The Story Line.
Successful, intense and high-powered Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis) has spent his life, since he turned eight years old, trying to forget the tragedy of his mother dying that year and the implication by his father that he, Rusty, was to blame.
Russ, now the adult is a buttoned-up, up-tight guy. He’s a Media Consultant who advises people on how to present an image that will make people love and trust them when they really aren’t loveable or trustworthy. Russ actually is sarcastically insulting. He criticizes and demeans his clients, and, amazingly, they take it. He’s a powerful guy. Yes, he’s emotionally “off” but he’s a powerful guy.
Russ appears to have everything he wants. But, when young Rusty appears, Russ thinks he’s going crazy and visits his psychiatrist. She tells him that Rusty represents an unresolved childhood problem. At first Russ doesn’t believe her but as he and Rusty talk, he comes to accept that Rusty is Russ’ younger self.
Eight-year-old Rusty helps his grownup self, Russ, go back to his childhood school and remember a fight on the playground when he was eight. Rusty wins the fight but is taken to the principal’s office. His mother, who is dying of cancer is called to the school to take Rusty home.
When Rusty’s father comes home and finds out that his wife has been to school in spite of the doctor’s orders, he becomes enraged, shakes Rusty and tells him that his mother is going to die. Is he trying to kill her sooner? Does Rusty want her to die now? Rusty starts to cry. He hadn’t known that before that moment that his mom was dying. As the realization sinks in, Rusty cries harder. His dad yells, “Stop crying; grow up, grow up grow up.”
And so, Rusty does “grow up” in that moment; he never cries again. From that day until right now he doesn’t feel his feelings either; he completely shuts them off. They’re much too painful to feel. And, somewhere between college and almost 40 years old, Russ completely shuts out his father and his sister, Josie, along with her family.
Once Russ and Rusty understand that Rusty suffered a terrible, terrible hurt when his father blamed him for hastening his mother’s death, the grownup Russ feels relieved. He understands that his father’s rage with him was really caused by his dad’s own fear. Within the next year his dad would not only lose the woman he loved, but he would also have to raise his two young children on his own.
Now that it’s clear to Russ why he, Rusty, was so hurt and frightened he didn’t want to feel anything anymore, he can drop the guilt he’s been carrying around since that day. His mom’s death really wasn’t his fault; he can risk opening his feelings again.
They both go get something to eat at the diner (it doesn’t really exist). (Trust me; in the movie this makes perfect sense.) Russ’ 70 year-old self meets them in the diner and shows them their future life. With a wife and a dog named Chester, 70 year-old Russ reassures them both that Russ has 30 years yet to figure out what will happen in his future. The one thing they know is: Russ becomes a pilot with his own cool plane.
Russ and Rusty celebrate in the airport/diner parking lot (it doesn’t really exist). (Guys, you really have to see this movie.) The plane (from the future) takes off, they watch it go and Russ shouts, “I am not a loser!” And, no, he didn’t cause his mother’s death, either. The 8-year-old Rusty agrees.
The Kid, Rusty, disappears in that moment; the adult Russ doesn’t need him anymore.
In fact the whole scene, the airport, the diner, the airplanes, all disappear. They were part of young Rusty’s “help” and none of it is needed anymore.
Childhood Tragedy and
How It Affects Us.
The grownup Russ is a typical heavy Controller.
Extreme Controllers like Russ here, are rarely aware of their feelings. Not only that, but when the subject of feelings arises at all, they tend to:
(a) make fun of them, as though the idea of feelings is ridiculous, or
(b) they admit to feelings but won’t give them any value,
(c) they do their best to suppress them.
Extreme Controllers typically distrust other people. That’s Russ. While they may have what they consider friendships, they rarely disclose anything but thoughts or ideas. And, sometimes, like Russ, not even those. Russ is silent at times throughout the movie when he could have and should have agreed with or explained to Amy.
The emotional distance that the extreme Controller creates allows him/her not to care if he:
- takes advantage of others, like he does with Amy and with his assistant, (Lily Tomlin),
- lies to protect what he wants: money and power, (Russ lied to Amy that he destroyed the tape), and,
- has any feelings of guilt. He doesn’t know his feelings and even if he knew them, he wouldn’t be interested in what they mean (the scene with the psychiatrist).
Amy is easier to like throughout the movie. That’s because:
Amy is an extreme Pleaser. Pleasers are “nice” to everyone. They’re helpful and responsible. And, they have lots of other positive traits, too.
Extreme Pleasers become attached to others easily. Once the Pleaser is attached to that other person, it’s really hard for them to leave them.
Anyone who is an extreme personality type, almost always is attracted to his/her extreme opposite personality. These extremes often marry or partner with each other. It wasn’t hard to see that Amy was in love with Russ.
- Rusty, at eight years old, was a sweet kid who was capable of caring for a three-legged dog that other kids were taunting. He loved his mom and dad. We can assume he was really close to his mom; he says that he couldn’t seem to satisfy his dad. So, when his mom died, he lost the parent he was closest to. This would be enough to make Rusty, the child, less talkative and more silent, perhaps, even bitter.
- Even though Rusty’s dad probably didn’t realize the impact his words would have for Rusty that day, the meaning that Rusty attached to them was, for him, life-changing. Not just Rusty, but all children at his age, lack the experience and the reasoning powers that adults have. And so they experience traumatic events, such as death in ways that we adults don’t know about unless they tell us. They seldom tell us because, at that young age, they can’t sort it out themselves.
- Just because Rusty didn’t know his feelings as he grew up doesn’t mean they weren’t operating. In us humans, feelings are there all the time. People who suppress or ignore them almost always have some sort of emotional symptoms. These might be as diverse as: chronic complaining, chronic disagreeing or outright arguing, persistent moodiness or unhappiness or persistent low-level discouragement or depression. Or often, physical symptoms, like spastic colitis, stomach distress, ulcers, migraine headaches and on and on.
In spite of the underlying seriousness in The Kid, it’s a really charming and appealing movie. It’s also funny, funny, funny in quite a few places. So, if you’re looking for an entertaining movie with good acting from everyone in it, try The Kid, with Bruce Willis (this role is definitely out of his normal genre), Emily Mortimer, and Spencer Breslin, a very cute kid.
I loved this movie so much I bought it and have watched it lots of times. Enjoy!
Warmest wishes until next time,
If you think anyone you know would like this, please send it on. And, thanks so much for reading. And, for sure, look for more movie reviews.