The Novice Movie Deconstruction and Discussion

The Novice Movie Deconstruction and Discussion
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The Novice Movie Deconstruction and Discussion. Sometimes I just know… know know, that I’m going to LOVE a movie. But I gotta give a quick shout out to Lisa from over on Patreon for the tip on this one. The story is fairly simple. It’s all about a hard working student who gets just a little obsessed with succeeding her first year of college. Obviously there is a heck of a lot more to this particular story than just that. But just trust me for once. Click this link below, head to Netflix, and watch this one. It’s a mindtrip of epic proportions. I loved it.

Okay, let’s get to talking about this one, shall we?

The Novice Movie Deconstruction and Discussion

Alex Dall is a Presidential Scholarship holder, that comes with a full ride to college. In high school, it is made clear that Dall was offended one day by one of her fellow students who was assumed to become the valedictorian of her class. She was so offended, that she took it on as her number one challenge to unseat him in the class rankings, and she did, eventually attaining the second seat in her class. Similarly, in college, she chose her weakest area of study to major in, in order to challenge herself. To push herself in order to prove she is capable of succeeding in even her hardest of possible studies. One day, while walking across campus, she watches as students row by, and she is transfixed. This is what she would do… she would become a sculler.

As the movie progresses, we learn that Dall takes, and retakes, and takes again all her tests. She doesn’t sleep. She doesn’t socialize. Dall is a machine that is focused on a single goal, and that is winning. Whether it’s her schoolwork, or whether it’s her rowing… Dall wants nothing more than to win. But the single-mindedness takes a toll. It takes a toll on her friendships, her team, her love life, her body. It takes a toll on everything. She focuses on every milestone. She focuses on every measuring point that would possibly prove she is better than everyone else… and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her.

Dall realizes that there will, eventually, have to be a seat race to determine who will make it into varsity and who will not. The way the seat races work is that the two people racing against each other will scull in one boat of four, and then switch. All things then can be measured and counted to see what the effect that one rower had on the race. But when Dall races for the seat, her only friend on the team, makes a backroom deal with the seniors to sandbag the race for Dall… and thereby forcing Dall off the varsity squad. “The thing about teams is that you have to respect each other, and no one respects you Dall. I won that seat race.” As the movie ends, Dall learns there is an annual race around the lake challenge – and she, just like all the other times, decides this is the challenge she will destroy.

The Novice Movie Deconstruction and Discussion. This movie is about someone that cannot let go, who must rip and tear to win and succeed...

Explain the Ending of The Novice To Me

Some of you, literally just turned off The Novice, and were like.. um. People? Someone? Will a nice someone please just explain to me the ending of The Novice to me? I will be that nice person. Okay. And I know that I can explain it to you because, like Dall, I too am a bit of an obsessive. I never do anything partially. It can be a bit life ruining really. I am now going to become a quilter. I’m ALL IN. I now own all the machines, all the material, all the everything. I hire someone to train me… it’s too much. But who cares about me? What happened at the end of this movie?

First, let’s think about what we know about Dall. In high school she was going to beat the presumed heir apparent to her class’ valedictorian spot. (If you aren’t from America, it’s just the student with the highest grades, or marks, or whatever you call them. The valedictorian gives a rousing speech at graduation, you know… but all that doesn’t matter.) She’s determined she will do one thing, and that is that she will beat this guy. And she does, she even knocks him off the stage. She isn’t the valedictorian, but that wasn’t her obsession. Her obsession was beating this jerk. And she does. Then in college, having won The Presidential Scholarship, she takes her worst major of study solely so she can prove to herself she can beat it. And she takes the tests, over, and over, and over again, only so that she can ace them. The same goes for rowing. She becomes fascinated with it. She doesn’t need rowing in her life for a scholarship or anything… she just wants to prove it to herself that she can destroy this thing like she’s destroyed absolutely everything else in her life.

But here’s the thing… in a team sport, “winning” is defined by more than just the fastest lap time. It’s defined by how you fit in with the other women in her boat, and the other teammates she rows day in and day out with. She doesn’t care about the social order of this ladder she is climbing. She is just working her ass off in order to beat absolutely everyone on her team’s times. But when she and one other novice are considered for a single spot on the varsity team… they have this race off. The other gals on the team throw the race for Dall, and literally give the win to Brill. Why? It’s because Dall didn’t give a crap about anyone else on the team. She just cared about her times. She gave up her Christmas break and rowed every single day. She was demon possessed.

Which brings us to the final race of the year. This is a race that is a singular race, it’s her element. She isn’t going to need to rely on anyone else. This will be her defining moment. And the day of the race, it’s storming and lightening. And they are not allowed to race in the lightening… but Dall continues on. She knocks other scullers over. She doesn’t help any of them as they scream out against the raging storm. She just single-mindedly races her heart out like she has the entire season. And, as the storm consumes all the other racers, Dall wins the race. Well, I’m not certain calling it “winning” is actually correct. She wins the war of attrition. She survives the furthest, she gets across the finish line first, but she’s actually lucky she wasn’t spiked by lightening. And as the movie ends, Dall walks to the chalkboard and erases her name from the rowing roster. She quits the team. She’s done with rowing. She’s done with the team. And to put an exclamation point on it all – she pulls off her shirt to show the cutting she has been doing on her ribs. She shows of the emotional, and psychological toll this horrible season has exacted on her. Not just what she exacted on herself, but also what they exacted on her with their own unkindness’s.

What’s the Take Away From The Novice?

Dall is stricken with a highly obsessive and addictive personality. I used to be addicted to reading in a similar way that she was addicted to success. There was a year or two here on the blog that I did upwards of over 10 book reviews a month. And to find those ten, I’d read way more than that. Which meant I was reading a book a day or two. Yes, it’s possible to read that many books a month, but it’s not possible to enjoy the books when you have a life besides, right? And that is what Dall is doing here. There was one moment, one of her first times out on the water, that I thought she might actually learn something here. The music was soaring, the scenery at dawn was glorious… I thought maybe she’d have this epiphany, she’d apologize to everyone in her life she had railroaded, and she’d rejig her life. But no… Dall doesn’t learn a single thing over the course of this movie’s duration. Not one thing.

When you play board games with your family are you so obsessed with winning that you forget that the point is the laughter between the moves? Do you work so hard at work that you forget the people that you work with? At school are the grades the only thing that matters? Or what about your experiences? Do you have them so you can social them? Or do you have them to suck out all the marrow of life? These are vastly different experiences. If you go to the most beautiful beach on the planet to get the photo……. so you can post it. You missed it. You just missed it. If you went to school to get the best grade, and beat everyone else? You just missed it. The learning, the wisdom? The growth? You missed it. And that job of yours? If you just climbed over everyone else in order get the raise, to get the promotion? You just missed it. You know?

When Brill confronts Dall with the fact that she already has a scholarship… that she doesn’t even need the seat on the varsity team? Dall has no response. Why? Because she literally doesn’t need the seat on the varsity team. She already has a scholarship – a full ride. She will beat Brill at all costs, and it doesn’t matter that Brill will have to quit school as a result. Dall doesn’t care. Why? Because she so single-mindedly focused on winning the prize. Taken home the golden trophy in the sky. Some sort of mythical #1 that only she can see. You know? And it is in that moment the audience should swing from sympathetic to Dall, to despising this woman that is hellbent on winning.

Are You Dall?

No. Not are you Dall? The question is… where and when are you Dall? Because we all can be her in various moments in our lives. Maybe you only get obsessive compulsive about certain details? Your D&D group? Or your work or side business? Maybe you lose all sense of perspective with your hobbies or with your Etsy shop. I don’t know. Heck, maybe it’s your garden – or your journaling. We all have areas where we lose all sense of perspective. We can all learn from Dall. Really we can.

Edited by: CY