Friday, November 11, 2005


10 posterAt the heart (such as it is) of Blake Edwards's "10" is the mismatch between Bo Derek's effortless beauty on the one hand and Dudley Moore's comic pratfalls on the other.

Bo Derek plays Jenny Hanley, a young bride with a flawless body and ridiculous hair, who is called upon to do little in this film except lie smoulderingly on the beach, run up and down said beach with boobs perkily bouncing, flash us these same boobs back in her hotel room, and extol the virtues of fucking to Ravel's Bolero.

Moore plays George Webber, a composer of "elevator music" who has somehow made it to 42 and a life of Beverley Hills mansions and Rolls Royce convertibles despite his incompetence in almost every area of life's practicalities. Now, entering some kind of midlife crisis, he falls for the image of perfection that the sight of Jenny offers.

But George is comically unsuited to charming seduction. Distracted upon first catching sight of Jenny, he crashes the Rolls into a police car; shortly thereafter he falls into his mansion's swimming pool while ripping his phone from its socket having hit himself with his own telescope and already fallen through the garden hedge. His appearance is disfigured by a bee sting on his nose and by the bloated effects of having six cavities filled by Jenny's dentist father. Much is made of his stature (unprepossessing) and his character ("unnaturally belligerent and exhaustingly childish").

Julie Andrews's character, George's off-again, on-again girlfriend Samantha Taylor, remarks that she and he are "the original odd couple." But it's George and Jenny who are more obviously unsuited.

And it's to compound Dudley Moore's ability to play embarrassment and awkwardness, as well as to remove Bo Derek from too much demanding everyday interaction (or acting), that the film takes them and us to Mexico for the bulk of the movie's central section.

Webber arrives at his beachside resort drunk, sweaty, and exhausted after a harrowing plane trip and wild taxi ride. He proves even more unsuited to life in the tropics than he is to surviving Los Angeles. The hotel goes to every effort to put him at his ease, with a pineapple drink at reception and even a helping lift down to the sea so he doesn't burn his feet on the hot sand. But these very luxuries are simply further indignities.

on the beach
In other words, it's as much because of as despite the fact that George is so carefully insulated from any Mexico other than the resort's simulacrum (and even then he's not insulated enough, as when he's woken by a Mariachi band outside his window) that he's so glaringly out of place.

Jenny seems instinctively, naturally to belong. Her bathing costume, tanned skin, and the sand all blur one into another, and wrapped up in her corn-row braids are beads and feathers as though she's incorporated some part of the physical environment. Perhaps it's for that reason that she's so featureless and characterless: the few lines she's given provide only the barest caricature of a free-loving hippy chick.

But in the end "10" validates as well as mocks George's sense of displacement and discomfort. He finally refuses Jenny's seduction not just because he can't coolly sleep with someone else's honeymoon bride, but also because he won't.

And with that, George is back to the US, to reconcile with Samantha, but also to reconcile himself to his failure to be reconciled.

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