Jingle All the Way (USA, 1996)

woBpDirected by: Brian Levant. This is truly one of cinema’s towering achievements. Only once, maybe twice, rarely thrice in a lifetime does a monument of this staggering geniosity appear to us out of the ether, setting the high water mark for generations thereafter. The Sumerians had the Epic of Gilgamesh; the Normans had the Bayeux tapestry; we have Jingle All the Way. Led by the subtly textured emotional palette of Arnold Schwarzenegger—Olivier with muscles—this film traverses uncharted psychic territory with its ambiguous, high stakes critique of holiday commodity consumption. The venerable Sinbad does a good job matching Mr. Schwarzenegger as the father’s main antagonist—a rival father for the commodity of desire, a shadow father who represents the horrifying failure that could become the father. The father even imagines his own son becoming this jaded, cynical, incompetent public sector employee, in a nightmare image that is as chilling as it is memorable. The  youngster—the promising Jake Lloyd, before he entered the world of Jar Jar Binks and Liam Neeson—gives a performance worthy of a little prince of cinema, and his expressive facial movements and line delivery are more than a match for his adult co-stars.  The subplot surrounding the questioning of the husband’s manhood and sexual potency is amply illustrated by Rita Wilson as the wife and the dear departed (for real) Phil Hartman as the  presumptuous neighbor. What starts as a secondary conflict between Hartman the neighbor and Arnold the husband eventually becomes one of the film’s central focus points, as Hartman’s character holds the passage between Schwarzenegger and a functioning, healthy relationship with his wife. This kind of meditation on fidelity and morality is of the kind  usually not seen outside of the work of Cassavettes. Each year, this capsule of cultural meditation must be repeated with a quasi-religious regularity, so profound are the sociopolitical nuggets glittering therein, waiting to be gleaned. But surely, this is for you to decide.

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One response to “Jingle All the Way (USA, 1996)

  1. Pingback: Predator (USA, 1987) | Offhand Reviews·

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