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"It"'s as familiar to many as plain ordinary adolescence: a review of "It"



Take out Pennywise and this is what'd befall two of characters: one would be repeatedly sexually molested by her father, another would be imprisoned by his mother all through his adolescence. All of the kids would go through school, tortuously bullied. So the film is a bit "Breakfast Club" (it's referred to in the film) in that something unfortunate draws the characters into further entwining with one another in a way which gives them each greater support and strength. It's another film which seems very concerned to isolate empathy only to specific characters... that is, it leaves bullies as just basically rotten people. It's so concerned to do this that it seems brave of the film to suddenly delve into the key teenage bully's family troubles... but it turns out it very carefully only does this to create him as an agent of Pennywise, not so we would mistake grouping him as just another of those who have been rendered near helpless to be otherwise, owing to the kinds of punishing parents they were saddled with.

Pennywise has a perspicacity that if it was in the parents in the film, would leave the kids absolutely doomed--they depend on a small measure of idiocy on the part of their suspicious parents to find some freedom. The fact that he like them is not a fool seems noteworthy. One might have a conversation with him and receive feedback from someone who is registering every nuance of what you're thinking and feeling, which is part of his allure. Also, if he wasn't just plain evil, he'd make one hell of ally. There's reasons for smart kids to actually be drawn to him, if only to twist his purposes so he serves their end, and take out other people in their lives so horrible they sexually abuse, deeply carve letters into their skins, and put powerful blocks against their growing up. These kids don't actually need some other person to help them with this, IF they were the kids as they are shown in the movie -- that is, kids with such intrinsic moxie that it's conceivable they could throw off many of the haunts that even Pennywise throws at them so to rebound as if normal a short time thereafter (these kids would do great if they were suddenly thrown into Dante's hell, for what could the Devil show him that was worse than Pennywise's own fabricated terrors?). But these characters are implausible -- the girl who readily stands up to bullies... or who offsets their intended harsh humiliations by taunting their stupidity whilst temporarily being forced to suffer them, and who takes out her father without hesitation when the situation calls for it, is not the child of a perennial abuser but the child of parents over on the right side of the track. The young boy who was going through childhood believing he was always sick... or who tried willing himself into such belief because it was what his mother forcefully expected him to believe, is not going to toss her aside with the ease he eventually manages so we can all enjoy watching her panic at her sudden loss of power she's always held (a relapse on her part which is possibly as satisfying for us to witness as Pennywise's eventual discovery that his tricks have lost their power on kids who'd accustomed themselves to him). The kid who'd do that, again, could only belong to some other family, for it's self-esteem he wasn't given the chance to know, and which couldn't plausibly be repaired by the kind of friends, the kind of GENUINE losers (his loser friends are in today's nuance, actually cool geeks, who are their school's elite) who in some way would be as similarly defeated as he was, he'd naturally gravitate to.

This is not a movie of two tales. It is not a coming-of-age tale, as well as a horror story. It's a movie that informs you that there is some essential twinning of both -- growing up is into a world of sensuous new wonders, about swapped saliva, kissed lips... lust, but also about the sudden emergence of newly bared, terrible teeth from people who once held love for you, or whom you'd at least contained by the sheer fact that you weren't ready to test their ownership of you (Pennywise's own buck teeth suggests a bit that he's the fate of a child who never survives others' taunting: he becomes a terror himself so to at least partake of the winning party). Pennywise could not have been in this movie at all, and it would still have been about the exactly same thing. He articulates a truth for most people born of Steven King's generation, and probably still a good number today: the terrors you first knew when you hugged close to childhood toys... terrors which were responsible for your early stutter, for instance, lose hold of you for a time but re-visit once again amidst adolescent turmoil. He's useful because he shows you just the kind of fear you experience from others you can't be as forthright in admitting to. If the clown scares you this apocalyptically scarily, then they did too. Unless you want to go through life in some version of self-deceit and as well, inhibitated, it'll require your facing up to.

Note: "It" is good. The film is about scares that could cripple you away from self-actualizing and which could have you, for example, betray friends expressing the same dismay you feel. But the composition of the film, the art, the sense of considerable discernment and selection, reflects very realized accomplishment. One does sense that it is only the kids as they are shown in the film to become -- victors -- who could have crafted it. It's something one gets I suppose too in "the Shining," the artistic presence of someone who clearly got past many of his own fears, and it retrospectively ameliorates the powerful terror: people can know these fears, AND get past them. If you yourself get past them, or never knew them in the first place, then you can skip the messaging in the film and focus how for example the aesthetics feel, why the haunted house seems so crisply composed you'd hardly visit only out of a need to confront terror, without it seeming like macho evasion of the memories the film brought to mind.  

Note: The bullies give a sense that they can't really be waylaid... and if you're caught in that situation, where after successfully resisting them they come back and deliver worse, then what the hell do you do? Pennywise's exaggerated power suggests he might have a critical flaw, which the kids eventually dawn upon. There may be a sense he's actually a venue upon which the kids might practice resistance-practices that'll enable them when they face up to "the real show." Pennywise is stuck in perennial kid mode, whereas they're testing out leering, testing out sex: mightn't they already have something on him?


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