If Mike Royko is correct and California is our national lunatic
preserve, then Marin County is the transitional institution where residents
gradually ease themselves back into the mainstream with maintenance dosages of
granola, yogurt, cocaine, television, hot tubs, sex, being OK, and telling you
you're OK, too. I talked today to an old friend from Chicago named Sandra
Singer who has moved to Marin, and she summed up the difference between the two
places very simply: "You don't have to get up real early in the morning to
deal with these folks. Everybody out here is debating whether the movie is
accurate or not." That anyone could argue whether "Serial" is
accurate is mind-boggling.
is across the bay from San Francisco, and, if "Serial" is to be
believed, is inhabited by a race of upper-middle-class zombies mesmerized by
the social trends of the moment. Hey, man, they're really into being into
things. "Serial" first appeared as a California best seller by Cyra
McFadden, who satirized life in Marin as if it were a continuing soap opera. To
the degree that the satire failed, it was because life in Marin is a continuing
now we have the movie. It is not a very good movie; it's one of those comedies
where the occasional genuine laughter is punctuated by long periods of silence.
But it's faithful to the book, more or less. It shows us an alien life form
with a superficial resemblance to the human being.
creatures ride bicycles to the ferry to conserve fuel. They are all going to
the shrink. They trade spouses. Their kids join obscure religious cults. Their
hearts are filled with love, their minds with dread, their bowels with bran.
Their marriages and memorial services are holdovers from the days of the flower
children, with incantations about the earth and the sky and doing your own
in Marin keep their entertainment options open: An executive headhunter by day
is likely to be the head of a gay motorcycle gang by night. The weather in
Marin is always just great.
movie puts its cast through its paces as if this were a suburban
"MASH." There's a complicated plot, lots of characters, and a story
structure that cuts back and forth, for example, between an outdoor renewal of
marriage vows and a bike gang raid on a cult headquarters. It's as if all of
Marin is fueled by the same life force, which simply manifests itself in
of the movie's lines of dialogue are very funny (and most of the funny ones
cannot be quoted here). Some of the characters are well-drawn, especially Peter
Bonerz as a cocaine-sniffing psychiatrist who solemnly informs a 10-year-old he
needs to get in touch with his childhood. The dialogue is jammed with code
words, catch phrases and fashionable pseudo-psychological jargon: everybody in
the movie seems to have learned the language out of the back issues of Mother
Earth News and Psychology Today.
for all of that, "Serial" just isn't very good. I think maybe that's
because the characters are seen almost exclusively as caricatures. Nobody in
this movie are real enough for us to identify with; they're seen as such
completely robotized victims of the Me Decade that they don't have enough
freedom of choice to make their behavior meaningful - or funny. They stand in
sharp contrast, that is, to the sturdy individualists, brilliant eccentrics and
clear thinking citizenry of our own Chicago suburbs.