Serial serializes in episodic parallels the kooky lives of the affluently bored in a mythicized Martin County — Mill Valley, Sausalito, Tiburon — the whole San Francisco scene-where-it’s-at with cycling, tubbing, rolfing, jogging, swapping and the other tiresome ings of that era’s consciousness.

It is an amusing film, catchy, witty, ‘frankly’ synecdochic in its procreative and excretory fondling of vocabulary.  We meet some very genuine phonies in this film:  modern man and his mate, modern woman.  They have everything and nothing, least of all their own engaging selves.  Hence the frantic and trendy searching for meaning, selfness, sisterhood, actualization, authenticity: there is much talk of mellowness, having one’s space, expressing hostilities, coming to terms, going with the flow, karma and, of course, being honest.

But sanity in the form of affirmation of the traditional family and its then (supposedly) dated values does prevail in the end.  The protagonist, Harvey, reconfirms his devotion to his wife Kate at a wedding, and rather than allow the space cadet disguised as oriental holy man to get away with his pompous pseudo-metaphysical riddles at this ceremony, Harvey shows where he’s at, like now:  he recites from the Common Book of English Prayer the true and tested refrain of ‘to have and to hold.’  The very solidness and comfort of the simple but powerful words cut with an acute preciseness through modernity’s pretentiousness to the core of what matters to all the people in this film:  stability, family, caring.  Even Joanie, their bewildered daughter who had to be rescued from her ashram by a gang of gay bikers in drag, as it were, admits she can groove on where Harv and Kate are coming from.

The film’s theme song suggests that “it’s a changing world,” and nowhere late 20th-century cinema has it been more true that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  The old, we are to infer from this story, is the real.  Certain ideologists will be severe with the uncomplicated message that marital fidelity and undemocratic parental authority have no need to apologize for themselves.  The (mental) healing professionals in the audience will squirm uneasily at the rôle of the buffoon who, as resident psychologist (with Ph.D., naturally), seems to be able to hold so many tenuous lives together through his sly exploitation of people’s fuzzy fantasies of what they think others want them to be.  Only ten-year old Stokley who is being urged by the glib shrink to get in touch with his childhood sees through the mindless delusions of these self-absorbed adults with utter clarity — score one for romanticism!

Ultimately this movie serves a very moral end, circuitous though its route be through the valley of the flesh and the four-letter word.  It is certainly very rewarding to be reminded, even if from the mouths of chronological and emotional babes, that there are in fact occasions on which the emperor, truly, is not wearing his clothes.  In short, we still need the old things that we have always needed, and this remarkably conservative movie underscores the point with an inspired élan born of deep conviction.  It merits reviewing!

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One Response to SERIAL

  1. heather says:

    Sometimes I get the idea that we become bored with the way things are and invent ‘new’ ways of thinking and talking about them. Of course, there are those who then make a profit on this.

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