Texasville (1990) is the sequel to The Last Picture Show (1971). Thirty years later, Duane, a handsome young oil worker, is now a middle-aged father, a husband, and an oil business entrepreneur. His wife is an alcoholic, his children are running amok, and his dog is his only friend. Dysfunction abounds.
He tries to make a difference, but nothing works. It doesn’t help that he’s a natural rogue, and emotionally closed-off. As a result, he’s resigned to his fate. Worrying about those around him. Allowing himself to be miserable and unfulfilled.
He cheats on his wife. She cheats on him. It’s an acrimonious circle of lies and mutual contempt. On the face of it, Duane is the town’s big success. He personifies the American dream. But his business is $12 million in debt. Oil money has come and gone. Duane’s family lives in a large home. They have a maid. Everything is on credit. Duane is in trouble. America is in trouble.
When Duane helps to organise the town festival, the town’s authentic rural roots are revealed to be little more than a glitzy heritage theme park. A museum of kitsch. The highpoint of classic Americana featured in The Last Picture Show has been replaced by the bland commercialism of modern America. The ‘Old American West’ has become a parody of itself.
Duane befriends Jacy within this changed world. This time their relationship is based on friendship, and not on lust. She frees him from the prison that he’s made for himself. This allows him to rethink his life, and to rebuild his marriage. And, through him, she is able to move on from her loss. For Duane and Jacy the town will always be their home. The stupidity of youth has given way to newfound perspective and wisdom. Now that Duane has a real friend in Jacy. He allows her to take his dog. In contrast, Sonny, haunted by the past, and unable to reach out to Duane, is denied a future.
In Hereditary (2018) a family disintegrates under pressure from external forces. It’s a force they’re unprepared for, unable to defend against. A power beyond their comprehension. Part of the creepiness comes from the horror of awkwardness. Comedy has long-championed awkward humour, but in Hereditary horror claims it back as its own. The horrific awkwardness is almost unwatchable when the son loses control of his body, experiencing violent spasms in front of his classmates. The mother, increasingly paranoid and desperate, is unable to contain her grief, unable to keep her family together – unable to work out what’s going on until it’s too late. The father watches on in disbelief. They are doomed by a force beyond their imagination. Hereditary is about ‘irrational’ forces. Our rational explanations, our logic and faith in science can only take us so far. What kind of story is this? This anxiety matches fears in contemporary society – disturbing events in our lives and on the news. What’s going on? What kind of story are we in?