Monday, September 08, 2008
The Lunch Date
The Lunch Date
Adam Davidson (1989)
This Oscar-winning short film tells the story of a woman whose goal is to catch a train. The story is simple and is done with little dialogue. It starts off with a wealthy white woman, hurrying through a train station. The audience sees that she has tickets, and therefore understands that the character’s goal will be to board a train. In the first minute of the film, much about her character is revealed. The opening sequence shows many homeless people in the station. The director makes a point of highlighting the homeless. One man is looking for change in the ticket machines, and one walks in front of the woman, almost eerily close to the lens. The viewer is now forced to recognize these people, while the woman herself noticeably ignores them. Next, a hurried man bumps into the woman, causing her purse to fall to the ground. He attempts to help her gather the strewn items, but she snaps at him, shoves her items into her purse, and runs to her train. Of course, she misses it.
This beginning is extremely telling of the woman’s character. Because it is a short film, there is no time for extensive character building. However, it is unnecessary. We as the audience learn everything we need to know in the first minute and 30 seconds of the film. We understand that she is a wealthy woman, obviously nervous to be in the station alone. She also is very suspicious of people around her. Finally, there are underlying racial issues. The man who bumps into her in the station and causes her bag to drop is black. He is dressed in a business suit and clearly wants to help her. She reacts as if her were trying to steal from her.
Knowing that her goal is to catch a train, we must now wait with the character for the next one to arrive. Standing on the platform, the woman realizes that her wallet is missing. This is important for what is to follow. Everything in this story happens for a reason. If she were to have a wallet, she could catch a cab, or figure out some other way to get where she wants to go. But now she must stay in the station. Her next decision is to go get some lunch to bide her time. She picks up a salad and pays for it with some spare change she is carrying. She finds a table, puts her shopping bags down, and goes back for a fork. When she returns, a homeless man is sitting at what she believes is her booth. He is eating her salad. Again, this is where the story builds itself well. She had to have lost her wallet in order for this to make sense. She cannot go buy another salad now so she begins to eat off the homeless man’s plate. He shows her hospitality by buying her a cup of coffee. Of course, the end twist is that her booth was the next one down and that she in fact was eating the homeless man’s food.
When she realizes her mistake, she laughs for the first time in the film. However, the key to the story is after she leaves the restaurant. The director puts a homeless man again in the frame and she walks right past like she did in the beginning. There is no change in the way she treats them. This is what makes this story so interesting. Usually in a situation like this, we would see her acknowledge the homeless man in the end, like she had some big change of heart over the way people should be treated. However, even after a man much less fortunate than she, shared his meal with her and bought her a cup of coffee, she is unable to return any gesture of kindness or learn anything in the end.