Saturday, May 30, 2009

Keir Dullea

Today marks the 73d birthday of actor Keir Dullea. He's probably best known as the human star of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, putting the poor HAL 9000 computer out of its misery when it decides to try to kill the humanoids because they're imperfect. (HAL must have been running Windows.) Dullea was also in Bunny Lake is Missing, which I've recommended before. One of his earliest movies is one I haven't recommended yet: David and Lisa.

Dullea stars as David, an adolescent who's got some problems: he's an obsessive compulsive, and doesn't want to be touched by anybody, since he thinks they've all got terrible germs that will kill him. Felix Unger has nothing on him. His parents are too absorbed in their own lives to know what to do, so they send him to a special school for mentally troubled teens, although most of the people there are lower on the intelligence scale -- David is bright, and extremely arrogant about it. He thinks he doesn't have problems; everybody else does.

This changes when David meets Lisa (Janet Margolin), a naïve young woman who's suffering some schizoid tendencies, and who only talks in rhymed couplets. For whatever reason, David takes a shine to Lisa, seemingly wanting to protect her. This is put to the test, however, when the students are taken to a museum and, afterwards, Lisa wants to go back, even breaking out of the institution to do so....

David and Lisa is a poignant, well-crafted movie, with very good performances from both of its young leads in what is, to say the least, not easy subject material. David is simultaneously dislikeable for his arrogance, and yet likeable for his vulnerability -- you can feel that the arrogance is a mental defense to hide his fears. Lisa, on the other hand, is a more difficult character to play, because her mental problems are more serious (and more alien to normally healthy people) than Davids. Yet Janet Margolin makes us feel empathy for Lisa without making Lisa come across as cloying like Forrest Gump.

David and Lisa is, thankfully, available on DVD.

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