Gardening would do me good

I think I picked a bad time to see The Constant Gardener.

Directed by Fernando Meirelles of City of God fame, and starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener is a story, based on John Le Carré's book, about political corruption and corporate greed in Kenya and the Sudan. It's also a story about romance, truly falling in love, the power of love, and the changes that such strong emotion can bring.

Although Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are both fine actors I had difficulty sustaining a believability in their parts: Weisz's Tessa stridently questioning Fiennes' Justin Quayle about Britain's involvement in Iraq. Fiennes crying over Weisz's death while obsessively raking up her overgrown backyard garden. I didn't see the chemistry between them but, you know, in the story Fiennes didn't truly find out who Weisz's character was until he started investigating the causes of her death. Plus there's a suggestion, in the film, that Tessa may have married Justin specifically so she could get to Africa, so one can suspend disbelief in the characters' relationship if one accepts that premise.

César Charlone's cinematography is being labeled by critics as maybe a bit too MTV but I think it contributed to the story more than it detracted. The over saturated colors of the shanty towns and sub-Saharan wastes broadcasted an immediacy and desperation to the apocalyptic conditions and situations in Africa. The hand held, quivering zooms of London landmarks, accompanied by eerie music, clearly illustrated the unease of Fiennes' Justin Quayle as he is called back to England by his government.

I liked the film but I said at the beginning that I picked the wrong time to see it. I just finished reading Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich, a journalist who spent time in Florida, Maine and Minnesota working as, among other things, a waitress, house cleaner, and Wal-Mart associate in order to find out how people can survive on salaries of six and seven dollars an hour. The answer is that they pretty much can't.

Seeing this film and reading this book with the constant backdrop of ineptitude and suffering brought about by Hurricane Katrina left me, last night, walking through the theater parking lot in a simmering fury about social injustices. At this point, however, I'm back to my typical dispassionate disgust and cynicism for big corporations and politicians in general. I'm not yet driven to give my cats to a friend and become a volunteer for some relief agency in some blighted part of the world. I'm not yet motivated to become an outspoken advocate for change, provoking civil unrest and marching through streets. I don't want to be Rachel Weisz's character, Tessa, just yet.
  • Current Mood: impotently outraged
I, too, saw this movie, but I didn't make your astute connection to Katrina until I read your review.

It's true that the suffering in New Orleans and the Gulf is a microcosm of what is going on around the world, particularly in Africa.