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Hard Core Logo: Why the End Is Right

If you want to talk about Noel Baker's book on HCL and the question-mark bubbles that appeared above your head as you read it...or penetration (a. contrived, b. consensual, c. non-consensual, d. Noel Baker's lack of interest in...) scroll down in my journal to the OTHER HCL post and join us!  Three posts down.  We love it when people join the conversation and we track like you wouldn't believe.  Try us. 

If you'd like to talk about The End and the events leading up to it, come in here.  But I Am Telling You...

...this is the Spoiler Supreme with a side of spoily fries.

Late at night Hugh comes into our suite and tells us he has a new idea for the end of the film, to do with his character.  I’m thinking oh pleeeese go to bed and learn tomorrow’s lines.  But Hugh’s just dying to get this off his chest, so we sit and listen.  It takes about ten minutes for him to get to the end of his thought.  Which leaves us kind of stunned.  We know Hugh’s onto something, something that gives the story a much stronger sense of closure than anything I’ve written.  It’s a shocking ending.  It’s huge.  It changes everything….It’s an ending we never would have considered without seeing two days of Hugh’s performance.  Now we know who Joe Dick really is, we know this will work, we know there is no other ending to the film.
From Hard Core Road-Show, by Noel S. Baker.


Normally, I’m not a big fan of a movie killing a character that I love.  (Two fingers at you, Joss Whedon.)  But I think Joe’s death is essential to the movie.  It informs the scenes that come before it, which gives the viewer a weird and intense feeling of satisfaction.  As if you’re experiencing the movie in one piece, as opposed to a string of events laid out over time. 


BTW, this is NOT some kind of resistance to any sequel which reverses the ending.  I love HCL for what it is, on its own.  Bruce McDonald, if you have figured out a sequel, I’m very happy.  You want to bring Joe Dick back?  Bring him.  Please.


While I’m in the Land of Asides, I should acknowledge that...you know, I’m 12 years late to this party and that this is well covered ground.  I think lots of other people have had similar thoughts about the movie --- in fact, I just found some great discussions that address this topic, from brooklinegirl and lyra_sena.  This is just my take.  These are the scenes that, for me, link so perfectly to the final scene and give magnificent shape and resonance to the movie.  Ok, so…


1.  In the opening, Joe describes the attack on Bucky --- the lie that inspired the concert.  Joe says Bucky Haight was merely wounded, as opposed to other rock heroes, who have died.  Joe says Bucky was “robbed” --- what he means is not that he was robbed of his legs (was it both legs? J), but that he was robbed of  his rightful status as a martyr of rock ‘n’ roll.  According to Hard Core Road-Show, this was even clearer in the script than in the scene, as shown.


The correct end for a rock hero is a violent death.


2.  As Billy enters the movie, enters the club where the benefit is held, Joe stands against a wall.  He doesn’t approach Billy.  He doesn’t even look at him that much, as Billy greets the others.  He doesn’t look particularly happy.  This is one of those moments where what comes after helps you understand what comes now.  Because, later in the movie, we hear and see that all Joe’s energy is focused on getting Billy back and keeping him here.  Yet Billy walks in, after five years, and Joe just stands there. 


But god, you know that feeling, right?  When the person you want most comes into the crowded room.  Everything feels too big.  You can’t move right anymore.  You don’t know what to say or do.  It’s a little bit hard to even look at the person.  It’s fear and hope, suffocating you for a minute.  Everything’s too loud.  Can’t think.  Whatever, act normal...  That kind of thing.  That's what I see when I look at Joe.


After five years, there’s Billy.  Joe's other half.  The reason Joe invented this enormous contrivance of a concert, involving dozens of musicians, hundreds of people, thousands of dollars and one Bucky Haight.  It was all for this moment, but he didn’t quite believe it would happen until now.  He has what he wanted.


3.  Joe and Billy at the tiki bar.  


First, the discussion is Joe trying to get Billy to go on tour.  Billy says, “I’ll go.”  (Actually, he says, quite awesomely, “I’ll go go go go.” )  Joe is happy.  Billy lists some conditions but Joe’s just doing a happy dance and not listening.  Billy points out that Joe is not listening.  Joe says, “I lost you after ‘I’ll go’.  That’s what I liked.”  (Note that he really should have said, “You lost me after ‘I’ll go’.”  Instead he says “I lost you.”  An interesting slip of the tongue. J)  Billy tries to extract a promise that it’ll be one tour.  “When I get back, I’m done.  Say it.”  Joe:  “When I get back, I’m done.”  Joe doesn’t quite give Billy permission to leave.


Second, the time travel.  (Which might be one of the most delightful things I’ve ever seen in my whole life.)  During which Joe lays out their dynamic, explicitly.  Billy “disappears.”  Joe:  “Where’d Billy go?  Billy’s gone; uh-oh.”  Billy re-appears.  “Man, you scare the shit out of me when you time-travel like that!  It’s good to see you back.  You scared me.”  Joe “disappears.”  Billy gets up to leave.  Joe:  “I’m right here!  You don’t’ even care when I’m gone.  When you’re gone, I look for you.  I make an effort.  That’s not a fun game.”  


The amazing thing is that, if you read Hard Core Road-Show or listen to the commentary, they say that this scene veered completely off-script and ended up largely improvisation.  Hugh, left to his own devices, and with perfect collaboration from Callum, simply and playfully lays out an allegory for Joe and Billy’s main struggle.


Billy wants to go away.  These are the parts they play:  Billy is the one who goes away and Joe is the one who wants Billy back.


4.  “Which way you goin’, Billy?”  Over two of the diner scenes, the music is that old song, “Which Way You Goin’, Billy?”  It plays twice.  Then, the morning after Joe loses their cash to the hookers, Billy’s walking down the street to the ATM.  Pipe catches up to him and says, “Where you goin’, Billy?” 


I mean, seriously, listen to this. 

Song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8SPVEhZN5E

Lyrics:  http://www.kovideo.net/lyrics/p/Poppy-Family/Which-Way-You-Goin-Billy.html


The song, and Pipe, are the greek chorus --- Billy will leave like he did before.


5.  Driving the van, the movie game.  Joe can’t think of a good movie that begins with Y until he comes up with “Young at Heart.”  Billy asks, and Joe explains that Frank Sinatra plays a “drunk, depressed singer” who loves Doris Day, but “thinks he doesn’t deserve her love” and intentionally crashes his car.  Billy:  “Does he die?”  Joe:  “Of course…no, no he lives…” happily ever after, with Doris as his wife.  In the HCL script, Billy calls this “bullshit.”   In the scene, Billy makes that “incorrect” game-show buzzer sound in response to what Joe says. 


Joe reaches into his mind and what he comes up with is a movie with a happy ending between a messed-up singer and his beautiful blonde partner. But, as Noel Baker says, Billy is on some level warning Joe not to expect things to turn out well for them.


6.  The lyrics of “Something’s Gonna Die Tonight”.   First of all:  "I've got a bullet in my pocket like a Barney Fife.  And I'm saving it up for the right occasion."  Ok, that’s just a fantastic line. J


More to the point, (Sorry… more to the point than the bullet?  Yes.  The break.)  “Yeah, what do you do man, when you get beat up and your heart’s crushed in and you get let down by a person or a place or something you trusted.  Well you put up a fight, till what’s lost is found.”  


Joe lost Billy once.  Joe’s solution is to fight to get him back.  Not “fuck you”, not move on.  Get it back.


7.  At Bucky’s ranch.  Bucky is Joe’s musical hero.  As Billy points out, Joe’s ONLY musical hero.  Joe lied about Bucky’s tragedy --- Bucky is completely un-shot.  Bruce asks why Joe lied.  “Billy wouldn’t have gone for any of this shit if I hadn’t….”   And it turns out Bucky knows that Joe has used him.  Bucky severs his relationship with Joe. 


Joe has now traded Bucky for Billy – to get Billy back in his life.  He’s all in.


8.  At the next club, Joe asks Billy to stay for good.  “What about me and you? …What are we gonna do?  You and me?”  Not Hard Core Logo, not John and Pipe, necessarily.  Joe and Billy.  Joe asks Billy to stay with him, play with him. 


Billy:  “So you want you, me, you, me.”  Joe:  “Bingo.”  Billy agrees.  During a moment where Billy is turned away, Joe quickly moves a gun to his pocket.   


Joe wants Billy, and only Billy, for good this time.  What’s the gun about, at this point?  I don’t know.  Maybe on some level, he knows these are his options:  Billy or the gun.  Maybe that's a stretch.  But he does have a gun...


9.  Bruce hears about Billy’s firm offer from Jenifur.  Bruce tells Joe that Billy’s leaving.   After the last song, Joe punches Billy and they fight on the floor.  Joe stops and pulls back, not sure what to do with himself.  He grabs a bottle (And two glasses.  That’s, like, one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.) and goes outside.  He asks whether Bruce had a good time – whether he got everything he needed.  (Nice.  Because we hate Bruce right now.)  Joe shoots himself in the head.


Joe has lied and gambled and pleaded and asked for promises and gotten promises and now he has lost.  Joe, through the entire movie, has done everything he possibly could to achieve one thing:  Billy permanently in his life.  Now, instead, Joe is losing Billy again.  He either can’t stand the pain in this moment, or thinks he won’t be able to tolerate living without Billy.  He’s a rock singer.  Death is an option.  He takes it.


The movie relentlessly shows Joe pursuing Billy, in small ways and huge ways.  This is done so effectively, so organically, that the conclusion, though shocking and as much as you HATE it, feels right.  And as the movie seeps into your head, the death reaches back to touch the other scenes.  Watch Joe watch Billy.  Watch Joe kiss Billy onstage.  Watch Joe grab Billy like a mannequin and take him.  “He’s mine.”  Watch Joe tilt his head as Billy laughs.  Hear Joe say, “I love you.”  Watch Billy close behind Joe’s shoulder as Joe sings. “…In the shape of a heart in the middle of my name”.


Yeah, I’m sappy and I’m cramming all the sweet bits together in one ball of cookie dough.  But it is sad.  It’s very fucking sad and very right at the same time.


And I love how it works both ways.  The death doesn’t work if the stakes aren’t that high.  And the movie, previous to the death, sort of jolts to more vivid life, once Joe dies.  It’s a great ending.



Sep. 11th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
I think the ways in which he used everybody are not relevant.
Agreed in re: Bruce's callousness. I brought up all the using more to illustrate how I arrived at "Huh? We hate Bruce?" Because I was seeing Bruce as just the latest in a line of people who were nothing more than a means to an end for Joe.

And I guess...ok, how is Bruce so bad off? ... Bruce gets money to make his movie. I fail to see his damage.
Certainly the big lie was beneficial to Bruce's work. Can't be denied.

So I get that Bruce is pissed when he finds out about the lie, but I think Bruce is more upset over the treatment from the guys, in general.
Yes. It's the lie plus the treatment by the guys that cause Bruce to be so callous. It's fair to say that Bruce knows how Joe feels about Billy -- God, who doesn't, right? :-) -- which means his actions are deliberately hurtful.

The other problem I have with Bruce the Character is that he's sorta breaking a cardinal rule of documentary filmmaking, isn't he? ... At the end of the documentary shoot, he messes with the lives of his subjects!
Hmm. I guess it depends on how everyone feels about what Michael Moore does in his films. He's been on camera in, I believe, every one of his films, and he's won the Best Documentary Oscar.

I don't know that there are cardinal rules. I've seen fly-on-the-wall documentaries, i.e., no interviewing the subjects and just let the cameras roll. But those seem pretty rare anymore.