Monday, May 19, 2014

Ice cream in faraway places

I haven't lived in Australia long enough to know all its tricks, but I figure I'd know by now if Australians had the unlikely ability to preserve ice cream in solid form through unusual circumstances.

Two movies I've seen in a month's time, which happened both to be set in Australia, feature characters who eat ice cream despite the fact that they are miles away from an ice cream vendor, or the nearest source of refrigeration.

First it was Mystery Road, my April entry in my Australian Audient series. In a moment near the beginning of the movie, two detectives are at a crime scene that's supposed to be miles from anywhere. A dead girl has been dumped in a drainage tunnel by the side of a forlorn desert road, and the cops are sitting in a sedan by the side of that road, swapping talk about the case. The younger one is our hero, and he's sincerely interested in doing justice by the girl. The older one is the one who has lost all his idealism, and actually issues vaguely threatening bits of wisdom about how the younger one should go about it if he doesn't want to ruffle the wrong feathers. As if to punctuate his venality, the older detective indulges in something like a Dove Bar -- you know, one of those ice cream treats that gets all the structural integrity it needs from its hard chocolate shell.

Only thing is, they are supposed to be at least a couple clicks from their station, and they're not supposed to have just gotten there, either. How, pray tell, did this older detective transport his chocolate ice cream treat that whole distance, in the hot sun of a New South Wales summer, without the thing turning into a puddle in his lap? Are we banking on him having a miniature freezer in the glove compartment of his beaten up old P.O.S.? Even assuming he could keep it cold, what would have possessed the man to consciously save the ice cream for a little treat while discussing a murder?

My thinking is just that the director thought it would look cool.

Then it was Saving Mr. Banks this past weekend. You may not know that Saving Mr. Banks takes place in Australia, but the film flashes back repeatedly -- excessively, one might argue -- to the childhood of P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, when she was a girl living in a remote little town on the end of the train line called Allora, Queensland. The many flashbacks deal with the girl's relationship to her father, Travers Goff, played by Colin Farrell.

In one episode, Travers Goff promised the girl he'd buy her some ice cream, on a day that was otherwise spent nearly losing his job at the bank because he came in drunk. Given a reprieve by his boss, who has a sympathetic reaction to the child, Travers buys her the ice cream, and they go and sit in a field to eat it. In another one of those moments that could only exist in the movies, they appear to be miles away from anywhere, and the little girl appears to be just taking her first lick of the ice cream. I might buy it if they made their way to this idyllic little field by the river and she were gnawing down the last inches of her sugar cone, but it's like she saved the damn thing to take her very first licks while they're already deep into the melancholic moment, despite this being another sunny and apparently quite hot (it's always hot in Queensland) Australia day. That entire cone would have run down her arm by then.

Yes, people, this is what I think about when I watch movies.

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