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In America
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I rented the film In America this weekend, and apparently I'm one of the few people who actually saw the film and didn't like it.

The film begins with an Irish family illegally entering the U.S. from Canada, which didn't immediately endear them to me. Although the film is ostensibly set in the 1980's (their are lots of references to E.T., as if it has just been released), anachronisms abound (in the opening scene, the older of the two daughters has a very small hand-held camcorder...suggesting this decade). As the parents were telling their kids to lie to the border guards, and as they were lying themselves to the border guards, I wondered exactly how difficult it would be for an Irish family to legally apply for citizenship, either in the 80's or today. We've got pretty good diplomatic relations with Ireland.

But that's not really the point. The film is basically glorifying the gross irresponsibility of the parents. They're putting their two children at risk of arrest and deportation on the way into the country, and once they're there they move into a drug-dealing slum. Why? Why don't they stay in Ireland (or Canada), get modest jobs, and look after their children, instead of moving to the most expensive place on the planet and subjecting them to crime, drugs, potential abuse, and possible homelessness? Because dad wants to make it as an actor.

Well that's just friggin' great. Now I'm all for following your dreams, but if you've got familial responsibilities, those should come first, no? The time to move to New York, or Hollywood, to try to make it big, is when you're young and childless. Why didn't the dad do this ten years ago? And now that he has two little girls, isn't it grossly irresponsible to drag them illegally into the worst neighborhood in New York?

But the movie never asks those questions. There is, in fact, a scene which acts as a microcosm to the movie's sentiment. The father pays $2 to try to throw a number of balls into a milk can. If you miss, you can keep doubling your money to keep trying. The scene goes on, agonizingly long, as the wife eventually takes their rent money out of her purse, as the dollar amount keeps skyrocketing, so that the father can risk it all for an E.T. doll ("Because I can't look like a failure to the girls", he says). See, if you finally make it, you get all your money back. Of course, on the last throw, in slow motion, with all their money riding on it, the father makes it. Great, huh? Would the scene have played out as well if it had been a back-alley craps game? And yet, it was essentially the same thing.

The parents send their kids, unsupervised, to the ice cream shop while they have sex. The take them trick-or-treating in a crackhouse. These have to be the most monumentally irresponsible parents in cinematic history, and yet they're glorified as free spirits.

Sickly sweet I can sometimes endure. Glorifying selfish irresponsibility and neglect? No thanks.

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