When a film starts off with the a lonely lead female character drinking a lot of wine, in a lake house that's diffusely lit and morose in tone but also flatteringly palatial, don't be surprised if aliens show up at the planet's door that she proves the only one who's up to actually communicating with them. She's been abandoned of the love of her daughter, of her husband, and her students don't properly appreciate her genius -- what with their twitter and Facebook and whatnot -- and despite what she would show you of her outward successful academic endeavours, she's mostly a sea of self-involvement. What the aliens do, is show just how wrong the whole planet has been to ignore and deprive her -- even if it hasn't so deprived her of a plush university job (but it's not Berkeley, because mr. know-nothing, so-and-so "big professor" has fooled the world into thinking he's such hot holy shit!), all the career accolades, plus a house that's just a smaller version of something Bruce Wayne impressed us with in the last "Superman" movie: because that's not the look she wants, to properly see herself as the fore-saken ice queen. She doesn't have cats, though, or some poor poodle she strangles with her love, but maybe that'd be too much of a tip-off that what we have here is a fantasy compensation where some poor schmuck "aliens" are going to going to be forced into the role of showing off just what a wonder she is, even if they'd rather go off and share their first planet-earth beer with Jeremy Renner. They arrive so placidly onto planet earth: maybe they know the fate that awaits them?: we're just here to be acted on. *sigh*.
The aliens are mostly inert combinations of inverted large celery stalks and giant squids. They just stand there, like autistic individuals who at a party would be no less than cold death arrived, but out in the wilderness are peaceful, benign, somewhat reclusive but thoroughly intelligent creatures, waiting for someone who isn't a bellicose dunderhead to approach and try and understand them. Amy Adam's character... let's just ignore her film name and call her Margaret Mead or Diane Fossey, because that's the type she is, whom we would assume would ignore humans as silent and inexpressive as this if she was outside this setting -- she doesn't seem much for military personal; wouldn't seem too interested in luring them into an intricate dance of communication; and they're mostly ominously blank-faced and serious too -- shows us how magically complex these creatures actually are. Jeremy Renner is supposed to be her co-equal on this assignment. But after a moment in the beginning where he mansplains her his own true prominence, he has to quietly go along mostly as her assistant, as she shows him up in as loud a manner possible by accomplishing more in one visit with the creatures than what everyone else assembled had managed in their multitudinous various forays. Who could have predicted that?
This film is a temporary salve for depressed people. If some alien, outside intelligence intertwined itself in the direction of this movie and forced the protagonist aliens to insist at one point on communicating with someone else -- if they sidelined her -- when normal directorial control was recovered, the movie wouldn't have turned course and shown her simply respectful of their change in preference and pleased with the expanded communication that was thereby enabled. It wouldn't show her joyous that regardless of the turn of events, she'd proved a very important part of creating the dialogue with the foreign visitors the world had hoped for. It would have drowned out these interactions, shown no interest in them, and displaced her immediately back into her palatial, lake-house home, sipping wine, reminiscing on her lost child, lost husband, and now on how her great meaningful relationship with the aliens had been removed from her as well. If the aliens showed up once again on her television set, showing how with human cooperation they'd solved all the universe's plights, she'd grumble and throw her wineglass violently at the set. How can you show off such little things when what matters is that I am yet once again rudely neglected and forlorn!
No, that would make her look too overtly evil. Rather, she'd call some friend she'd domesticated as an attendant sap, and explain how actually grateful she was at everything that had happened... even if they could of course gotten much more from them and done so much faster if they hadn't been so ignorant to forsake her help and turn to colleagues who are actually nowhere near her equal and who don't even truly understand the very basics of communication and who may have tenured positions at Harvard and Berkeley but who don't actually know anywhere near as much as she does and who really should be teaching --
Hmmm.... In a malicious mood, I wonder what it would have looked like if when the aliens at one point were signalling about a weapon, it turned out that that was actually what was on their minds! But not on their using a secret ray gun to devastate earth, but on securing a plain-old, earth-produced, loaded gun, in which to blow their brilliant and complex squid brains out, at being requited to what had proved the unendurable role of being fodder for someone else's specious further anointment. Good god! I mean, I knew this wasn't going to be pleasant... that being movie-prop saps we had to play the part of the visiting kid pet endlessly by his depressed alcoholic aunt, but lord -- doesn't she ever shut up!!!
Knew you but a little but even that proved too much, dear planet earth! Maybe next time something a bit timid creeps up to your planet, hoping only at first for a quiet "hello," maybe DON'T immediately beset upon it the person YOU'RE ALL trying to avoid?!!!