The 4 Most (Theoretically) Misrepresented Films Ever
Truer words have never been spoken (although who actually spoke them is up to interpretation). In the long, occasionally glorious, history of the motion picture, there have been films revered for the wrong reasons; and while this is an incomplete list, these are the brightest standouts of the most misrepresented films ever.
4) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
What they say it’s about – Cool kid lives by his own rules, has a pisser of a day off!
What it actually is – Cool kid is a fevered hallucination of a weird loner with no self-esteem. And it’s kind of like Fight Club.
There have been countless articles citing the Ferris theory (this Cracked article being my personal favorite.) but the more I re-watch the film and the more I read the theories, the more they resonate. The idea in a nutshell is that the movie itself takes place entirely from Cameron’s POV from the sick-bed. He, in a fever induced dementia, sees himself as Ferris, a cool kid who gets the girl, has wild adventures, and can get away with anything. He has the secret crush on Sloan and desires to be a popular standout, freed from his overbearing parents.
The theory further elaborates that Ferris is Cameron’s Tyler Durden, which is basically restating what I just said but making an allusion to Fight Club…which adds merit in its own right. It actually makes sense. I get the magical reality that is crafted in John Hughes’ movie-verse, but the notion that an entire town rallies behind a rumored sick high-schooler, and goes to the extremes as the “SAVE FERRIS” water tower, are a little much. I get it though, it’s a movie, and anything is possible.
3) It’s A Wonderful Life
What they say it is – A Christmas movie.
What it actually is – A suicide movie.
I have to preface this by stating my undying love of It’s A Wonderful Life. It is without a doubt my favorite movie of all time. This is a prime reason why I get impassioned about how this film has been misrepresented.
IAWL is a feel good movie–for like five minutes. If you have not seen it, the film chronicles the life of every-man George Bailey and his constant compromising. Bailey’s life is full of changes and broken dreams, ultimately leading to him settling for a simple life as opposed to the Indiana Jones type lifestyle he dreamt of as a young man. The film crescendos in a scandal in which George decides that punching his ticket is his best course of action to make sure his family, friends, and town are taken care of.
SPOILER ALERT (for a 50+ year old film): He doesn’t do it. BUT ONLY because of literal divine intervention. This leads to one of the most powerful and tear jerking end scenes in cinematic history where George is finally redeemed for leading such a (wait for it) wonderful life. So what the hell about this screams Christmas? Nothing is the answer. The third act of the film, the bulk of it at least, happens to take place at Christmas time. This, coupled with the contractual hilarity of the films screening rights, has led to IAWL being named the greatest Christmas movie of all time on numerous lists (The Guardian for example). By this logic, Die Hard, Gremlins, and even Lethal Weapon should be considered Christmas movies.
IAWL is a movie about sacrifice, true love, and destiny; and it happens to take place for a brief period of time–at Christmas.
2) The Last American Virgin
What they say it is – A light-hearted 80’s teen sex romp.
What it actually is – A depressing lesson that no matter how hard you try, you will ultimately fail.
The Last American Virgin is one of those hidden 80’s gems that doesn’t have star power, name recognition, or really anything more than a cult following. But it’s AMAZING. In an era full of vapid movies featuring over-sexed teens and their wacky hi-jinx, TLAV stands out by having a story with heart–that gets ripped out at the end.
The film (again SPOILER CITY) tells the story of Gary, a geeky teen, and his quest to score. The object of his desires happens to be shacking up with his pal Rick (no relation),who happens to be the biggest d-bag in town. Long story short, she gets knocked up and Gary does everything short of selling a kidney to raise the money to, cough cough, get her the abortion she wants. So this, um, grand romantic gesture gets him the girl? Absolutely not! After Gary goes broke and makes numerous sacrifices both personally and financially, she ends up–with Rick! The movie ends with Gary driving alone in the dark listening to Just Once! You gotta see it to believe it.
The dark overtones of the film including abortion, loss, shaming by hooker, and STDs set this movie FAR from the crowd it was billed to be part of.1) The Shining
What they say it’s about – Stephen King’s classic tale of a haunted hotel.
What it actually is – Either a guy who really hates his family, or it’s Kubrick’s confession that he faked the moon landing.
Part 1: The Insanity Plea.
I’ve read The Shining in upwards of twenty-five times. It’s a terrifying novel that perfectly blends supernatural terror, psychological horror, and is a testament to why Stephen King is my favorite author (stay tuned for my inevitable Dark Tower posts). The Shining should, for all intents and purposes, be my favorite movie of all time. It is one of my favorite stories, by my favorite author, brought to life by my favorite director. But that movie is not The Shining.
The film tells the story of a former alcoholic, who brings his wife, Olive Oyl, and his psychic son, to a hotel in the mountains so they can get snowed in and he can murder them and use cabin fever as a basis for an insanity plea.
At least, that’s how it comes across. Unlike the book which outlines the gradual mental breakdown of Jack, Kubrick’s Shining has him as a certified crazy-pants right out of the gate. There’s maybe two minutes of the film where Jack (played by Jack Nicholson) actually seems to like his family.
Part 2: The Moon Landing Hoax.
Now I need to preface this: I am not writing this whilst wearing a tin foil hat.
I was exposed to the moon landing hoax theory years ago and never gave it the time of day. I honestly didn’t care one way or another. I figured that, if they faked it, they probably had their reasons. Then I was exposed to a documentary called Kubrick’s Odyssey by filmmaker Jay Weidner. Through years of research, Weidner paints a world where Stanley Kubrick was approached by powerful men, given an unlimited budget and more power than even Orson Welles in his prime, and all the resources in the world in exchange for him orchestrating the faking of the Apollo landing.
Weidner uses metaphor and imagery like a polished veteran and crafts a tale where Kubrick used the Shining as a vehicle for confession. Widener points to the disturbing amount of NASA iconography that is peppered throughout the film–that, and the fact that it has so little to do with the book it’s lucky to even be called The Shining.
The scary part is– it starts to make a lot of sense. A documentary called Room 237, which came out in 2013, tried to touch on this, but watered it down with a handful of crack-jobs who do nothing more than make Weidner seem more rational than ever.
Whether you believe it or not, Kubrick’s Odyssey is one of the most intriguing documentaries I have ever seen and it makes watching The Shining into a treasure hunt.