Contact 1997 (Directed by Robert Zemeckis)

Sometimes I get worried that my comprehension of the world – the way it presents itself and the way I conceive it – is getting less and less reliable. Is it just me or are we generally more likely to be wasting our time these days? If I added the hours of crappy TV series that I have re-watched and the hours of bad 1990s movies I've sat through because a streaming service is pushing them on their banner, I would get a huge portion of time. The hours I've wasted. As I move between states of stress, responsibility, creativity and care I often yearn for 'me time'. Then when it comes I watch a film like Contact, which in the end makes me feel cheated and like I am cheating. Can you believe that the other day Nick and I ended up watching Hitch because Zodiac just didn't seem right for the mood? Bad choices abound.

McConaughey and Foster in Contact
Another worrying sign is my concept of time. I often catch myself thinking that the year 2005 is about five years ago. It is a decade ago! This reveals that I think I'm still in 2010. But now we are living in the future, baby! And in the future Matthew McConaughey is good. Unfortunately, in 1997 he is not. About 30 minutes into the film Nick decided to reveal to me that Contact is in fact directed by the same director as Forrest Gump. I politely nudged him on the arm and told him that if this information had been disclosed in advance we would not be sitting on this couch. But as I have recently become infatuated with space, I wanted to see where this tediously slowly building odyssey would take me.

I usually adore Jodie Foster, but here she is just a bit too normcore. Her role is pretty thankless. Foster is the goddess-like intergalactic traveller who has nothing to lose and everything to gain because she has no relatives and she does not believe in god. McConaughey is supposed to be her love-interest and finally a reason to return to the earth and to find some kind of meaning beyond science. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be chemistry there. I just see actors who do not connect but act out of duty and the advancement of their Hollywood careers... Despite its massive faults, I had a few moments of pleasure thinking about Vega the star and time traveling. Time slows down in space. I cherish the idea. Maybe that's where I've been hanging.

In space no one can hear you scream, but in the privacy of my own home my neighbours can hear me groan as the credits begin to roll on Robert Zemeckis' Contact. My curiosity regarding Contact was piqued by some commentators comparing Interstellar's main premise about time travel and time slowing down in space, a theme that Contact does cover (albeit briefly). Of course there's the McConaughey factor (another chime with Interstellar), but the less said about Matthew in Contact –and even less said about his hair – the better. I curse my curiosity, because Zemeckis has been responsible for some truly average fair. Of course, his saving grace are the excellent Back To The Future movies and the marvellous Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which are still great. Stop directing after those Robert and you'll always be remembered as a genius. But you had to go and make Death Becomes Her, Forrest Gump and What Lies Beneath. There's been some decent work since. For example, I've had a will to see his last movie Flight, but after the disappointment of this, me and Robert might have to say goodbye.

A bold step..
Another thought Contact raises is what the hell happened to Jodie Foster? She has to carry Contact pretty much alone and it's one of the movie's biggest failings. I miss that street spunk she had in Taxi Driver or the startled Starling from Silence Of The Lambs. If Foster had managed a performance of this level, it could have saved Contact, but the material she has to work with is poor and she often looks uncomfortable and lost here. Foster's career has to be one of the what-if's of Hollywood. It seems post-Lambs she had it all going for her but some poor choices and a fleeting role as an apologist for Mel Gibson seems to have derailed her. Contact could be the start of the decline. I'm interested in her The Beaver picture purely because it seems so bat-shit-crazy. Somewhere Foster still promises something.

all filler no killer
But the biggest problem and the most unforgivable is the stench of tedium Contact emits. This film has no excuse. It's got an interesting idea, and ideas are hard to come by. But every crushing boring moment between the interesting dialogue is catalogued like one of Forster's 'could it be them talking to us' sounds. Edit and eradicate the padding. Like a 72 minute CD full of filler and no killer, Contact just couldn't help itself at being overlong and tedious. Any excitement is consigned to Jodie and David Morse in front of a beach scene blue screen (I'm not kidding). After the disappointment of last week's UK vote for 5 more years of David Cameron, Contact feels like the kind of entertainment governments come up with to keep the masses quiet and at bay. Tranquilizer.


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