Bug

Bug

The reviews I read of Bug were mixed, but I thought the film was really interesting. And I’m not talking just about the girl-on-girl kissing, but the movie as a whole.

The setting effectively generates an eerie, claustrophobic mood. Almost the whole movie takes place in a tiny motel room in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma.

I believe this was originally a play, thus the very limited locations. I will say, though, that unlike in, say, Streamers, the dialogue felt a lot more like a movie, and for that matter more like real life, than like a play.

But I found it to be a fascinating portrait of mental illness. The movie at times looks like it’s going to be more of a thriller or even science fiction, and I suppose it never does eliminate one hundred percent of the ambiguity about that, but over time you come to understand it’s all these people’s delusions.

And, if anything, that is even more intriguing than if it really were about government conspiracies and weird little organisms and such.

I also really liked the juxtaposition of the two male leads. One seems—comparatively anyway—like the obvious good guy. He has a simple, literal, idiosyncratic way of speaking, kind of like Karl in Sling Blade. And like Karl, though he’s “off,” it seems to be in mostly a refreshingly honest, non-conformist kind of way.

Whereas the other guy is a scary wife beater, just released from prison. Come to think of it, he’s quite a bit like the Dwight Yoakum character in Sling Blade. Every time he’s on screen there’s that palpable sense that he’s capable of anything, up to and including killing his ex-wife.

It’s hard to imagine any character could be worse, or crazier, than this evil abuser, and yet over time, the unconventional guy catches and passes him.

Indeed, at the very end when the ex-husband reappears, looking intent on making trouble and re-asserting his male dominance in some crudely violent and mundane way, you realize, “Wow dude, you’re just totally out of your league here with your garden variety emotional problems and macho insanity.”

And it’s interesting watching the female lead seemingly absorb the craziness of the male in her life. That is, when with the wife beater, she displays the kinds of tendencies and emotional responses one would expect from someone who has been damaged by such ill-treatment and made accepting of it. But then as the unconventional character’s paranoia becomes more and more manifest, she ends up sharing his utterly bizarre, delusional worldview.

I’m sure there are all kinds of symbolic things Bug is trying to say, but I’m generally not very in tune with that stuff. So I’m responding to it really more on the simplistic level of did I enjoy and get caught up in the story itself. And I did.

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