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Stay and The Jacket

April 28, 2006

After reading IMDB message boards as I often do after I watched movies, I found other people had theories for The Jacket that are similar to Stay.  They propose that Jack had really died in Iraq, and the entire movie is just his brain cells dying and making up a world where he goes back to the US, gets put in an asylum and travels through time.  I'm told this is also the plot in Jacob's Ladder, with a soldier in Vietnam living the movie through his last instant as he lay dying from a stab wound.  I haven't seen Jacob's Ladder but put it in my queue to see if the plots are similar.

Now it seems to me that if The Jacket was a dying hallucination, I would have gotten it the first time I watched it.  I like to think of myself as a person who "gets" movies, although certainly there are smaller symbols and meanings that I tend to miss the first time around and notice later on.  12 Monkeys and Stay both benefit from multiple viewings. 

The problem with The Jacket being a dying hallucination is that I don't think people would have gotten that out of the movie without watching Jacob's Ladder first.  The idea planted from Jacob's Ladder might easily transfer over, because they are both soldiers wounded in the field that could dream of a life back home.  But I think if The Jacket would have been such a dream or hallucination, there would have been more repetitious characters.  In "The Wizard of Oz" all the characters from Oz were just transformations of the real life characters.  The same goes for the children's dad in "Peter Pan" turning into Captain Hook, and the people surrounding Henry's body on the bridge appearing in his dying dream in Stay.  Either it's the author's way of really cementing the idea that YES this is just a dream, or people honestly believe that everything we dream is rooted in our lives somehow.  To be honest, it is rare for me to dream of people I have never seen before, but it does happen.

So why do I like Stay so much and The Jacket so little?  I guess for me the difference is style.  By the end in Stay, where they are on the bridge, right before Henry goes back to reality, it's so beautiful.  It's one of the most beautiful and memorable images I've ever seen with a movie.  With the Jacket, there is very little style in the movie.  It doesn't move you, trick you, make you feel like reality is all fucked up.

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