Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

July 6, 2012

Savages movie and its star triad

Oliver Stone's new movie Savages opened today, and reviews pour in. Its stars are a poly triad of weed growers/dealers who run afoul of a Mexican cartel. What's noteworthy here is that their tightly bonded V relationship is just treated as part of the story rather than a focus of attention, as if viewers know all about these things and need no explanation.

Reviewer Marshall Fine at the Huffington Post thinks the actors are duds:

...This film by Oliver Stone, based on a snappy novel by Don Winslow (who co-wrote the script with Shane Salerno), springs to life when the action gets cracking -- and settles into stoned somnolence when it turns its attention back to its central trio.

The story focuses on the romantic triad of Ophelia (or "O," as everyone calls her) played with uninviting dimness by Blake Lively; Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a stoner mercenary; and Ben (Aaron Johnson), a genius botanist with do-gooder, nonviolent impulses. They live together, love together -- well, not quite the whole polyamorous package because, while Chon and Ben both are boning O, they don't seem to have eyes for each other.

...This movie shifts into neutral whenever it zooms in on the three amigos, living large in Laguna Beach, where Ben's plant-breeding and Chon's business acumen have turned Ben's unique marijuana hybrid into the weed of choice for surfers and businessmen alike in smoke-happy SoCal. It's a sweet life -- until it's not.

Because now the Mexican cartel wants in.... When Stone can focus on the brutal violence of action setpieces... Savages jumps to life. Stone is in his element, cranking up the graphic imagery of what bullets do to flesh in ways that seem particularly shocking in the moment....

Kitsch finds one note -- anger -- to play as the unstoppable Chon. Lively tries to name that tune in even fewer notes, playing O as a total blank. She succeeds, creating a zero at the center of the film -- and, as a result, you continually wonder just why these two guys are risking life, limb and commerce for this dimwit....

Maybe the actors didn't know how to play a devoted triad, one in which (SPOILER COMING!) if one man dies, the other man and woman would commit suicide together out of grief. Here's an interview with the two guys that suggests they really didn't get it:

Q: ...Do you think that’s really possible to share a girlfriend without any jealousy like that?

Aaron Johnson: No, I don’t think it is [laughs]. Yeah, I think that says a lot about these guys that there’s no shame in their relationship, no jealousy, and it’s a bond that’s stronger than that.... I think she’s just fucking greedy, to be honest [laughs].

Ditto with Blake Lively, who plays the gal of the trio. In a different interview she also betrays cluelessness:

Lively said she and her co-stars found it challenging to understand "how three people can be in love."

"I think that what we finally learned after hours of trying to learn how to explain it is that you can't explain it - you just need to see it," she told OnTheRedCarpet.com. "And how do you see it? These three people love each other but why do they need each other? Because they never had that love from anyone else."

On the other hand, Franklin Veaux (of More than Two web fame) thinks they did fine:

I actually thought the three main characters did an excellent job; the way they deliver their dialog, for example, really suggests a lot of subtext and history to me.

Now, it could be that I'm projecting into their characters. But it also could be that the critics who accuse them of weak performances were expecting to see things -- drama, jealousy, anger, resentment -- that weren't there in the relationship. I think there's an expectation that if you have two people in love with a third, there is supposed to be tension or conflict between them...so when there wasn't any in the movie, the critics assumed it was because the actors couldn't portray it, not because the characters didn't have it.

I found the relationships between the main characters to be among the healthiest and most functional romantic relationships I've seen in any Hollywood movie. Perhaps the difficulty the critics are having is simply that healthy relationships tend not to be interesting?

So many articles on the movie are popping up that I'm not keeping track. Click here for hundreds of Google News results, with the most recent first.

Here's a review of reviews.

Poly writer Maria Padhila at Planet Waves loved the Savages book (2010) well before the movie appeared. See her article about both.

The movie is "rated R for strong brutal and grisly violence" etc. with torture, blood, death — "from brain matter to eye sockets" notes one review.




Anonymous Marjorie the Medium-rare said...

I thought it would be years before we would see poly relationships treated so nonchalantly in a mainstream movie. What's happening? Is Stone just trying to shock?

July 06, 2012 2:12 PM  
Anonymous welshbard said...

I'm reminded of Bandits, another crime/heist movie with a romantic triad of Bruce Willis, Cate Blanchett, and Billy Bob Thornton. Again, Bandits spends some time hashing out the triad, but most of the movie deals with the action.

July 06, 2012 6:24 PM  
Blogger kendermouse said...

It's a vee, not a triad. And it bothers me that the reviewer assumes that all three parties need to be in relationships with each other for it to be a true poly relationship.

July 06, 2012 7:09 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

> It's a vee, not a triad.

Definitions again. Common use of "triad" seems to include Vs in which the two people who are not sexual with each other still feel close and share important parts of life together as a group.

I know a V triad that's been together 16 years, raising kids, and they'd hand you your head on a platter if you suggested they weren't a "triad."

If it's sexual all around, I've heard it called an "equilateral" triad when someone wants to specify this. ("Delta triad" also used to be used but I haven't heard it much lately.)

July 07, 2012 10:42 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Speaking of Vs... I just looked again at that publicity photo... notice how those phallic chair arms (*real* hard woodies) form a dramatic V pointing from the guys to her parts. Coincidence? Or the photographer setting things up?

Freud and subliminals. I guess that's why some photographers get to be Hollywood photographers.

July 07, 2012 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Christopher Ryan said...

Right, and each holding his 6 incher in his right hand...

Anyone else get the sense that Butch Cassidy and Sundance had a V relationship with the woman they lived with in that film? Particularly the Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head part of the film felt very much like they were both sleeping with her.

July 07, 2012 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting comment about Butch and Sundance but you can depend on Hollywood to miss out the Important stuff from a book like the relationship aspect and highlight the Drugs and Violence Just think of the mess they would make of SSL or of any of the Lazarus Long stories that are heavy about Poly Relationships

July 08, 2012 4:54 AM  
Blogger Skeeter Sanders said...

Marshall Fine might be more up on polyamory (and bisexuality) than you might think. I was struck by the fact that Fine made mention that the characters Chon (played by Taylor Kitsch), and Ben (played by Aaron Johnson) aren't bisexual.

I've mentioned before that for a poly triad to be a truly equilateral one, in which all three partners are sexually intimate with each other, it's pretty much a no-brainer that at least two of the three partners in that triad have to be bisexual. Otherwise, the triad is a vee.

Given that mainstream society still has a major problem with same-sex male relationships (as opposed to same-sex female ones), We might not see a Hollywood film with three characters in a truly equilateral M-F-M triad for a long time -- if ever.

July 08, 2012 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Lucius Scribbens said...

I think the comment by Marshall Fine: "well, not quite the whole polyamorous package because, while Chon and Ben both are boning O, they don't seem to have eyes for each other." shows he just doesn't get it either. I assume from this statement that he thinks that to be polyamorous everyone involved in the relationship has to be having sex with everyone in the relationship.

Let the misinterpretations and misunderstandings begin.

July 10, 2012 2:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of disagreement here about whether it's a vee or a triad. (Semantics...sheesh!)

I saw the movie. Sexually? They are a Vee. True. As far as LOVE goes? They are a triad. Very plain to see.

Not to give away too many spoilers, but:
Ben says to Chon "Did I tell you I love you?" Chon replies "Yep this morning!"

And Salma Hayek's character, at one point says to Ophelia: "Those two boys probably love each other more than they love you. How else would they agree to share the same girl?" (While I don't really agree with her logic, it's yet another point in the film where they make it clear the two fellas love each other!)

So there ya go.

July 10, 2012 10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the anonymous above me. I noticed numerous cues indicating that the guys are into each other. Then, that conversation in the car "did I tell you I love you?" and the response "yes, this morning" with the look! the look! - this tells me they actually f*** each other that morning! (ok, so this could be a bit disagreement with the anonymous above, lol) But, yeah I love the movie as it is.

July 23, 2012 4:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People are just saying it's wrong because a girl has two boyfriends. But I bet if it was a guy with two girlfriends no one would have a problem with it.
I hate that shit!!!! >:/

August 25, 2014 11:12 PM  

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