Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why I Love 'The Point of No Return'

"I'll take it," Maggie says of the rundown apartment, barely more than a hovel, right on Santa Monica beach. She confirms this as soon as she sees the view from the second story window, of sea and sand and seagulls afloat in the air. The gentle introductory vocals of "Feeling Good" is cued.

Maggie had been trapped, first in the hell of drug addiction, and then in a secret government training facility. Her assassin training completed, she is finally free. Maggie, as played by Bridget Fonda, is quietly contemplative in the window seat of her newly rented digs while Nina Simone sings of freedom, one of my favorite scenes from 'The Point of No Return,' one of many.

I never saw the original French film that it was based on: 'La Femme Nikita.' I'm almost glad that I didn't as I had heard from a few people that it was better. I didn't want to stop loving the American version. Why did I become so attached to this movie about a female assassin?

The songs of Nina Simone definitely played a key factor. It was my first exposure to her music. I liked that Maggie describes it as "so savage, and so wild." I quickly learned to love the raw, almost masculine/gender-neutral quality of Miss Simone's singing voice, especially in the bittersweet melodies of "Wild is the Wind," and "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair."

I also loved that the character of Maggie is a survivor. Even in seemingly hopeless situations, she continues to fight and search for an escape. Early in the movie, handcuffed and sentenced to death in court (a faux sentence) she struggles and attempts to find a way out. Later, while working as an assassin, her instinct for survival helps her to find a way out of more than one lethal situation.

Charm school was also part of Maggie's training, as provided by Anne Bancroft's character. Initially an unkempt and unruly drug addict, Fonda's character is given a makeover, not only in appearance but also in ladylike behavior.

"Always smile when you enter a room, dear." Anne Bancroft advises. "It relaxes others - and, it lifts the features of the face."

With a better hairdo and tasteful, tailored clothes, Bridget Fonda gets to kick ass and fight the bad guys with some pretty convincing martial arts moves. A petite and rather scrawny actress, I'm inspired by the physical strength Fonda's character demonstrates, as well as her mental and emotional strengths.

Maggie walks away from it all at the end of the movie, which is probably the biggest reason why I love it so much - she simply walks away from everything. Fonda's character, for all of her government paid work, does not truly have the heart of a killer, and she wants to leave. She's told that she can't, at first, because it's the price she has to pay for her freedom. She walks away anyway, after waiting for and finding her chance - yet again - to escape.

Maggie survives being assassinated herself. Battered and bruised, she disappears into the morning fog of Santa Monica beach. She is seen, but then she is allowed to continue walking away. I love the symbolism of it.

I miss being able to escape, being able to run away on contract as a dancer, either on a cruise ship or to Japan. Going away on contract meant I didn't have to live in or deal with reality. Or the illusion of it, at least, taking a break from the real world, was convincing enough.

I have very little to run away from nowadays. I can live with myself. But some days I yearn to walk away, even if only on an emotional level, and just disappear into the fog.

1 comment:

Lori said...

Actually this is one of my favorites as well and I saw the French version, it's not better, in fact it's exactly the same, nearly scene for scene.

I love it when she says, "I never did mind much about the little things." When shit hits the fan, just as her charm school teacher had taught her. It's stuck with me and I've said it myself more than once.