Sunday, March 11, 2012

We Need To Talk About Olympic Archery

A few weeks back, I blogged about attending the IOC's World Conference on Women and Sport in Los Angeles. The event included a seminar featuring Geena Davis, the Oscar-winning actress who tried out for the Olympic archery team leading up to the Sydney 2000 Games.
Olympic archery was on the brain this past week as well, when my eyes first met the trailers for "The Hunger Games" film based on the Suzanne Collins book. It's no trouble at all to watch Jennifer Lawrence bend a bow and take aim -- interesting to note that a USA Archery athlete (a four-time Olympian who aspires to compete in at the London 2012 Olympics) trained Lawrence for her archery feats in "The Hunger Games," according to the USA Archery team website.
So, last night some friends and I screened the recent release of "We Need To Talk About Kevin" in which archery skills are a key element. Call it a hunch, but my guess is that if USA Archery or GB Archery provided bow and arrow consulting for "We Need To Talk About Kevin," it is doubtful they are publicizing their role in the film. Here's why.
"We Need To Talk About Kevin" is the story of a young yet reluctant mother, Eva (Tilda Swinton), who once lived her dream life travelling the world and experiencing its rich wonders (starting with a tomato festival in which thousands of twentysomethings are crunched together in a mosh pit of wrestling-made ketchup). We learn how her wanderlust took her to Bangkok, Paris and other destination cities around the globe until a reunion with a boyfriend (played by John C. Reilly) led to an unexpected pregnancy, tethering Eva to a joyless married life filled with nonstop screams of an infant son, Kevin.
Viewers learn through a maze of flashbacks and real-time scenes that over time Kevin proved to be, well, evil. Even as a toddler, Kevin's gaze comes from a dark, malevolent place. The more we learn about Eva and Kevin's mother and child tolerance for each other, the more questions arise about the source of Kevin's escalating hateful behavior. Is it his mother's longing for her pre-maternal life that is isolating her son? Is it his parent's passive-aggressive approach to parenting at fault? Or was Kevin just born bad?
I'm talking Mickey & Mallory Knox bad.
"We Need To Talk About Kevin" is rich with food visuals. In addition to the aforementioned tomato festival, viewers experience food in an array of haunting ways that foreshadow Kevin's unfathomable actions in his teen years. We see a lot of food flung at walls. A lot of red jelly smeared on glass coffee tables. Messy Cheezy-Poof smiles and a likely Andy Warhol reference to red soup cans (another art-infused reference arrives in the form of Kevin using black and red paint to pull a Jackson Pollock-style attack on Eva's newly decorated private office).
About the only time young Kevin seems to give his mother a break is during a bout of flu. In her efforts to comfort her now-eight-years-old son, Eva brings out an illustrated copy of "Robin Hood" and Kevin takes a shine to the descriptive pages about the hero's archery skills.
I don't want to give away much more, but it was interesting to me that given Swinton's starring roles in prior films about Thailand, notably "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio, there are a lot of references to the nation, such as numerous Thai travel posters in Eva's offices during the 20-year arc of the film, and a vivid yet disturbing scene with lychee fruit around the family dinner table.
The eye have it in "We Need To Talk About Kevin" in that there are many extreme close-ups of eyes glaring at objects of interest. Kevin's dead brown eyes staring down an archery target. Eva's brown eyes taking in her living nightmare. I was reminded of the clever camera angles in another film about a family in crisis, "The War of the Roses" and its use of curious close-up shots.
After viewing "We Need To Talk About Kevin" many, including this blogger, will not hear a lawn oscillating sprinkler quite the same way.
If you made it this far in this post, you may wish to note the London 2012 Olympic archery qualifying events (for USA Archery and other Americas entrants) are coming up April 20-25 in Colombia. And the London 2012 Olympic archery venue is Lord's Cricket Ground. Let's see if we bump into Tilda Swinton at the competition.
Photos from "We Need To Talk About Kevin are via BBC.co.uk -- photo of Geena Davis is by Nicholas Wolaver copyright 2012. Wenlock Olympic mascot archery pin photo via GlamourousLiving.uk.co.

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