In 2009, when Los Angeles' last city park is closed to the public, a dispossessed man -- and the duck who follows him as a mother -- quest west, on foot, in search of water and meaning, in the desert that is L.A.
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A blighted Los Angeles in 2009. Arthur is recently widowed, his savings wiped out by his wife's illness. Their only son is long dead. Alone, Arthur adopts and is adopted by a duckling he names Joe. Saved from suicide, Arthur's life becomes caring for Joe and keeping clean a pond on land near his son's memorial tree. Homelessness awaits Arthur, and although he experiences a great deal of unkindness - from a bus driver, motorists, and animal control officers - he also offers and finds kindness. The pond drained, Arthur and Joe head west on a picaresque journey. Is there room for angels in Los Angeles? Written by
Written by Leonard Cohen, Sharon Robinson
Performed by Leonard Cohen
Courtesy of Columbia Records and Sony Music Entertainment (Canada) Inc
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
Published by Sony/ATV Songs LLC (BMI) and Robinhill Music (ASCAP) See more »
This a sweet movie about an old man who has lost his son and wife. A duckling adopts him just as he is about to kill himself. He has absolutely no clue how to care for a duck, or what a duck is capable of, and it never occurs to him to read up or ask someone. Miraculously his duck survives merely on good intentions and a diet of popcorn (a reference to the old joke with the punchline "Yes, but this one is eating my popcorn.") The movie is a series of vignettes, unconnected, except that they each usually illustrate one of a few recurring themes.
1. There are two kinds of people, those who enjoy creating misery for others, and those who enjoy alleviating suffering and creating joy. The two types are very distinct, with little grey area between. Both create consequences that ripple out. Much of the humour comes from exaggeration -- the landlord from hell for example. He is even worse than your worst ever.
2. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to be helpful to other people.
3. Nostalgia. Thinking about the past hurts so much.
4. The blue meanies are destroying the planet and all that is beautiful with their pollution, garbage, shopping malls, pedestrian-hostile cities, and judging everything only in financial terms.
Joe, the duck, played by many different ducks, is almost always on screen, and grabs your attention. He is not like a trained bear doing tricks. He just acts like a duck, and actors have to ad-lib to some extent around what he does. This makes for heightened realism, but also for some boring stretches.
When I was about nine I pestered my Dad to let us have a duck, having seen them in National Geographic. He said resolutely no. This movie let me live out that old fantasy.
Just in case you were worried, the duck doesn't die and neither does the man, and they don't do duck toilet humour, at least not what you would expect.
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