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Great Character Moments in Film #4: THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT

(Spoiler alert.)

A movie in the all-too slim category of Best Xmas Films Evah (with Action), THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT stars Geena Davis as an amnesiac undercover assassin – I know, right? what’s not to like! – whose past is coming back to bite her, then spin her around, then bite her again.

The bf and I have argued over which is the greatest character moment in this film. The bf asserts that it’s the point where Davis – still playing Samantha Caine, stay-at-home Mommy – kills the assassin on her kitchen floor. He claims this to be her turning point. From there, her motivation changes from I-wanna-be-a-Mom-and-gf, to I-need-to-know-who-I-am.

“Chefs do that,” she says, ironically, the dead man between her feet. Putting paid to the fantasy that maybe in her pre-amnesia days she was a chef.

But I’m not sure I see that moment of change there. Is she propelled by that moment, or is she propelled by the coincidental fact that downbeat detective, Mitch (Samuel L. Jackson) has just uncovered a suitcase of her stuff from her pre-amnesia days? I’m not sure, I think it could be either, and since it *could* be either, I don’t feel I’m seeing that Great Character Moment (of change and re-motivation) on screen.

For me, the greatest character moment is the more obvious & familiar moment. It’s when bad guy Luke is trying to drown her on some kinda water wheel. Samantha goes from screaming, panicking Mom-and-gf (she thought Luke was her ex-fiance, after all) to avenging freaking angel.

“I let you touch me, cowboy. I think I need a bath,” she tells Luke.

By then even her diction has changed. Her entire face has changed. Her breathing has changed, her voice has changed – now coming in short, sharp grunts. The film spins, the character motivation pivots and —

— she’s plunged into the water, where she reaches a hand into the trousers of the deceased Nathan Waldman (Brian Cox), pulls out a gun, and shoots her torturer in the leg. And oh! How she rises from the waters like a monstrous water demon, a mermaid from hell, a raging, screaming elemental force! For anyone who was sick of those James Bond fetish shots of girls in bikinis in the ocean, this moment was for you (& me). It’s THAT moment, imho, she goes from ‘wanting to find out who I am’ to ‘wanting to kill this freaking cowboy – & anybody else who ticks me off’.

Then she wrenches her hands free, tearing her wrists to shreds in the process. And henceforth, she attempts to be the assassin spy she apparently was before the amnesia. When Luke – shot & confused – cries out, “Samantha, please!” our heroine’s response clinches the deal. She is no longer who she was trying to be.

“Who’s Samantha?” she grunts.

From then on she’s Charly Baltimore. Well, when I say ‘from then on’, you know that the uniting of her disparate personalities, the discovery of a way to live with her daughter and her past are all to come in the final Act, of course.

Also, the dialogue in this film is generally hilarious.

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