"That one sounded like a gunshot." -- Hazel Bergeron
2081 is a short film based on the Kurt Vonnegut story "Harrison Bergeron." It gets right to the point, and nails the adaptation in about 25 minutes. That's got to be a record.
Most adaptations add stuff and take away stuff to get to feature length. A 1995 "Bergeron" movie dumped the story and did a different one about how bad TV is.
But in 2081, it's all here: Bergeron's parents, the ballet, Harrison's pro wrestling style speech.
The story is about a future where everyone is made equal by handicapping their exceptional traits. Strong people must drag weights. Pretty people must wear masks. Creative people must watch the 1995 "Bergeron" movie.
A few details are different, but they don't mess it up. The actor playing Harrison (Armie Hammer) isn't 14, more like 20-something. He doesn't say he's "emperor of the world." But Leonardo Dicaprio ruined that line for all future movies, since he, in fact, was not king of the world.
Some of Harrison's handicapping gadgets from the story are missing, but the point is made when you see him. He really could use a haircut.
The dance scene with music by the Kronos Quartet, and the cuts back to George Bergeron watching, are awesomely done. James Cosmo (Campbell from Braveheart) plays George Bergeron as a grizzled Robert Duvall type. All he does is watch the dance on TV, but his face is enthralling.
Julie Hagerty plays her Airplane! character as Bergeron's dithering, oblivious mother. The story is brutal, but she's hilarious.
One thing about the movie is irksome. It's not even in the movie. It's in the dramatic promo paragraph on the website and the back of the DVD that tells viewers about the movie to get them to buy it.
Here's a spoiler warning. But the story came out in 1961, so that's five decades of fair warning.
The promo says Bergeron performed "an act of defiance that changed everything."
But his act didn't change anything. Really, it made things worse. Harrison doesn't end up French-kissing the Handicapper General.
It's an optimistic statement. It's a grabber to entice buyers. But it's not correct.
The same promo writer would have written the Turner and Hooch promo this way: "The dog totally does not die."
I might be overreacting. But I choose to believe I am reacting an appropriate amount.
2081 is worth seeing. It's stirring and dramatic. But don't expect high fives and butt kicking at the end.
"I am a free man. A free man who could use a comb!" (Quote not necessarily from 2081).