January 8, 2016 Leave a comment
It would be easy to watch this film and take it as a condemnation of spoiled/entitled Millennials, that trusty crutch of the elders that has a nearly unrivaled capacity to get my dander up. After all, Harper (Bridey Elliot) and Allie (Clare McNulty) are seemingly living an unfocused post-collegiate life in Brooklyn, clearly subsidized, and they can’t seem to actually do anything, except text each other snide comments about those around them and post things to instagram. Thus a seemingly simple trip to meet up with some boys at the beach turns into an epic adventure of fail.
Harper and Allie aren’t particularly likable, and it should be noted are neither realistic nor representative of their generation (which is mostly poor and non-white, though stereotypes about the generation always seem to be about well-to-do white people). But over the course of the film, as they are metaphorically sacrificed for their generation’s alleged sins, one does start to feel empathy. Harper will have a good idea to direct her artistic energies, but just as quickly shoot herself down, saying it is a stupid idea. For all the talk of participation ribbons leading to undue confidence, here is someone who has a completely broken sense of self-worth. And Allie is keen to do something meaningful to help others, being set to join the Peace Corps. As someone who previously crashed out during the application process of the Peace Corps, realizing that for as much as I’d like to be helping, it wasn’t the right venue for me, I definitely related to her uncertainty. Seeing her friends struggling in a Teach For America-type situation similarly speaks to a societal failure to harness this charitable energy.
The thing that makes Fort Tilden work so well is how it balances the dramatic weight (if often amplified by their inability to cope) with a wickedly dry humor. I laughed a number of times, including passing gags like when Harper says she’s preparing their apartment for the possibility the guys come home with them, including taking the exact identical copy of Infinite Jest I just started last month and placing it out prominently. Because nothing would appeal more to a young bro than a work of young bro genius. Considering how much I’m not enjoying the book, this subtle poke (and another at the expense of Phillip Roth) delighted me. And the ending really works as the culmination and payoff, so many wonderfully defeated realizations, these two women stripped bare of their illusions, perhaps ready to actually enter the world as it exists.