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Date Posted: 08:59:43 02/21/09 Sat
Author: Icaredor
Subject: Re: What's the point of the duel?
In reply to: Stef 's message, "Re: What's the point of the duel?" on 03:21:17 02/15/09 Sun

Hi Stef,
I really appreciate you finding the time to respond. Sorry that what follows is long
(and possibly boring and stupid, too...Still…)

Paulie is only Mary’s ‘mother’ in a symbolic and limited sense. She acts as a surrogate by filling an emotional gap left unfilled by a parent. This role of parental failure and substitution acts as a central theme in the movie. In two earlier posts, Alex (Wood) shared his brilliant insights into how Tori fulfills a similar role for Paulie and Joe the gardener does so for Mary.

Mary’s blood mother dies and then she is ‘abandoned’ at the boarding school by her father and stepmother. She becomes one of the “lost” girls – children who are (figuratively) without parents. More literally, they are children whose parents have failed them in one way or another. Paulie acts as a surrogate parent in that she befriends Mary and gives her warmth and a home, something her father now fails to do.

The movie signals Paulie’s role as mother surrogate to Mary with the location of their first meeting. Mary is alone, afraid and full of “foreboding.” She finds comfort in touching and looking at the statue of the mother and baby. Paulie appear at that moment directly behind the statue, circles it and sits down with Mary. On their bench, the two of them replicate the mother and child sitting on the bench opposite. Mary is instantly enthralled by Paulie and starts to ‘mirror’ her: she echoes Paulie in timidly repeating “rage more” and mimics Paulie’s dress by hitching up her own skirt. Mary ‘reflects’ Paulie here in the way she ‘reflected’ her real mother in the mirror of her mother’s compact in car at the beginning. Paulie joins Mary’s mother as the major influence in Mary’s life.

All three girls are ‘lost’ but to different degrees, with the degree depending on their familial relationships. Tori has disturbing issues with her own mother, but she is the only one whose (traditional) family remains intact. She also has part of her family – her sister and brother – nearby. Tori can survive the break with Paulie because she can rely on her family for emotional support, and it’s to retain this support that she sacrifices her relationship with Paulie.

Tori is Paulie’s lover in the usual sense of the term. She is her friend, sexual partner, and source of love. She is, though, Paulie’s sole source of love. Paulie was given up for adoption by her blood mother and feels that her adoptive mother doesn’t love her. For Paulie, Tori’s love isn’t an addition to the love from a mother; it’s a substitute for it. Paulie voices the symbolic change in their relationship after Tori leaves for her first date with Jake. To Paulie, Tori now appears as cold as her adoptive mother: “In her eyes, that brightness like my fake mother’s, that brightness when she lies.”

Paulie can’t cope with the end of the relationship because she depends totally on Tori to meet all of her emotional needs. She starts careening towards destruction. The one thing that can still save her is some sign of love from her “real” mother. When the letter arrives that blows up Paulie’s fantasies about her blood mother, she fall...she falls...

The major positive influence on Mary’s life has been from her mother. This influence, though, is beginning to fade. As her father drives her away from home, Mary tells how she is having trouble remembering her mother’s face. Paulie provides a positive emotional influence on Mary, initially. This influence turns negative when Paulie loses Tori and become increasingly ‘dark.’ For Mary, however, her mother’s memory is ‘kept alive’ by her relationship with Joe. They garden together and Mary talks of her mother. This keeps her mother’s love sufficiently vivid in her mind that Mary can avoid falling into the darkness with Paulie. As Mary says in the final voice over, “you saved me, mama, from the deep dark…Paulie…she didn’t have that [love]…the darkness took her over.”

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