Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Eternal Spring

Tuck Everlasting
Director: Jay Russell
Cast: Alexis Bledel, Jonathan Jackson, Sissy Spacek, William Hurt, Victor Garber, Ben Kingsley, Amy Irving
Released: October 11, 2002
Viewed in theaters: October 12, 2002

Spoilers start right away, so there's your warning! 

Even though I've seen this movie before, I didn't remember anything about it. I just remembered the immortality part. If you had asked me what this movie was about before I re-watched it (and I had totally forgotten this movie existed, but then I saw it was on Hulu), I would have said it's about a boy named Tuck who is an immortal. Well, Tuck is the surname of the boy whose name is Jesse (Jonathan Jackson) and the entire Tuck family is immortal. 

This movie felt more like a made-for-TV movie than a theatrical release. For one thing, it's only an hour and a half, and for another, it's just not that grand of a movie. It gets pretty cheesy in parts. I didn't think the acting by the two young leads was particularly great. I believe this was Alexis Bledel's first feature film and this came out during the third season of Gilmore Girls. Plus the all around premise is a little creepy, but I'll get to that later.

The movie is based on a 1975 novel written by Natalie Babbitt. I haven't read it, but I looked up the summary on Wikipedia to note any differences between the book and film. One of the main differences is that the main character, Winifred (who goes by Winnie) is ten in the book and fifteen in the movie. She is played by Bledel. She comes from a very well-to-do family and would rather be playing with kids her own age and getting dirty than wearing her pristine white dress while she practices piano or knits. While we know this movie is not set in the present day, we will learn later that the year is 1914.

One day she goes off into the woods after her uptight parents (Amy Irving and Victor Garber) have told her they're sending her away to boarding school. There she sees Jesse drinking from a spring. It's clear that Winifred has no people skills because she doesn't even try to be discreet that she's flat-out spying on him. She steps out into the open, watching him as he drinks. When he sees her, he's not angry, but you know he's not thrilled that this girl is out here and obviously shouldn't be. He asks her how long she's been there and she replies with, "Not long" and tells him that her family owns these woods after he tells her she shouldn't be out here. She agrees to leave, but wants a drink of water first. He tells her no, that the water is poisonous, which was pretty stupid since he was just drinking from it. When she heads towards the spring, he grabs her and she screams and runs away, exclaiming she's going to tell her father. She doesn't get very far because Jesse's older brother, Miles, catches her and they take her back to their house and their parents, Mae and Angus Tuck (Sissy Spacek and William Hurt). Of course, Winnie is totally freaked out since she's been basically kidnapped and just wants to go home. Mae is being very sweet and motherly to her, telling her they're not going to hurt her.

This is where the movie gets a little weird and makes me wonder if the novel comes off the same way. The Tuck family tell that they will let her return to her home as soon as they can trust her, but they never tell her their big secret until much later in the movie and even then, Jesse sort of just lets it slips out. We learn that Winnie has lost track of the days she's been imprisoned, but don't worry, she's having a grand old time as we see her and Jesse in this super cheesy montage where they're running slow-motion through a field of flowers while flailing their arms. Oh, how that made me cringe! I felt really bad for the actors. I can just imagine the director yelling at them, "Jump higher, move your arms more." Meanwhile, we get snippets of her poor parents who are worried sick about their daughter and get the police involved to find her. 

While Winnie and Jesse are spending more time with each other, they begin to fall in love. At one point she asks him how old he is and he tells her he's 104 years old. She tells him to be serious, and he says he's 17. And technically, both answers are right. When Winnie tells him, "I wish this moment could last forever", he tells her about the water that grants not only everlasting life, but also makes one immortal. When he said they were immortal, I just assumed they could never die of old age or get sick, but no, they can not die of anything. If they get shot in the head? Still alive! If they fall off a cliff? Still alive! If they get bit by a rattlesnake? Still alive (even without the antidote!) They literally cannot die. They're just like Claire, the invincible cheerleader from Heroes! Although, even though she could fall off high ledges and walk through fires and not die, I feel like there is a way to kill her since Sylar had a plan to do so, I just forgot how. Something about taking her brain? But with the Tucks, I get the impression they are immune to any type of death.

Jesse tells Winnie the story of the spring, how back in (hang on, let me do some quick math...) 1827, his family found it while traveling and started drinking from it. Everyone, but the cat that is. They quickly realize something is up when their horses are shot at by hunters who mistake them for deer (really?) and they don't die. We also learn that Jesse fell from thirty feet and didn't get one scratch on him and that someone else was bitten by a rattlesnake and was completely fine. Miles's wife left with their two children, saying he "sold his soul to the devil" and called the spring "witch craft" and "black magic". Needless to say, they did not drink from the spring. She ended up in a mental institution because of her ramblings about a spring that grants eternal life. While Jesse seems to embrace his eternal youth and long-lasting life, Miles sees it more as a curse and hates it. He wanted his kids to drink from it too, but that seems pretty cruel as you are permanently stuck at the age you are when you drink from it, and I imagine your brain is permanently stuck at that age too. I don't know how old his kids were, but they looked pretty young in the flashbacks. Can you imagine if you had to be five years old for the rest of your life and could never escape from it? Oh my God, that would be terrible. I'm glad his kids did not get to drink from the water, even though one of them did die when they were a teenager, but the other one lived a full life even if he never saw his dad again. And honestly, being seventeen forever (like Jesse) doesn't sound that great either. Now I realize that when he drank the water he didn't know this was going to happen. I feel like if you were going to be stuck at a permanent age, early thirties is where you want to be. You're old enough where you don't look like a teenager and you don't have to get carded for anything and you can still be an active member of society and you don't need a permission slip for anything, but you're also still young enough to be active and not worry about the psychical downsides of aging. Basically, you're not too young, you're not too old. Actually, this movie reminded me of The Age of Adaline where Blake Lively plays a character who has been stuck at the age of 29 since the early 20th century. Every few years she moves to a different location so she doesn't make anyone suspicious about her non-aging. Because of this, she isn't able to be close to anyone and even her own daughter out-ages her and they tell everyone she is her grandmother. In this film, the Tucks just seem to hang out in a house hidden in the woods and this is why they kidnap Winnie and keep her until they think they can trust her because they do not want her telling anyone about them.

Jesse tells Winnie that she's the first girl he's ever told this to because she's the first girl he's fallen in love with and wants to spend the rest of his life with. He wants her to drink the water. Now, in the book, from what I found out on Wikipedia, Jesse wants Winnie to wait until she is 17 and then drink the water so they will be the same age (remember, she is only ten in the novel!) and then they can get married. I'm not sure if there's a romance in the book like there is in the movie (God, I hope not!), but I guess he just wants someone to spend eternity with.

I don't understand the appeal of wanting to spend ETERNITY with anyone, even yourself. Sure, I understand if you meet your soul mate you want to spend as much time with them as possible and cherish every moment, but think about it - if you and your partner could live forever, then you would take each other for granted, you would be stuck with this person for the rest of your (and your partner's!) life and then you probably wish you could die! Nothing would be special anymore. This is one of the many reasons why I hate Twilight so much. Are we supposed to think it's so romantic that Bella and Edward are going to live forever? I remember one scene in the book where Bella is having a fit because Edward had to leave her for one night, and it's like, relax, you guys are going to spend the rest of eternity together, I think you can handle one lousy day apart, good Lord! There is a really bad line in this movie that could have easily been in a Twilight book - that's how much it made me roll my eyes! When the Tucks are ready to take Winnie home, Jesse tells her, "If I could die tomorrow I would do it just to spend one more night with you!" First of all, let's calm down. The girl is only fifteen. They make this line sound very sexual for a PG Disney family movie! They probably should have changed "night" to "day".

Winnie is seriously considering drinking the water, but after she hears Miles tell his story about how eternal life isn't all it's cracked up to be, she begins to waver. She does like the idea of never dying, but when Angus tells her, "Don't be afraid of death, be afraid of the un-lived life," that is what cements her decision NOT to drink the water.

Ben Kingsley plays a man in a yellow suit who is supposed to be the villain, but he didn't seem very villainous to me. Not until we learn he wants to collect the water and sell it to people "for a price", but Mae hits him in the head with a shovel before he has a chance to. Mae is arrested for murder and is to be hanged, but Winnie and the others know she won't die and then everyone will become suspicious, so they devise a plan to help Mae escape. This is when Winnie has to say her good-byes to the Tucks and can finally return to her family.

The movie ends in "present day" 2002 where we see Jesse on a motorcycle. He looks the same as he did in 1914, only now he's wearing jeans and a leather jacket. We see that he's come to visit Winnie's gravestone which says she lived a good 100 years (1899-1999) and was a wife and mother (and probably grandmother and great-grandmother), so we know she took Angus's advice and lived her life. I was glad the movie went this way and did not have Winnie drinking the water. 

1 comment:

  1. i've been looking for this movie title since yesterday, because i also only remembered about the immortality part of a family because of drinking water from a spring in the woods...it's been 19 years since the last time i watched this movie! i finally found the title from this blog..thank u