“I take no pleasure in taking life if it’s from a person who doesn’t care about it.”
Guess who just rocked up to assist Eric’s dire need to keep The IPC up and running for all us lovelies? That’s right, me!
Eric and I spoke about Léon a while ago, one of his all time favourite movies. I had never seen it and I could just hear his heart shattering across all that water, land, and mountainous terrain. What? Never? That would never do. Seeing as I had a guest spot to fill here, he was rather insistent (hint, hint, wink, wink soon became push, push, shove, shove) that I check it out and share my thoughts with you all. I figured seeing as the last two weeks have been fun and games and really hot specimens, I could settle for something like this.
Léon… like how the hell did I manage to miss this? “No women, no children.” Jean Reno bore the titular character and my goodness, he was good. I knew that I was going to see some family get butchered, I knew I was going to see a young girl swear vengeance, I knew she was going to be trained by the best of the best, but what I did not see coming was how this movie was going to be laid out in particular. For instance, there was plenty humour that was simply fantastic. It was funny and smart and ludicrous all at once. On the flipside, this movie was devastatingly sad and beautiful.
The array of characters we are presented with at first mean nothing. Léon is a damn good assassin that doesn’t give a damn about anyone and lives an exceptionally lonely little life. It is repetitive, boring, and a shockingly meek existence for someone who must surely be paid well for assassinations. Meek is actually not even the right word. Frugal, measly, depressing, impoverished. Any of those might ring more true to the conditions he lived in. Nevertheless, Mathilda (Natalie Portman), Léon’s exceptionally young next door neighbour, takes an interest in him, observes him, and chats with him from time to time. Her father is involved in some shady dealings, and is an abusive prick of note (I cannot abide abusive people). Léon sees this, and while on some level it seems to penetrate him that Mathilda is being abused by her father at home, he dismisses it completely on another.
I am sure you are all familiar with the story? DEA agent Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman) shoots up Mathilda’s family home, killing her stepmother and stepsister, her abusive father, and her four year old brother whom she actually loved. Running to the store to pick up some groceries is the only reason she survives the massacre, and returning home she skips her family apartment and moves straight on to Léon’s, who lets her in. Now, however, she has become his issue, his responsibility. Mathilda asks that Léon train her to become a “cleaner” like he is, she swears vengeance on Norman and all who are involved, and soon undergoes training. Matters are slightly exacerbated when Mathilda constantly expresses her desires and feelings about Léon to him, making him uncomfortable. Mathilda needs to exact her vengeance to continue her life, and Léon is learning from Mathilda what it is to have someone in his life to care about, someone other than himself.
Alright, so now that all that is out of the way, I know it is a realtively stock-standard story (not the assassination bit, but the becoming responsible for someone side). The more I got to know Léon, the more he broke my heart. It was so sweet to see his sheer enjoyment and pleasure of watching a movie at the cinema, his appreciation for the small little things. I pitied him for not being able to read or write. That really, really crushed me on so many levels (I love being literate too much to give it up, being able to read and write is one of the greatest gifts of all). He was a soft man, and he was really good at what he did, but on the same hand he had no real people skills, which made him an easy mark for people to mess around with. He was not particularly world wise, but he has his own intellect that had nothing to do with people, money, or reading and writing. Mathilda taught him things like reading and writing, and just watching him learn how to do it as well as use it was inspiring and crushing. Léon’s facial expressions and his innocence, too, were sometimes really sad. It was sweet to watch them teach each other things and learn from one another. There was surprising amounts of humour watching Mathilda training with Léon (particularly thinking about the scene where they go into that dealer’s apartment and discuss the gut shot and then higher up in the chest). Also watching that plant get dragged all over them was rather funny, too.
However, there were other scenes that just made me downright uncomfortable (this is looking at you, Mathilda). It was a little bit bizarre to see this child attempting to seduce Léon, falling in love with him. For instance, they both loved each other, but it was certainly not in even remotely the same way. He viewed her as a lifeline, something of a daughter, and she was always angling for something else. What I am glad about, however, is that it never explored that disgusting avenue, as I would have thrown the towel in right there, for better or worse (Killer Joe, this is really something you perfected made more disturbing than ever before). I liked how they both learned, and he realised that there was more to life than sitting across the table from Tony (Danny Aiello), taking jobs, killing people, and watering his plant.
Now to address another side of this completely: this is not really a movie you can take too seriously, if you are looking at Léon and Mathilda in particular. If she were a little older, it may have changed the ballgame into something more realistic and serious, but you just can’t really buy into that from a twelve year old, if you know what I mean? This wasn’t really a showkiller for me, but it was always on the periphery of my mind, that Mathilda was exceptionally young, and he was lot older, she may be “tough”, but that does not change the fact that when all is said and done she is still only a child. Natalie Portman is still not the best actress of all time, but she worked well enough for this. This was a solid role for her, one of her better ones. The acting, overall, was decent for this and carried the stories and the characters just fine, so there is that. Oldman was incredibly freaking weird though, what a crackpot! Overall, I enjoyed the movie and could definitely recommend it to others. I know it took me an age to get to, but it was worth the wait!