ddzzaaii’s review published on Letterboxd:
new kids in the neighborhood (negro in the suburbs) by norman rockwell has been in my mind since my last watch. i think what spielberg accomplishes or at least attempts to do this time around when looking at the atomic family in america has more staying power than past drafts of similar ideas because his awareness of the responsibility he shares in pushing the popular idea of the heteronormative household to new heights. do i think this an all-out deconstruction of the key themes behind family dynamics as depicted in the history of cinema? no. i think a lot less intelligent filmmakers preoccupy themselves with those needless tasks, given that they get rewarded by the dilettantes that run the "arthouse" world nowadays in the form of fraudulent cultural capital. however situating a film about your upbringing within the parameters of the biopic is a deliberate decision behind the sculpting of your film's main preoccupations & range. crafting a narrative exclusively depicting the integral moments, both private & public, that shape someone's life typically dismisses how formative the unknown is when looking at the finished portrait. spielberg seems to take the act of spectatorship as a method of not simply outlining these moments and filling them in with his final interpretation of their meaning, but as well as asking the viewers to resist that temptation, however responsible Steven Spielberg Films are for your natural inclination to do so. the propensity to break your life down in that manner, by compartmentalizing fleeting moments of awareness of life's ebbs & flows, into portraiture is common in artist's minds. people who i've known to be some of the most creative people but never formulated their views of the world into tangible art are those who seem to always have one foot outside the door. endlessly shifting between being at the dinner table where the arguments are happening & listening intently at the top of the staircase. it's more than foresight. it's a natural understanding that an event in your life will always be accompanied by endless interpretations and repercussions depending on which one you choose in that moment in time. spielberg cross-cutting between the moviola and the dying embers of a marriage isolated carry the same amount of substance than the worst attempt to SAY SOMETHING you find in modern mid-brow filmmaking today. yet, accompanied with the act of watching someone feel dwarfed as they themselves are depicted heroically, get to the bottom of what i think makes the film the first of his to exist outside itself. he isn't a clever writer, nor is kushner, but perhaps the immediacy of the memories he's taken liberties with have opened a pathway to a reproduction of youth that's mislead the american viewer in the age of neoliberalism & globalization. the idea that the hardship of being uprooted from your home, confronted with the latest iteration of centuries-old white supremacy, and having the already flimsy foundation in the form of your family implode over time, can be condensed into narrative is to some (me) the original sin when it comes to cinema. what's missed out on or viewed as filler is where the heart of the matter lies, but i interpret cinema's main contradiction as the impossibility behind that ever being able to be projected on a screen. whether that be screen be the wall in your closet, in a movie palace, at prom, or on a painting's canvas in your idol's office somewhere in studio city. norman rockwell's ideas of american suburbanism informed spielberg just as much as king vidor inspired andrew wyeth's romanticism, all artists who tried to make sense of something that's been lost, perverted, damaged by the wave of time, while at its best, understanding that that something may have never existed in the first place. negro in the suburbs' naivety is its biggest strength because its inability to look beyond the confrontation of the future abuser and abusee leaves the viewer with nothing but history to fill in the blanks. however those blanks have forever been conveniently ignored by white people for the sake of their advancement in which more and more of themselves have to be sacrificed in order to keep pace. those things are multiplied in a household in which a mother's ambitions must be tabled to ensure survival. it makes sense that a jewish-american filmmaker would look at someone (rockwell) incapable of talking to them directly, but instead depicts everything that's withheld from them and/or forced upon them in the name of assimilation, and through that, find a way to reimagine their own memories of adolescence & yours in the process, for going on now 51 years. dramatizing the crashing of trains is the same as splicing together an affair--neither act makes any logical sense, but the action can heal the impact behind our attempted deception.