We were all once young, idealistic, and a notion of what we wanted out of adulthood. We settle for employment that isn't really what we wanted and we learn what we need to pretend to be to be successful at a job, especially once promoted. Then the kids come. We wake up one day to realize that we are no longer pretended to be a strict supervisor focused on productivity but have actually turned into that person. At some point we feel inside that we've sold out and a correction is needed. And then comes the often ridiculed but essentially needed mid-life crisis where we get back on track (having dutifully waited for the children to be old enough to fend for themselves).
However, some never question what they have become which are basically people pleasers. Our protagonist is forced into realization by an old college friend who kept his Manifesto of how he saw life and the goals he wished to achieve and basically wrangles our protagonist into a weekend seminar. And like all people pleasers, he asks for his boundaries, if he's in the right room, and doesn't understand when some people are mean to him.
I like story lines where average people are forced into extraordinary circumstances and rise to the occasion. And part was hard to watch, especially that blond girl who always answered a question with a question. She was stopped just in the nick of time as I almost quit watching because of her. She was necessary but that didn't make it easier to watch.
I think what weakened the film was that the group did not essentially succeed in waking our guy up, blackmail rather defeats the effectiveness of the program. It should not be needed. And the whole "product" usage was strange as well. Was this just a strange initiation into a pyramid scheme? Was this truly to wake up people from being zombies? Has our hero truly changed or is he just being exploited by a new boss/company? The rooms with sexual things going on also confused the point of the film, where no really should mean no. Yet obviously a group who would trick people into attending would have no problem with carefully manipulated seduction of a sexual manner.
The strength of the film is that it is thought provoking. It provoked a review which I do not usually do. It made observations about society, big business, and how so many go through through life in a prescribed way never living out their dreams. It's not a movie that I'd wholehearted endorse, but one I'd recommend to another if I had an indication that they'd like the subject matter. It's a thinking person's film, not lighthearted entertainment. It's ending was weak, having peaked in a very well executed scene where our hero seems to deal with the situation very appropriately, having pleased his last person . . . only to be thwarted once again and giving in. Maybe. Maybe the clues were there all along as he was told by others, "I had to take the seminar several times." Maybe like Fight Club, one becomes addicted to the fight and the adrenaline rushes. Who knows? Like I said, this film is very thought provoking, just muddy as to what the goal of the organization really about. I would have liked to see that eliminated and the scenes not conducive to the ending omitted.
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