Separating Emotions from Rationality: Analysis of the Movie: Acrimony

It is often very thought-provoking when Literature opens a can of worms. More beautifully, though, when that container of worms is the type that can be seen and understood in every society and strata: rural or urban, modern or ancient, black or white, Africa or America.

Though the movie, Acrimony, is an American movie – written by and for, set, cast and shot in America, the issues addressed in the movie are perennial issues that span all generations and all continents of the globe. Hence, the exceptionalism of the movie is that it could be understood and discussed across cultures without any need for cross-cultural adaptations.

The casts, camera works, directions, shots and all other elements of a modern cinema are done with spotless perfection, with all the ingredients of a professional outing.

The primary characters: Melinda and Robert are created as the cardinal poles in which the entire story revolves around. And for the fact that a greater percentage of the story is influenced by the first-person narration of Melinda, which doubles as a conversation with a counsellor, leads the audience to the innermost thoughts of Melinda: exposing in the process, her pride, stupidity, erratic behaviour, evil, greed and an unrepentant moral abscess. 

Robert, on the other hand, is not a saint but is any other young man out there who needs to have a life for himself and for the ones he will grow up to love. Leaving behind the sore that his father is imprisoned, that he himself is an Excon, and that American corporate society has little or no space for Exons. He lives beyond that walls of his classroom, creates an invention and hopes to push his new-found ideas to the corporate world.

Besides the ills that Melinda exposes in her conversation with the counsellor, she is a rich young girl, with decent housing and a good fortune left for her by her dead mother. Melinda is not only a rich kid but a ‘normal one’ whose grades in school are nothing but Fs. And who, taken away from the garden that she is raised, cannot bear witness to the harsh conditions of life, except the rigours of the classroom.

As the plot of the story kicks, the pair is introduced. Robert runs into Melinda, splashing her books in the rain. In the course of pushing further into reconciliation, the pair becomes friends and Melinda’s mother passes. The intimate story of the pair begins.

In the story of their intimacy, recklessness drives the plot. Melinda, a young woman, opens herself for sex barely few hours after her mother’s interment.  Who does that? Again, with a guy she just met, in a relationship that is not yet defined. She was even the who invited Robert into the bed!

The pair zooms to the Altar for the vows. Exchanged it without knowing much about each other. Raw fasts emerged after the wedding, the most sultry one being that Robert is an Excon whose future with the corporate world is bleak. Till the end of the movie, never has it been said, or as anyone ever cared to ask or does the audience know why Robert’s father is serving time. That is supposed to be the father-in-law, anyway!

Robert’s recurrent statements to Melinda is his battery project. Melinda’s is always about love. While Robert believes that he loves Melinda, he has never for once lost focus on the fact that his battery invention needs to be pushed forward, even more than his college education.

Again, Melinda enjoys signing the cheques effortlessly. The money she has never worked for and doesn’t even know how it was made, she took the liberty in signing out again and again, till the three hundred plus dollars returned to zero. Note, never did Robert request for these cheques, though he implies. The only instant that he made a clear request was for the house mortgage.

Melinda is fast to dismiss Roberts’ invention, calling for Robert to get employment. In the course of pulling through with his employment, Robert betrays the assistance of his in-laws, not by theft or redundancy, but by believing once more in the dream he has so nourished for years.

Because Melinda found a female wallet that she wasn’t even sure was a true evidence of cheating, she, with her loud-mouthed sister, lashed-out on a man whose aim was just to labour for a better life – a better life that she was inclusive! Puffing a huge column of cigarette smoke into his face, Melinda ordered her husband, Robert out of her house, into destitution and death! The young man staggered into the street and picked up a job as a dishwasher!

In a matter of a pinch of salt, Melinda seats beside a vocal lawyer and a ready magistrate and orders her husband to sign divorce papers with benefits of clothes and a car. The helpless, tortured, humiliated, embarrassed but brave Robert rejects the benefits but signs the papers with a pen flowing with tears.

Melinda moves on, but love lingers in Robert’s heart. In the cold, and harassed by the environment that Robert finds himself, he falls into the care of Diana – a direct opposite of Melinda: strong, rational, thoughtful and encouraging, who saw hope even when Robert himself tried to waver; believed in Robert’s invention and pushed him into success that he had laboured for, for years.

Diana did not sign cheques for Robert. She simply listened to the young man over a cup of coffee; saw in him what Melinda was not able to see; stood by him in his dark ages; opened the doors of her house to him where Melinda shut him out and lobbied for him where the loud-mouthed Sisters of Melinda lashed him.

Diana became that ladder that Robert wanted, the voice that he never heard and the sight that healed his blindness.

But still, Robert’s heart was built with golds. He went back to the woman who divorced him with flowers. Offered her red roses, Ten Million Dollars for the Three Hundred Thousand that he spent with her, bought back the mortgaged house and told her “thank you.” Thank you for what? Ego might ask, but humility and love shadowed Robert.

Was there any need for ‘Acrimony’, or for ‘Sunder’, or for ‘Bewail’, or for ‘Deranged’ or ‘Inexorable?’ When the ship’s anchor sucked out Melinda down the bottom of the sea, the ship’s anchor became for Robert, not just the mythical wheel of justice but a guardian angel!

Idiongo Ebong

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