Good Is Good, But Falls Short Of Goals
12 November 2008
Image Larry Horricks.
© Good Films.
"Hitler's a joke, he'll never last."
For John Halder this is just one of a laundry list of excuses to ease his guilt at having joined the Nazi party to further his career in 1937. Played by Viggo Mortensen, Halder's plight in the film Good (Good Films, 2008) is that of millions of Germans before World War II who allowed the Holocaust to occur by their own denial and inaction.
Director Vicente Amorim shows a side of infamous history with rare sympathy- that of the hesitant participant in the Third Reich-in this contribution to the Twentieth Annual Boston Jewish Film Festival. Adapted from C.P. Taylor's long-running play, Good attempts to expose the subtle moral struggle of everyday people, but its heavy-handed script ultimately fails to translate to the silver screen.
Jason Isaacs, best known for his role on the Providence-based series Brotherhood, inserts a dose of reality into Halder's delusional world as his Jewish psychiatrist, Maurice, and best friend since they served together in World War I. Isaacs was scheduled to speak at the screening this past weekend at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, but due to a scheduling conflict with his upcoming film Greenzone, starring Matt Damon, he appeared via video recording to give his take on the film's function as a parable.
Using common actions like buying goods made in China by underpaid workers, contributing to pollution by flying in airplanes and doing little to impact civic leadership save casting a ballot every few years as examples, Isaacs discussed the guilt that many feel for their complicity in the moral failings of modern society. According to the veteran actor, we all rationalize these actions, or inactions, because it is easier than confronting the great number of issues and causes that appear to overwhelm any small voice of opposition.
Although it is difficult to navigate this ethical terrain, Isaacs says, the movie "should remind ourselves that there is a moral compass, there is a line drawn in the sand even though it may be hard to find sometimes."
Unfortunately the film falls just short of this lofty goal, despite an excellent cast and beautiful cinematography on location in Budapest. Perhaps it is because the project aims so high that it is doomed to disappoint. Instead of hinting at the contradiction of the professor's honorary status as "Consultant in Humanity" for the Fuehrer while being a friend of Maurice, the script emphasizes the obvious conflict with lines such as, "I'm a Jew, you're a Nazi, end of story."
Still, Good does expose just how a little flattery and temptation can persuade otherwise "good men" to turn a blind eye to injustice. Halder was a loyal husband to a spacey wife, attentive father to his children and caregiver to his fatally ill mother who got caught up in the fantasy of a better life, free of consequences. He is oddly reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart's classic role in It's a Wonderful Life in that everyday men become cynical after years of sacrifice and lose sight of their impact on others.
Even better is Jodie Whittaker in her role as Halder's young student-turned-wife whose turn as an Aryan vixen allows her to coo seductively simple, yet utterly illogical questions such as, "anything that makes people happy can't be bad can it?" If anything, Good proves that arguing with the devil is never easy.
Good premiered at this year's Toronto Film Festival, is currently on limited release, and will be released to all theaters on Dec. 31.
Last edited: 26 November 2008 14:31:47