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THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD OF BROKEN DREAMS
on November 8, 2007
THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD OF BROKEN DREAMS
Is Broken a Dream, or a Place?
Broken is Dorothy's trip retold, with LA as Oz, as seen from Mulholland Drive. From the clean shining sealight of Zuma Beach, to the superficial artificial light of Skid Row dives and midnight diners, Broken follows the arc of a young woman from the Midwest who follows her dreams to Los Angeles, and almost lets her nightmares do her in.
Heather Graham is Hope, a young woman who doesn't think that Cleveland rocks, and goes west with her guitar in hand and a song in her heart called Hanging Tree. The sealight of California lights Hope up brown and golden, she looks beautiful and happy lying on the beach at Zuma, when she is approached by a stranger (Jeremy Sisto) who approaches her as if he walked out of the glare of a setting sun,. He asks for a cigarette, but Hope doesn't have any, she has quit, so he pulls two from his pocket and offers her one. The guy says his name is Will, and this gesture of his is more than a pickup tactic, it is a clue as to who Will really is, a clue that only makes sense at the end of the movie.
The yellow brick road that millions have followed to Los Angeles is lined with permanent detours and dead ends, and Will takes Hope by the hand and leads her away from the golden, dreamy light at the beach and down one of those bad paths, the path of heroin addiction which plunges Hope into a world of bad light, artificial light, the light of tunnels leading to hell, of dingy apartments with the light blocked by foil, to the light of a butane lighter, bubbling heroin in a spoon. The heroin that is slowly taking the light out of Hopes eyes and out of her dreams.
Broken moves backward and forward and sideways through time, but the real time of the movie takes place after midnight in a café where Hope scratches out a living as a waitress. This is the Blue Star Café in the movie, but those who know Los Angeles will recognize it as the Hellay Café, because the patrons that Hope waits on are everyone you don't want to become in Los Angeles: Jake Busey and Joe Hursley are sadly funny as two heroin-addicted losers who can't score smack or women at 2:00 in the morning. Jessica Stroup is beautifully sad as an Xd out Valley chick stuck behind two guys she doesn't like, and looking for salvation from Hope. Linda Hamilton is evil sad as a madame who plays on Hopes weaknesses and tries to lure her even deeper with promises of big money. Hope has already prostituted herself physically and mentally, for drugs, for Will.
Tess Harper is just sad as a homeless woman who seems to be able to read Hope's mind - and a reflection of what Hope will soon become if she continues with Will.
The other patrons are a wannabe producer and director - younger and older versions of the endless train of BSing hopefuls that pass through Los Angeles. There is a wannabe record producer luring three wannabe rock stars with promises of meeting "the most powerful man in Hollywood" at two in the morning.
The Blue Star Café could also be called the Wannabe Café, as it is a purgatory between the heaven of all that Los Angeles promises and the hell of broken dreams. Hope is trapped in this purgatory, at two in the morning. She is flashing back on her relationship with Will, a relationship that is more sex and drugs than rock and roll, a relationship that is stealing Hope's youth and beauty, and her dreams and self respect.
Hope is done with the relationship, but not Will. The homeless woman warns Hope that Will will be back, he will always come back. As Hope waits on the various sad cases in the Hellay Café, the clock is ticking as Will pulls his gun and steals cars and makes his way to confront the woman who has spurned him.
There is a weird tension in the Wannabe Café when Will busts in with a gun, threatening everyone. A lot of these people need killing - they would be better off dead - but Will ends up shooting the saddest and most innocent of them all. Jeremy Sisto plays a believable psycho, a common type around LA: the guy who can't make it, and takes it out on everyone around him.
Hope takes all of Will's wrath on herself, and faces her moment of truth, making a decision and with a loud bang forces the viewers to make up their minds about Broken: Is Will an addict, or is he Addiction? Is he a person, or a symbol? Did all of this happen, or was it all a heroin nightmare that took place as Hope nodded on a bathroom floor.
Is this whole movie reality, or is it, in the words of Dorothy: A dream, or a place?