I read The Pawnbroker at the wrong time. Jewish American author Edward Lewis Wallant published the thin novel, his second after The Human Season, a year before his untimely death in 1962. I wouldn’t be hitting the scene for another few decades, and by the time I did The Pawnbroker existed only in relative obscurity. I read it in college, where I sort of zipped through the little volume in between zipping through others.
In doing so, I read Sol Nazerman’s tale largely as a tale of urban woe. Those of suburban woe — by Updike, Cheever, O’Hara, and even a few guys who weren’t named John — were in great supply back then, from Rabbit, Run to Bullet Park to Appointment in Samarra. These books had protagonists that were either downright miserable or just miserable without knowing it, perhaps indifferent to the constant comings and goings or the constant stillness of life around them, and in that feeble criteria they were all grouped together. Bernard Malamud’s The Assistant, about a Jewish shopkeeper in postwar New York, seemed a worthy companion to The Pawnbroker because the protagonists seemed so similar. Assistant‘s Morris worked out of Brooklyn while Sol Nazerman’s pawnshop was in Harlem, but both were simply exhausted by life.
Continue reading The Pawnbroker (1964)
It might just be because of the scenes in the pool, but John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer” was never far removed from my viewing of The One I Love. The obsession with suburban America that Cheever shared with the likes of John Updike also seems applicable here, but it’s probably more the hazy blur of realism and surrealism that brings the late writer’s most famous story to mind throughout the film. Granted The One I Love is more lighthearted than anything Cheever ever wrote, but there’s still a sustained feeling of dread and discomfort here. That’s coincidentally what sets the movie apart from most others, pulling it safely out of rom-com zaniness territory while managing to maintain a humorous mood.
Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss are Ethan and Sophie, troubled young couple who find their marriage in jeopardy. Their counselor (who, for some reason, is played by Ted Danson) suggests a getaway at a picturesque hillside home designed specifically, it seems, for troubled young couples. They go. They have a great first night. After that, though, things go a little haywire. There’s something off about the little guest house in back. What was all the confusion about that first night? Could this be a dangerous place? Should they leave? Stay? Was this Ted Danson’s intention?
Continue reading The One I Love (2014)