boy for the New Year's resolution
carries some weight
arcane notion of New Year's resolutions may have found a proper poster boy in
Christian Bale lost more than one-third of his 180 pounds for "The Machinist."
["B_LE," by Mary Bergherr]
An emaciated Bale stars in "The
Machinist," a recent thriller about a wafer-thin insomniac with endless problems
that range far beyond eating disorders and an annoying lack of sleep.
character, Trevor Reznik, is hallucinating and having trouble distinguishing between
reality and imagination.
He's accident prone, has lost his
blue-collar job and is becoming ever more paranoid. He hasn't slept in a year,
can't find his appetite and the walls are closing in.
is losing his mind.
Yet the most amazing aspect of this noirishly
fascinating movie is that Bale dropped more than 60 pounds to play the part.
Such unusual methods, of course, carry little
weight if surrounded by weak acting, bad direction or an inane script. But Bale
didn't lose weight just to lose weight. He did it upon finding a role he really
wanted and the payoff came when he used his shockingly thin body to turn in a
riveting, nuanced, unforgettable performance.
look at the script and think, 'Oh my God, I get a chance to lose weight for this
movie. Yes!'" the 30-year-old Bale told the San Francisco Chronicle. "That
would have been moronic. It was a matter of me liking the script so much that
I wanted to achieve what I felt was necessary.
mirror: Bale checks in.|
hit a point where the running wasn't working anymore," he said. "It
was more like stumbling the legs had atrophied to such an extent they looked
In other words, Bale didn't shed more than one-third
of his weight through surgery, bulimia, laxatives or designer drugs. He did it
the old-fashioned way, using an incentive (the intriguing role), mind control
(starving himself) and hard work to burn some calories (running).
Yes. But a model of mind over matter that, by definition, is a New Year's resolution.
film is filled with unforgettable moments, large and small not the least
of which is the irony of the only scene where we see Trevor eat a meal. He makes
like a one-man pack of wolves devouring some kind of roadkill carcass while opening
Meanwhile, director Brad Anderson provides eerie shades of cobalt
blue awash in creepy music. He follows Trevor's downward spiral until it becomes
impossible to parse fact from fiction for Trevor and moviegoer alike.
Scott Kosar's shrewd script provides Trevor with two friends a hooker (Jennifer
Jason Leigh) and a waitress (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), along with endless bit players
who may or may not be out to get him. Everything exists somewhere in the netherworld
between Trevor's deteriorating life and those danged paranoid visions.
at story's end, a plausible and satisfying explanation comes to the fore. At last,
Trevor's paranoia, sleeplessness and hallucinations all add up.
for art: the easy explanation.|
Which leaves one contemplating
many things while exiting the theater. But foremost among them is this: Sure,
Trevor's weight loss makes sense within the movie's context, but just how did
the real-life actor drop all those pounds?
OK, Bale suffered for his art.
That's the "easy" explanation. But is there anything for the rest of
us to learn?
If the answer is yes, then what we need as we embark on yet
another year of potentially flimsy resolutions at seemingly overwhelming odds,
is to find the equivalent of our own plum role on this planet to provide that
We live in a world increasingly dependent on immediate
gratification and superficial concerns. But the human mind, at best, is quite
the opposite. It requires long-term goals and a satisfying depth of field to achieve
Of course, resolutions always start with a full head of steam
even the ones that dissolve into nothingness. There are 24 hours each and
every day that can scream of bad habits by name. But there's something to be said
for surrounding oneself with positive routines, good hobbies and great friends
in addition to finding that elusive incentive.
We have the capacity to accomplish
a great deal more than we let ourselves believe. Sometimes all we're missing is
the right direction.
Happy New Year's resolution.