This week’s movie, City of Angels is an American remake of Wings of Desire, a German movie by director Wim Wenders. Wings of Desire is great. City of Angels is not. It’s weird how you can take a subtle, black and white art film from Europe that unobtrusively examines the meaning of life and the value of love, put Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan in it, make it a cheesy “chick flick”, give it a Goo Goo Dolls soundtrack, and for some reason it doesn’t hold up. All the pieces were there, you know? Weird. A rare miss, Hollywood Remakes Department.
Admittedly, though, it has been a really long time since I actually saw Wings of Desire, and I am almost positive that some of the things that are hilarious in City of Angels come directly from the original. But for the sake of this argument, I am treating City of Angels as if it is an entirely original production, so keep your comparative cinema notes for your graduate seminar on the semiotics of post-Weimar neorealism, or whatever.
Besides, it really doesn’t matter. This movie sucks so badly, there is not much Wings of Desire could do to defend it.
City of Angels is about an angel named Seth (Nicolas Cage) who works in Los Angeles (OH WEIRD, I JUST NOTICED, HAHA, WOW!). Here he is just doing some angel stuff:
He very quickly falls in love with Meg Ryan, who is a surgeon. You can tell that Meg Ryan is a surgeon because she says a lot of hospital words in the very early scenes of the movie. It’s kind of like how in the movie Chain Reaction you could tell that Keanu Reeves was an incredible genius scientist because he wore a Harvard sweatshirt. Of course, angels can’t feel “love,” or any other human emotion. But now they can. It’s very convenient for the story! Anyway, Nicolas Cage starts angel-stalking Meg Ryan like a serious Angel Pervert who needs to go to Angel Jail. One day at the hospital, Meg Ryan can just see him for some reason, even though humans can’t see angels. Again, this works out very well for the narrative arc of this movie! It really helps to move things along!
For some reason (more on this later), Meg Ryan is deeply attracted to this uncomfortably awkward man-child who can only speak in a rape-whisper. Like, right after the above scene, she goes to her locker in the locker room (you know, hospital stuff), and she realizes that her nametag only has her first initial on it. Instead of thinking: ‘Hey, it is very very creepy that that man-boy with the nightmare whisper knew my name when I definitely did not tell it to him, and the hospital security is dangerously lax if strange men in dirty trenchcoats are allowed to lurk in the unnecessarily dark hallways at all hours of the night,” she just smiles and dreams about getting his phone number. LADIEESSSSS! So now they are basically angelfriend and girlfriend. But Meg Ryan realizes that she wants a man who is, well, a man, and not a celestial being who can feel no joy or pain or knife wounds (she attacks him with a knife to see if he will bleed, which is what I call MARRIAGE MATERIAL!).
Then Sipowicz, who used to be an angel, but now is just an incredibly ugly fat man with a heart condition, tells him that it is possible to stop being an angel and start being a man. All you have to do is wish for it real hard. It’s basically like The Secret, but for angels, I guess. When Nicolas Cage finds out that Meg Ryan is going to get married to another man–because angels can get jealous? And care about marriages?–he decides to take the plunge, which is literally a plunge. Off a tall building. Oh jeez.
So now he is a human being. Great. Apparently, when you stop being an angel and become a man, it turns you into a really unbearable spaz who thinks he is Elvis Presley. Also, you apparently are the dummmmmmmmbest. Nicolas Cage is used to traveling “at the speed of thought” so he can’t find Meg Ryan’s hospital. He runs all over LA trying to find it. Even though he has been around for all of human existence? He never bothered picking up a couple Pro Tips? Like how to use a phone book? When he does find the hospital, a woman tells him that Meg Ryan is up at her cabin on Lake Tahoe, and without any further questions he runs out to find her. Because somehow, although he couldn’t get to the hospital two blocks away, he is able to get to Lake Tahoe by that evening, even though he has no money and has just been robbed of his shoes (humans are so mean right away!). He does make it, though. Phew.
And then they fuck. And it is SO GROSS. Like, the grossest.
Anyway, the next morning, Meg Ryan dies. HAHAHAHAHA. In your face, you stupid angel. (Incidentally, Meg Ryan dies by riding her bicycle into a truck of logs. Faces of LOL.)
So now Nicolas Cage is just a stupid mortal man with nobody to stare disgustingly at. He is so sad. But when one of his angel friends asks if he would have left behind the Angel Life if he had known that Meg Ryan would be taken from him so quickly, he said that he would have given up the Angel Life for even just one kiss from her lips. Uh, good? Because that is all you got? They had four hours together.
City of Angels? More like City of Woofgels!
Much like last week’s The Notebook, one of the most unbearable things about City of Angels is the fact that for a story about two “people” falling in love, there is nothing to love about either of them. Meg Ryan is a semi-hysterical idiot, who doesn’t even know to wear a helmet and keep her eyes on the road when she rides her bike.
Incidentally, no one has ever ridden their bike like that. Ever. And the worst part is THAT’S NOT EVEN WHEN SHE DIES! She dies later (when she rides her bike into a truck carrying logs) with her hands on the handlebars and her eyes open, but she is distracted by, like, the beauty of the sun or some BULLSHIT.
And if Nicolas Cage wasn’t an angel for the first three-quarters of the movie, he would be in jail, because dude is basically a stalker who would be a rapist if only he could physically interact with the human world. Look at this guy:
SOMEONE CALL 9-11, THERE HAS BEEN AN ANGEL RAPE!
Gross. But, so, their love is based on…Meg Ryan’s weird narcissistic appreciation for an invisible peeping ghost, and Nicolas Cage loves her because…one time she ate a pear? They go on a date, you see, and Nicolas Cage asks her to describe the pear she is eating, and now the movie is basically City of Pears.
That pear looks delicious. But this pear looks MEANINGFUL:
After Meg Ryan dies (from riding her bicycle into a truck carrying logs), Nicolas Cage knows that there is only one way to truly honor the three-dimensional, interesting woman that she was–a woman so incredible that she was worth completely giving up existence as he understood it and trading immortality for a life of pain and suffering–and that is to buy a basket full of pears in a really normal way just like everyone buys pears.
Boy, he became a regular human so quickly! Just doing things exactly like how we do them!
Of course, they never bother to explain any of the logic of the movie. Like how come Meg Ryan can see him when other human beings can’t, or even more importantly, how come Meg Ryan can only see him SOMETIMES? And why would an angel ever need to swim? And if an angel DID need to swim, would it really be this hard for him?
It can get kind of sticky when you try debunking a movie’s Angel Logic, because there are no such things as angels, and so the field is pretty much open. Anyone who argues really strongly for a different set of Angel Logic is probably sick and needs to go to a hospital. (Where maybe they will be lucky and FALL IN LOVE WITH A REAL ANGEL MAN!)
I do think it would be hard for an angel who has just become a man and has no record of his existence to suddenly get ownership of his dead girlfriend’s house when she died after just one night together with absolutely no chance of changing her will or anything. But apparently it is easy. And anyway, I’m no Angel Lawyer. It’s entirely possible that California has more generous Angel-Man House Inheritance Laws.
And of course, some things about the movie make perfect sense. Like, duh, everybody knows that angels LOVE hanging out on helipads.
And no doy der duh if you try to take a Polaroid picture of an angel you are going to get some Photoshop Lensflare Filter all up in your FACE.
Classic angel prank. So classic.
I did decide while watching this movie that I’m going to sing “Iris” the next time I go out to karaoke.
Because I want all my friends to HATE ME.