Underworld movies. But in this one, he’s so serious and reserved, I don’t believe anything that he says. And then when he shows emotion, I don’t believe that. I was hoping for a Dexter-like pay off (emotions are so good because he shows them so rarely) but I ended up just wondering if it was another game.
And then there was the love triangle. Clearly, this situation is saying that it’s only stalking when you are poor and you do it badly. I have never been attracted to David "Kicked Puppy" Morrissey, but I never knew how not attracted to him I could be. At first glance he’s all pale and chubby, which sets off his ugly nose in an unattractive light. And then he starts coughing and shaking, and screaming, and he’s pretty much gone. I will never think of him as "Poor man’s Liam Neeson" again, though I don’t find Neeson particularly attractive either.
The other suitor, Paul McGann, is related to an interesting coincidence I had a little while ago. I was watching The Grand (fanTASTic show) and the main guy Bad Brother looked so freaking familiar. I couldn’t figure it out; as cool as he was on The Grand, I kept on mentally seeing him scream in a high pitched voice with ugly, long red hair. It took me so long to figure it out: turns out he’s the older brother of Paul McGann, both of them looking so similar that I mistook the older brother for the younger one. And Paul was in Three Musketeers. You remember that weird guy D’ Artangnan fought at the beginning who screams "D’ArtanGNAN!" in a very unattractive way? That’s him. Yeesh. I was so amazed. Smooth, quiet, small Eugene Wrayburn with the silky voice is that guy? These McGann brothers, who make me think I’m not attracted to them, and then seduce me to the point where I kind of am. Paul has a mustache just this side of ridiculous, but it brings out his eyes, which are a startling blue. He also has windswept, Edward Cullen-like hair, strange for the time. I spent a lot of time going, "maybe… but altogether too much hair."
Paul and David are both infatuated with the same girl who is dirt poor and way below both of them. If you didn’t think stalking was part of the story before, David proves it by being so crazy and so unlikeable and so follow-y that you can only label him as stalker. I don’t sympathize with either man (I don’t sympathize with any man in this show), but I like how Eugene Wrayburn goades David’s character. Eugene is a rich gentlemen eternally bored, and Bradley Headstone is a poor tudor, obsessed with the idea that Eugene is reason the girl they both like rejected him. Bradley follows Eugene everywhere, and Eugene decides to make a game of it because he’s bored. He takes Bradley all over town, makes him think he’s lost him, drives him nuts, then passes him without saying a word as if he didn’t even notice him there. Fantastic. Also, good idea of goading a crazy person.
I’ve been watching too many books written by women. With North and South, and Austen always in the back of my mind, I can’t help but look at the men in this show and be disgusted by them. They don’t do anything. They don’t prove their love, show themselves to be good people, do anything other than watch, expostulate their love, and then get angry when the woman does the completely sensible "WTF?" There is clear disfunction in the way that love is handled in this era. Apparently, love is some one-sided fever closely related to lust, that is supposed to be kept silent till it builds and builds and then just has to be let out. Of course the woman doesn’t love him then, because when was she supposed to find out? Why does a woman’s first inkling of love have to be when the man proposes marriage?
I’m a true Janeite when I say that love is all very good, but what bothers me most is that no one proves themselves to be "good people." There’s no communication of that kind, and, in fact, I don’t think they are. Not men, at least, in Dickens’ world. The movie ended and I wasn’t sure if anyone showed themself to be other than a truely selfish being. I wouldn’t settle for marriage until I saw something of compassion in the other person. I resent the fact that a man has to be hit over the head and almost drowned in the river before he can come anywhere near good.
That’s why Austen and North and South are so refreshing. They show truely able men, who are trying to be good, and doing somethiing about it. They aren’t saints, sure, but they show some semblence of compassion and seem to want to show more. They are also physically able, they do stuff. Yay for actually doing other things than sitting on your ass. The nerve of these men, who spend a month looking at you strangely and then drop this bombshell of "oh by the way I love you" on you, then rage when you refuse them. What have you done to show me I could like you any way? Am I supposed to just accept the proposal, not knowing what kind of man you are or even if I like you? Talking to me every once in a while would be a good start, though I also wouldn’t turn down a sweeping gesture of a concrete act that accurately portrays your ability to be compassionate and your devotion to me. Those are nice. I’ve got a sister who’s a hussy….