SWEATY, TREMBLING MAN: Hi. My name is Roy. And
I’m an alcoholic. I woke up out of a bourbon
haze a couple of days ago, and I found a note from
my wife, Kat. Said that she couldn’t stand
to watch me kill myself like I was doing. Said she’s
going to stay at her sister’s, in Tulsa. I
want to call her, but I’m afraid she’ll
just hang up. I haven’t been to work in two
weeks. I think I’m probably fired. I don’t
know. The doctors say that my liver’s going
out. All the booze is killing it. They say I’m
on a transplant list, but it’s long. They
say it doesn’t look good. I’m scared.
I need help.
RITA, THE SPONSOR: Roy, that took a lot of courage
to say what you just said. We’re all here
for you. We will help you. Everyone, let Roy know
that we’re here for him.
RITA: You see, Roy, we’ll help you get through
this. Don’t you worry. Take your seat and
listen so you know that everyone else here is just
like you. Ok, who’s next? How about you. Stand
up, please. Tell us about yourself.
LITHE, PALE MAN: Hello, everyone. My name is Nathan.
This is difficult to admit, and I get chastised
for it a lot by all those holier-than-thou types,
but I know it’s the right thing to do. I am
a Spielberg-aholic. There, I said it. It’s
true. I’ve worshipped the guy since I was
a kid. If I lived in times past I would’ve
been sentenced to death for Spielberg idolatry.
I know just about every line of Indiana Jones
And The Temple Of Doom by heart. People look
at me like I’m crazy when I say that I liked
A.I. I know he gets criticized a lot for
it, but I’ve never felt him to be a sentimentality-monger.
I think he’s the world’s most gifted,
natural living filmmaker. And yet, I just saw The
Terminal, and… I’m sorry, this I
really hard for me… it’s just that it
wasn’t very good. I don’t know what
to think now. I need help.
(RITA immediately rushes to NATHAN’s side,
and clasps his hand reassuringly)
RITA: Hey, shhh, it’s going to be okay, I
promise. Just calm down and we’ll talk this
thing through. Everyone, let Nathan here know that
we support him, and that we know where he’s
(A few arrhythmic, unenthusiastic claps arise from
the alcoholic chorus)
RITA: What was that? I’m ashamed of all of
you. Nathan here needs help, and it’s clear
that his problems are far more dire and immediate
than your own. He’s here for you, and the
least you can do is return the courtesy.
(This round of clapping is brisker, yet still sparse.
RITA glares disapprovingly at the crowd)
RITA: Don’t mind them, Nathan, they’re
just prima donnas. Let’s get back to you and
to your problem. So you saw The Terminal?
What is it? Tell us about it. It’s okay if
you need to cry; if it happens, just let it happen.
Don’t be embarrassed, okay?
RITA: So, The Terminal.
NATHAN: Yeah. Well, it’s Steven Spiel-
RITA: A little louder, please, so everyone can
NATHAN: Oh, sorry. Ahem. It’s Steven Spielberg’s
new movie. I’m sure you’ve all seen
the previews for it. Tom Hanks plays this
guy named Viktor Navorski, who’s from a small
European country called Krakozhia, or something
like that. He doesn’t speak a whole lot of
English, and he has this goofy-but-charming little
accent. Anyway, while he’s in the air, a coup
occurs in his country and it’s completely
disassembled. When he lands in JFK Airport, in NYC,
they won’t let him enter the city because
his country no longer technically exists and his
visa is rendered worthless. He’s sent to see
the guy in charge of airport security, Dixon, played
by Stanley Tucci, who tells him that because
he’s fallen into a bureaucratic crack he’s
confined to the airport until the coup in his country
is resolved. So, you know, he’s stuck in the
airport and can’t leave. For a long time.
That’s the gist of it. Sounds like a pretty
solid premise, right? So, because he’s such
a likable guy, Viktor makes friends with a bunch
of the ethnically diverse airport employees, played
by Chi McBride, Diego Luna, and the
old Indian guy from the Wes Anderson movies,
Kumar Pallana—don’t worry if
you guys don’t recognize the names, you’ll
know who they are when you see them onscreen. Oh,
and Catherine Zeta-Jones is Amelia, Viktor’s
love interest, because they just have to throw in
a love interest for good measure. I’m sorry,
I lost my train of thought, what was I talking about?
RITA: The story.
NATHAN: Oh, right, thanks. So Viktor’s there
for months and months, just waiting for things to
right themselves in his country. Dixon decides not
to help him in any way, although he has the power
to, because he just wants Viktor gone, right, because
he sees him as a nuisance. Initially Viktor’s
struggling to find change so he doesn’t starve
to death, but he’s quickly recruited by an
airport employee to work as matchmaker—the
employee has a crush on an INS agent, played by
Zoë Saldana, who’s pretty cute
if I do say so myself, but he’s too afraid
to talk to her. In exchange, Viktor’s friend
gives him meals. I don’t want to bore you
guys with too many of the details, but from there
he teaches himself better English, finds a job,
and earns the scorn of Dixon, who is apparently
jealous of Viktor because of his success, or something
like that. The whole Dixon-as-villain device was
just weak and unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong,
Tucci was good and all, his character just didn’t
make a whole lot of sense.
RITA: So your focal issue of distress isn’t
NATHAN: Oh, no, not at all. The cast, with the
exception of Catherine Zeta-Jones—who, just
between me and you guys, is such a non-presence
in the film she may as well not have been in it
at all—pretty much rocks. Tom Hanks is brilliant,
as always; his character is just so utterly likable,
what with his clumsiness and that spot-on accent,
that I just wanted to reach into the screen and
give him a big hug, you know what I’m saying?
And I don’t even swing that way. Everyone
else is great, too. Almost as likable as Hanks.
Many of the film’s best comedic moments, though,
belong to Kumar Pallana. He plays a janitor, Gupta,
who’s wry, sardonic, and he can actually spin
plates. Just like that Radiohead song, I
think it’s called “Spinning Plates.”
You guys ever heard that one?
ROY: Come on, what is this? Some of us are in a
really bad way here. I have things I really need
to get off my chest. I’ve done some crazy,
messed-up things lately. I need to talk, I need
you to help me.
RITA: Roy, I’m going to need you to show
some respect and civility for others for just a
little bit, ok? We’ll get back to you in no
time. Or next session, definitely.
NATHAN: Yeah, man, you’ve already had your
RITA: So, Nathan, if you thought the acting, how
did you put it, “rocked,” what aspect
of the movie troubles you so? Share with us, tell
us about it. You can do it.
(She pats his hand reassuringly once again; she
has never broken physical contact with NATHAN.)
NATHAN: To be as blunt as possible, it’s
the story that really yanks my chain. I just feel
that there’s so much wasted potential there,
it really could’ve been something special.
Instead, it’s nothing more than a light-hearted,
whimsical romp through a situation that would drive
anyone insane. Why would Spielberg have allowed
it to happen like that? It just doesn’t make
sense. Oh, I get so angry just thinking about it.
RITA: It’s okay, anger is a natural response.
It’s an important phase in the healing process.
Let it all out right now, it’s okay. Tell
NATHAN: The premise, you know, it’s got so
much potential. Stuck in an airport for months upon
months of your life? Just imagine the psychological
damage such an experience could have on someone.
I wanted to see an exploration of that. “Life
is waiting,” that’s the tagline of the
movie, and it hints at all of the sadness and desperation
and isolation that a person confined like this might
feel. The only thing worse than being in an airport
is being in a hospital—they’re both
so draining and empty in their own ways. Being stuck
in an airport for months wouldn’t be fun,
or life-affirming, as The Terminal makes
it out to be, it would be absolute hell. And yet
this film is a comedy, and partially a romantic
comedy, at that. Now, I understand that hope can
flourish in the most trying of circumstances, but
Viktor just shrugs off all adversity with a doughy
smile and garbled English euphemisms. He makes this
look like an easy thing; pain and frustration are
only rarely apparent in his character. Although
he’s amusing and charming, to be sure, he’s
almost sub-human, like he’s resistant to even
the most basic negativities. At only one point in
the movie does he ever even attempt to contact anyone
from his fallen country. It’s as if he simply
accepts his terrible fate and begs for seconds.
Any exposition concerning Viktor comes so late in
the movie that it’s completely unaffecting.
His determination to complete his “mission”
in New York isn’t gratifying or heartwarming,
it’s robotic and implausible. He’s a
nice guy to an impossible degree. He never grows
and he never changes, and that’s a fundamental
flaw of the script. God, I’m really sorry
about the speech here, but this story could have
acted as such a strong, poignant metaphor about
getting lost in the bureaucracy-driven, nonsensical
world that we live in, right now. Instead, it’s
just a commercialized fluff-piece. I feel horrible
saying that. Spielberg is like an idol of mine.
He’s given me so many happy memories.
RITA: It’s okay, you’re doing great.
This is all necessary, believe me. Feelings of being
betrayed by a loved one are common in situations
like yours. Right everyone?
RITA: The best thing to do is continue and let
it all loose. If you bottle all that bad energy
up inside of you it’s just going to explode.
You might end up hurting yourself or someone you
care about. You’re doing just fantastic. Earlier
it sounded like you were unhappy with the love story
subplot of the film. Would you care to elaborate?
NATHAN: Yeah, I am upset about that. It’s
just one of the many threads of the film which never
tie together into a whole. I’ve been known
to exaggerate from time to time, but I promise that
I’m not exaggerating—not even slightly—when
I say that the film would have been no different
if the love story angle didn’t exist. It feels
thrown in for box-office bankability, like they
needed a big female star to up the profits. As if
the names “Spielberg” and “Hanks”
weren’t big enough, right? I mean, I don’t
want to give away too much, but trust me, when you
guys see the movie, you’ll know what I’m
talking about. The love story is totally unsatisfying
and it goes nowhere. The same with Tucci’s
character, Dixon. At the beginning of the film he
seems like a pretty decent guy, and affable enough
to Viktor given the circumstances, but he devolves
into a villain seemingly out of nowhere, and his
vendetta against Viktor is arbitrary and forced.
Again, a conventional “antagonist” hole
needed to be filled, so a derisory character was
created to fit the bill so everyone has someone
to hate. Is the oppressive, albeit abstract, force
of precious months of one’s life being wasted
because of a legal technicality truly not antagonistic
enough? Oh, and then there’s the ill-conceived
ending, which is anticlimax-city. It seems like
a portion of an altogether different movie accidentally
spliced onto The Terminal. I know there have
been reports of the ending being re-shot at the
last minute, so I can’t even imagine how the
movie might have closed before, but this is just
ridiculous. Come to think of it, the entire pace
of the movie seems strange, like there’s no
momentum or buildup. The fact that Viktor never
truly acts like he wants to leave the airport doesn’t
RITA: Wow, Nathan, you’ve really said a lot
tonight. You’ve really vented. Do you feel
that you’ve vented?
NATHAN: Yeah, I guess I do.
RITA: Take a deep breath. Do you feel less angry?
NATHAN: Kind of, actually. Yeah.
RITA: Is there anything else you’d like to
say, before we have to move on?
NATHAN: You know, so what if I was let down? So
what if it isn’t what it should have been?
It had some hilarious moments, I got to watch Tom
Hanks do his thing for two hours, and Janusz
Kaminski’s photography was great, as always.
So what if it wasn’t Jaws or Close
Encounters or even Catch Me If You Can?
It was still better than ninety percent of what
I’ve seen this year. It’s Spielberg,
so it’s just innately good on many levels.
At least he’s still a more-than-competent
director. At least he’s still making accessible
movies. He’s not senile like Scorsese,
or too fat to move, like Francis Coppola.
Spielberg’s prolific, and I should thank my
lucky stars for that. He still loves me, I know
RITA: That’s a great attitude! Your progress
has been incredible, and I’m so, so proud
of you. I wish we could keep going, but, oh, it
looks like we’ve run out of time for this
week. I just want all of you to know that I’m
just as proud of you, although next time maybe some
of you could take a bit more initiative, and speak
out a little. As you’ve seen tonight, it really
does help. Right, Nathan?
NATHAN: Yeah, it sure does.
ROY: What is this shit? Why wouldn’t you
listen to me? I needed help, I needed to be able
to talk to someone! My wife didn’t leave me,
I killed her! I cut her into cubes with this cleaver
that I’m holding right now! And then I ate
her! I cannibalized my wife, and I’m an alcoholic!
And I’m dying! Damn you both! I’ll send
you both to hell!
(ROY then proceeds to cut both RITA and NATHAN
into cubes. And then he eats them. After they arrived
in hell, they make love for a very, very long time.)