In the Dark: What Next?
Eric D. Snider
When "Titanic" shattered all previous box-office records and became the highest-grossing movie of all time, and then went on to win several dozen Oscars, many people wondered: Will the gods punish all of humanity for this evil that has come into the world? Or will only those who actually saw the film be damned?
But more to the point, people wondered, "What will Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio do next?" You must admit, whatever your feelings about "Titanic" — be they mere indifference or outright hatred — it's hard to go "up" in your career after being in such a successful film. For example, after doing "Star Wars," Harrison Ford did "Force 10 from Navarone" (it's true!); and after appearing in "E.T.," Drew Barrymore became a stinky crack whore.
It's been nearly three years since "Titanic" was released, so most of its fans have finished high school now. Where in the cineplexes can these fans see the winsome Kate and the pretty Leo?
The answer: nowhere. Kate and Leo have both chosen to do only weird, stupid movies as follow-ups to "Titanic." They have apparently not only accepted the "it's all downhill from here" philosophy; they have embraced it.
Leo did nothing for quite a while. Then he showed up in "The Beach" and did more nothing, though he seemed to be working pretty hard at it. "The Beach" is about a pretty young American (Leo) who wanders off to Thailand in search of adventure. While there, he meets a drug-addled, hallucinatory wacko who tells him of a secret island paradise. He even draws a crazy-looking map to prove it, and then kills himself. (When I asked the movie why this happened, it declined comment.)
So Leo assigns himself third-wheel duty with a French couple, and the three of them follow the map to the island. Turns out that even though the crazy man had the functioning brain cells of a bath towel, he was still able to draw a pretty accurate map, bless him. And sure enough, it's an island paradise. (I will refrain from making any "Survivor" jokes here.)
"The Beach" is nice to look at, but whatever intelligence it has is marred by a scatterbrained way of storytelling, and you can never really take it seriously. The same goes for Leo himself, I guess.
Kate, meanwhile, got herself in a film that premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and won an award for Only Sundance Film Not to Feature Lesbians. The movie was eventually released in theaters, too, though no one bothered to see it. It's called "Hideous Kinky" — two adjectives that fail to describe the movie, though they are an apt summary of several chapters in my own personal memoirs.
"Hideous Kinky" was followed a year later by "Holy Smoke." I mention them together because they both feature Kate Winslet a) topless, and b) with hairy armpits. Apparently, she got tired of all those men leering at her during the 17-hour nude scene in "Titanic," so she got revenge by growing out the torso curlies. ("Go ahead, stare at me now!" her matted mini-afros seem to cry. "Aren't I gorgeous?!")
"Hideous Kinky" takes place in the early '70s, when people were looking for enlightenment, i.e., they took a lot of drugs. Trouble is, Kate's character has a couple of kids who don't adapt well to her running off to Morocco, as it means they have to miss a lot of school. I suspect they are also troubled by Mom's underarm hair, though that issue is not specifically addressed in the film.
"Holy Smoke" has Kate fleeing her Australian home and going to India, where she gets either brainwashed or converted, depending on your personal feelings toward the religion she joins. Her family is convinced she's been snookered, though, so they trick her into coming home and then lock her up for three days with a deprogrammer played by Harvey Keitel.
It is difficult to take this movie seriously, in large part due to a scene in which Kate, finally beginning to succumb to Harvey Keitel's anti-brainwashing (which in itself is a form of brainwashing), shows up naked and demands that he have sex with her. Who in their right mind would demand to have sex with Harvey Keitel? Asking politely, I could see, maybe, although I think a lot of other circumstances would have to be in place, too, such as him being the last living mammal. But demanding it? Not a chance. (He says yes, by the way, unaware of the "Crying Game"-esque surprise that awaits him when she reveals her armpits.)
It's interesting that all three of these post-"Titanic" films — "The Beach," "Hideous Kinky," and "Holy Smoke" — are about characters seeking to evade responsibility and discover who they really are. Could this be what Kate and Leo have been trying to do since "Titanic"? And if it is, one has to ask: Why the armpit hair, Kate? I mean, really. Why?