David and Lisa has always been one of my favorite movies. I saw it originally in 1962 when I was a sophomore in high school. (I will never forget . . . The dramatic tension was too much for Billy Levin, the friend I went to see it with . . . just as they touched at the grand finale of the movie, he burst into uncontrolled uproarious laughter. I thought the other people in the theater were going to kill him).
Anyway . . .
If Oprah Winfrey wanted "to introduce David and Lisa to a new generation of viewers" (as was stated in the prologue), why didn't she just show us all the original one (without commercials)! And who needed Oprah telling us all at the outset, "This movie is about the healing power of love." Hey, if the director couldn't get that across in two hours!
Keir Dullea, Janet Margolin, and Howard da Silva's performances were impeccable in the original. Sidney Poitier's performance (he played the doctor in last night's redo) ran the gamut of emotions from A to B. (I have always been an admirer of Howard da Silva's progressive credentials -- he was a leftist blacklisted by the McCarthyites in the 1950's -- his genuine caring and sincere humanity really came across on the silver screen.)
And maybe sweat just looks better in black and white, or maybe Dullea's raw gutsy portrayal was eons better than the polished frozen robot performance of Lukas Haas, but all in all there is no comparison. Last night's Lisa did a whole lot too much long-shot bunny-hopping around the set. The original director had the good sense to zero in on close-up after close-up of Janet Margolin's beautifully bedraggled fragility.
And what's with the added dialogue of the doctor saying to the mom, "We stopped blaming parents 20 years go." Sez who? I'm all for blaming the parents. The original movie really blasted away at the uptight parents for screwing up their kid. Right on. (I think Oprah might have added that line herself -- she probably spends a lot of time on daytime teevee telling parents not to blame themselves).
The new version had a lot of stuff about medication being balanced and how important meds were to certain of the patients progress -- none of that in the original.
They cut out one of the greatest scenes of the whole movie . . . the one at the train station where an uptight citizen lashes out at the kids, calling them "a bunch of screwballs spoiling the town." A really really important scene in terms of showing the discrimination faced by people with psychiatric disabilities, and the horrible pain it causes.
The new version also cut out the sensitively-drawn portrayal of a gay male character (David's chess partner), an overweight therapist, as well as a very strong hispanic character, turning him into just another disturbed anglo. Leaving us with whitebread. (Guess they didn't want to take any chances with the network that axed Ellen.)
When the mother is come on to by that particular character, David's "delusions of grandeur" speech (about the character's sexuality) is replaced by some ridiculous savage sexual assault going on on top of one of picnic tables in the background. That sure helps make viewers feel sympathetic to adolescents with psychiatric disabilities.
The new version had the female therapist crying in distress when Lisa ran away near the end of the movie. Give me a break! Kids are always running away from residential facilities.
There was something so real about the original version, and something so "Hollywood" about the new one -- no dramatic tension, no nothing.
The music in the original really added to the drama; not so the new version.
The original film was really a very beautiful fairytale about how messed up people can help each other out of their respective pits. Unfortunately, mythic metaphor though it be, it has never been true in my experience. Anytime I've met someone as screwed up as myself and thought Hey, this is it, we can just love each other and David and Lisa each other into better human beings and happier lives, it's never quite worked out that way, to say the least.
At least the original gave me the feeling that I could still dream. I still do love that myth.
The original 1962 version is fresh in my mind because I had just rented the video about a month ago. At the time, I couldn't help thinking that it was 35 years ahead of it's time. Maybe we should make that 45 . . .
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