GOODBYE SOLO- New Yorker2.pdf

their protest against the draining routine
ofwork. They are all misfits of one sort or
another, with inadequate parents; they
may loathe the park, but it becomes their
home, a ridiculous habitat tended by the
strange pairwho run the place (manic Bill
. Hader and a silent, abashed lkistenWiig).
In “American Graffiti’ (1973),the grand-
.daddy of the summer-before-college movie
genre, Richard Dre),4.rss’s Curt, a brainy
kid, was, likeJames, moving into the next
phase of his life. But for each boy life is
defined by I group ofeccentric friends who
m frer ^grea:t deal, at least for a whil-
‘ the transienry of friendship is part of the
emotional sffength of these ryovies.
Mottolds onlycastingfailure is the mild
Canadian actor Ryan Relnolds, who plays
the strapping, good-looking musician and
ride repairman, Connell. Everyone thinks
Connell is cool, but, a married man, he falls
into a sad affair every’summerwith one of
the girls at the park. We understand Mottolds
idea-Connell is a cad who doesn’t
want to hurt anyone. But what comes
across from Relnolds’s refusal ofnarcissism
or anger in playing this character is his
timidity as an actor. The star in the making
here (besides Eisenberg) is eighteenyear-old
liristen Stewart, who was enthralled
by Robert Pattinsonb thirsty but
self-controlled vampire in “Twilight.”
Stewart is slight, and still limited in range,
but she has enoffnous concentration and a
way of suddenly looking intensely at a boy
thatwould make even the most frightened
loser long to be a man.

At I’Goodbye Solo,” a taxi passenger
named William (Red Wedt), a pouchyeyed
white Southerner, aged about seventy,
sits silendy in the back seat; he wants
to be left alone. Wdre in Wjnston-Salem,
at night, and the driver, Solo (Soul6yrnane
Sy Savan6), a young Senegalese immigrant
who is handsome and endlegoly
cheerfirl, refuses to honor his passenge/s
wishes. He tries to pull him out of his silence,
especially after William makes him
an odd offer: hellpayhim athousanddollars
if Solo will pick him up in a fewweeks’
time and take him to a mountain perch
outside the city, called Blowing Rock.
Solo imme&ately assumes that William
wants to kill himself. He asks questions,
cajoles, badgers, and, in the next few
weeks, and with increasing insistence, attempts
to reconcile William to life, even
moving in with him in his motel room,
where they make a very strange couple.
Consumed byguilt or disgust, William is
almost completely cut ofl while Solo is
hopefi.rl, cha(ry, and benevolent. Interested
in everybody and everything, he
thinks that sociability is the road to success;
he makes the circuit, at night, ofbars
and convenience stores where his friends
and the local hoods hang out. Hds married
(sortof) to aMexicanwoman andhas
a step-daughter he loves. The joke in
Goodbye Solo” is that the American native
has no connection to his ourn communlty,
while the outsider is part of an
overflowing society of family and friends.
The movie was directed and cowritten
by Ramin Bahrani, a thirty-fouryear-old
American of Iranian descent.
Bahrani grew up in Winston-Salem, but
his two eadier works, both low-budget
independent movies, “Man Push Card’
(2005) and “Chop Shop'(2007), were
set in New York and featured immigrants
trying to make their way and
hold on to their dreams in the vast city.
The earlier films were realist fictions.

but Bahrani is moving in an ambitious
new direction. He establishes WinstonSilem
clearly enough, particularly at
its squalid edges. Yet “Goodbye Solo,”
– despite its realist base, lifts offin1o an
existential fable: one man’s exuberant
embrace of life crashes into the othels
adamantrejection ofit. Whydoes the old
man want to die and the young man so
badly need to save him? The power ofthe
fable derives from Bahranis unwillingness
to solve these mysteries beyond a
few hints-for instance, a suggestion
that Solo is actually desperate, and fears
that his uowardlv mobile &ive won’t survive
any rebuffio his optimism. Fables
that raise universal questions are hard to
pull offin the cinema, an art form built
from the surfaces of the material wodd,
but Bahrani creates his philosophical
fiction shrewdly., teasingly, offering some
details, withholding others, ffansforming
limited information into resonant idea.
He encloses his two characters in amotel
room, but he doesnt make them buddies,
as a Hollywood movie would. They
are dtaractertznd in great detail as separate
beings: Red West has a voice like
raw whiskel5 Savands smile and rapid
movements light up any space he inhabits.
Their separateness is the great truth
of the movie. At Blowing Rock, Wil-.,
liam’s destination, wind currents immediately
retum anlthing thrown over the
edge back toward the sender. This geophysical
oddity suggests a potent question:
is there a moment when finality
becomes necessary and beautifirl, or is
every life a never-ending possibility?

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