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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Orphan (The)

I love orphans. Orphans, orphans, orphans. I bet they all smell like Cinnabons and fresh coffee, just… because they are so extraordinary. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been jealous of orphans and wondered why parents would fill our young heads with fairy tales about these special children considering they always ended up better off in the long run without having parents, so in actuality these stories were subliminally selling the idea that even though the audience was primarily pre-schoolers, they might want to consider a little patricide and matricide before heading off to kindergarten on their way to true happiness. Oh, don’t scoff! Look at those wee Nazi sympathizers, Hansel and Gretel. Those Aryan orphans were the first to practice sanctioned religious persecution when they burned a poor elderly Wiccan practitioner to death by sealing her in an oven in her own home after first vandalizing the structure and tormenting her for hours if not days. The little bastards! Later, they were “rescued” and returned home to their father, the same guy who tried to kill them in the first place. Okay, so you’re saying “But that means they weren’t orphans” and I’m going to remind you that it was the foul father who led them into the woods to get rid of them at the beginning of the story since his new wife, their wicked stepmother, didn’t want them around, so technically he was giving up his rights and leaving them sans parents, making them fauxrphans. The part that most people leave out when telling the tale is that when Hansel and Gretel made it back to the village Hansel wisely took his father, the woodcutter’s, axe and butchered their skeevy daddy and rotten step-mommy and then both he and Gretel made sad orphan faces in front of the authorities and were sent off to live with rich relatives in Sweden where they really did live happily ever after.

It always works out that way. Little Orphan Annie. No eyeballs, but she nabbed Daddy Warbucks and a gazillion dollars (not to mention a musical that will go on forever and til “Tomorrow”). Things started off less than grand for Harry Potter living under the stairs at his a-hole cousin Dudley Dursley’s house, but once he caught the eye of that old pederast Albus Dumbledore, for the single stroke of the old goat’s wand, Harry’s been granted the run of the castle ever since. Heck, even the best superheroes are all orphans: Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Wolverine, and even Iron Man are all orphans and have family issues. They may be strong. They may be fast. They may even fly faster than a speeding bullet, but that doesn’t mean they won’t tear up a little when Mother’s Day comes around and there’s no one to take out to brunch.

That’s the one big drawback to being an orphan. I’m one now myself, and I know. Christmas comes and the tree seems empty since there are no gifts from Mom or Dad this year. Thanksgiving is
hardly worth worrying about when it is just the two of you now since everybody has scattered and the family doesn’t get together the way it used to when Mom and Dad were around. Graduations aren’t as meaningful, weddings aren’t as joyful, and successes aren’t quite as exciting when the first people you think of to call and tell are no longer available to take that call. This is the part they never show you on those “orphan”-centric tv shows, where the moppet kids roll in and forget their dead parents never to be mentioned again within the first 15 minutes of the pilot episode. I’m talking to you “Brady Bunch”, “Punky Brewster”, and “Different Strokes” kids. Speaking of which, who ever would have thought that out of Willis, Arnold and Kimberly from “Different Strokes” it would be Willis who’d grow up to be the role model of the three? I would’ve thought he would be a lifer at Attica for sure with Arnold running a numbers scheme and laying down as a bitch for some 300 pound skinhead biker, leaving that virginal airhead Kimberly to join a convent or simply spend her days traveling from community theater-to-community theater playing ‘Maria’ in local productions of “The Sound of Music” until she was older than Mrs. Garrett is today. Instead, she ends up a meth-head, store-robbing suicide and Arnold ends up being a grown-up Gary Coleman, which is to say he is a total douchebag who ought to be running a numbers scheme and laying down as a bitch for some 300 pound skinhead biker in Attica but he hasn’t even succeeded at that yet, and so it leaves Willis, a k a Todd Bridges, as the coolest orphan in the crowd. He has been married for thirteen years to his wife, Dori and they have an eleven-year-old son, Spencer. As a recovering addict (yes, he was wading into ‘Kimberly’ territory but pulled himself out of that nosedive), he travels the nation speaking to over 6,000 kids per day in high schools, middle schools, and churches warning of the dangers of drug use and negative peer pressure. So he really did pull the ‘Happily Ever After’ out of his assets. Good for him. I’m just sayin’.

Usually in fairy tales
The Orphan goes off to live like Todd, but sometimes The Orphan is not quite so lucky. In the case of Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman; Hounddog), The Orphan at the center of the same-titled film, she appears to have had as hard knock a life as Annie’s chorus would sing. For Esther, living in an American convent seems like the end of the line for her. At nine, she’s older than most of the kids, and since she is from Russia, her accent, manners, and dress are all a little “off” by American standards, and most prospective parents just pass her by.

For John and Kate (not to be confused with that other Jon and Kate with or without their Eight), the idea of adopting is a tough one. Kate (Vera Farmiga; The Vintner's Luck) is still devastated by the loss of their unborn daughter a year earlier as well as her guilt over an accident that caused her other daughter’s severe hearing loss the year or so before that, when the girl was just a toddler. John (Peter Sarsgaard; An Education) sees adoption as an opportunity to bring some sense of normalcy back to their family, which has been fractured for far too long. His hope is that by bringing another child into the family Kate will feel more like that gap left by their missing child will finally be filled.

What a mistake this is. Naturally, they choose oddball Esther after she charms them with her intelligence and pathos, coupled with a face full of freckles, framed by pigtails and ginormous eyes
that look like they belong on a lovesick cow, begging to be taken home and milked like she is giving it up for Elvis and a plate of Oreos. Dare you guess? Not long after Esther comes home, things seem to start happening ~ bad things ~ and whenever they do Esther is the logical suspect to blame, but John will hear none of it. After all, she is just a sweet little orphan girl from Mother Russia. She’s too young to initiate the type of machinations Kate is imagining. Instead, he begins to think his wife has gone back to drinking again, the source of their earlier problems when then-two-year-old Max (debuting Aryana Engineer) fell through the ice on their pond and ended up profoundly deaf.

No amount of screaming seems to help convince John or Kate’s psychiatrist (who also happens to be Hannah Montana’s grandma, how cool is that?) Dr. Browning (Margo Martindale; Hannah Montana: The Movie) that Kate isn’t taking afternoon strolls up to Boone’s Farm’s Strawberry Hill every chance she gets, so Esther basically gets away with murder until it is almost too late for the entire Coleman family.

John, like that other one with all the kids, treats his Kate like she’s got the rancid corpse of a rotting possum on her head (well, the tv Kate does look like that but she calls it her “hairstyle”), and he wants to send her off to mommy rehab once and for all when son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett; Star Trek) gets seriously hurt on her watch. He still won’t buy that Esther is the molester even though the nun in charge of her adoption, Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder; tv’s “Warehouse 13” and “The Shield”), was “coincidentally” found CCH Poundered to death with a hammer right across the road from the Coleman’s front door the day before and neither of his other kids has acted like they are much more than zombies in the presence of adults since Esther’s come to live with them.

Okay, so John is apparently not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but then again, that is usually left for the villain to wield, and you can bet Esther does before the big finale is over. Blood flows, a blizzard blows, and secrets about Esther’s identity are revealed before a HUGE knockdown between
The Orphan obstacle and The Mominator out on the ice. While the film looks to give viewers a satisfying climax it does leave a shivering sliver of a chance for a sequel should this one prove successful. Like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers before her, The Orphan is a tough little bitch to quit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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