First Snow

The most interesting moments in First Snow are fleeting ones -- the glint in J.K. Simmons's eye, and the expressions on William Fichtner's face as his character falls into the little brother wannabe role with Guy Pearce's overladen badass character. At its best it's a movie about men's relationships with other men: Pearce tells Fichtner "I love you" twice and his old buddy Shea Whigham kisses him just before blowing his own brain to bits. Despite a steamy bathtub scene with Piper Perabo, it's Pearce's male friends that have the most power over his life. But the movie drags, and by the time Pearce has his paranoid breakdown holed up in a motel room, I just didn't care very much about his existential problems upon hearing from a fortune teller that his days were numbered. The noirish feel was neither fresh nor self-aware -- just a collage of predictable ingredients: highway, liquor bottles, desert, etc etc.

I was interested in seeing this movie, though, because I think it's part of a larger Zeitgeist, a trend I've been noting in recent films that are concerned with epistemological or philosophical "what ifs" -- what if you could foresee the future (Next, Premonition), or what if the future is
just a repeat of the past (Deja Vu, the short-lived TV show Day Break). I think this rash of quasi-fantastical, quasi-realistic stories can be seen as cultural responses to the war in Iraq and the epistemological crises that even the most mainstream newspapers have been recognizing: what if we/they had known then what is known now; what if we could foresee the outcome of our current actions; what if the future is only a doomed repetition of the past.