Tape Movie Closed Box Recommendation Discussion

Tape Movie Closed Box Recommendation Discussion
Reader Rating0 Votes

Tape Movie Closed Box Recommendation Discussion. THiNC. Is all about movies that make you think. Movies that are clever, deeply felt, perforated with twists and turns, and that keeps audiences on their toes. For a long time now, I have referenced one my favorite closed box movies of all time… TAPE. A Linklater film – and if you know me, I’m pretty much a hardcore Linklater fanboy… The Before Series being the single best trilogy of all time (that should get some fantastic love mail.) Regardless, Tape is up there as a contender as my all time favorite closed box movie. That’s saying something, because we have discussed TONS of closed box films here. I mean peruse this list right here.

But if you’ve never heard of the film Tape – it’s a stupid simple idea. Two guys reuniting for the first time since high school. That’s it. Two guys, a hotel room… and maybe one late visitor. Three people. Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, and Uma Thurman. Three people and a camera… that and a really good script. 

First thing first… if you haven’t seen the movie Tape, please don’t continue any further. Just leave this tab – head on over to a new one – and watch this one through. Alright? Deal. 

Tape Movie Walkthrough 

Lansing, Michigan, motel room – Vince, (Hawke) a firefighter and also part-time drug dealer, gets a room in order to meet back up with one of his best friends from high school. Jon (Leonard), a film maker, who has a film entering the Lansing Film Festival, is supposedly meeting up with his old friend in order to shoot the bull and catch up with his long lost friend. As the conversation starts, the two are happy – laughing about old times, like they don’t have a care in the world. Soon though, it’s really obvious that something isn’t quite right. There is something just under the surface that neither of them is really talking about. And all of the stickiness seems to be centered around Amy, Vince’s former girlfriend. Well, apparently, while Vince and Amy were dating, the two never had sex. But after the duo broke up, Amy and Jon slept together. What is going on here? Hrmmm. Note to self, note to self. 

As the line on this thread continues to unspool a bit, Vince tells Jon that Amy told him that Jon had raped her. Vince doesn’t let it go. He wants to hear it from Jon that he raped her. He’s a man obsessed. And eventually, Jon admits it, that he had raped Amy. And as soon as Jon admits this crime, Vince pulls out a tape recorder, and shows it to Jon that he had been recording all along. Jon is mortified to say the least. But Jon doesn’t realize that his bad day is only just getting started. Why? Because Vince has invited Amy to join them for dinner. Record scratch, wait whuhhht? Yeah, and she’ll be arriving any minute now. 

When Amy arrives, its eleven levels of awkward. As it would… right? But as it turns out, Amy is now an Assistant DA for the Lansing Michigan Justice Department. And Amy catches them up on her life since high school and her new career in the world of Justice. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge… a wink is as good as a nudge to a blind bat you know. And then, eventually, the trio begin discussing the details around what actually happened between Jon and Amy on that particular night at that party 10 years prior. But strangely, after Jon asks Amy to forgive him for raping her… she says that he had her consent. Eh? Is she playing him? Is she playing Vince? Or is Jon just going insane right now? (Literally this will be 100% of my deep dive after this walk through is done… WHAT IS HAPPENING???) And this? This detail just flips Jon out… she isn’t accepting his apology, why? And he gets so agitated, Amy calls the police and asks for a cop to be dispatched to pick up two people – one for drugs, and another for sexual misconduct. Obviously she is referring to Vince and Jon respectively. After she hangs up, she let’s them know that they have about 4 minutes to run.

Jon though, in an attempt to show his real remorse to Amy, stays. He refuses to run. Vince, determined to not be caught with drugs on his person, dumps all his stash into the toilet and flushes it. He also takes the tape (thus the name of the movie) of Jon’s rape confession, and destroys it. But after sending the two men into utter panic, Amy reveals that she actually didn’t contact the police at all. It was all a ruse.

Tape Movie Investigation

Linklater, after delivering Before Sunrise and then crashing with The Newton Boys, went back to his Indie roots, and delivered film-going audiences a movie version of Stephen Belber’s play, Tape, into a $100k feature film. He shot it in a single week, and it allowed Linklater to side step his bomb of The Newton Boys, and provided his viewers with an anxiety inducing, completely ambiguous, indie closed box pot-boiler. It’s one thing that I love about Linklater and his entire career. But who cares about a movie director’s career – we want to know, what the heck happened in that amazing ending?

Now, as the movie was winding up into its conflict riddled, explosive ending… the question is laid out on the table for us. Jon believes that he raped Amy. OK. Simple… horrible. But simple. He remembers clearly what happened. But Amy intervenes after forcing Jon to admit that this is what he thinks happened. “I know what happened!” Jon protests as he exclaims his guilt. But Amy counters with, “Apparently not.” And when Jon admits to Amy that Vince caught him on tape recording his admission to raping Amy… “But that doesn’t mean you did it. Why? Because if no one is accusing you of anything there’s no reason to confess.”

The key question that Amy asks Jon… is “Why now?” And when Jon admits that when Vince played back the tape to him, it had hit him with what he had done. The gravity, and the weight of it. But when she pushes Jon, would you have sought me out in Alaska if I wasn’t here? And he admits that he wouldn’t. So, we can see that Amy is definitely messing with Jon – she is baiting him to determine his intentionality here. Is he messing with Vince? Is he messing with her? Is he genuinely sorry? Or is it an apology of convenience? Or has he been tricked into acting sincere about a thing that he doesn’t even believe?

“The reason I came back was to apologize… (Amy cocks an eyebrow), which I can assure you isn’t a bit disingenuous!”

But then Amy let’s fly and tells Jon that she wishes that he would go to hell. That if there isn’t a hell, that on his way to hell, he would be battered repeatedly by a steal rod so that his insides are pulverized. It’s here, in this last comment that we get the gist of what is happening here. Amy said Jon hadn’t raped her solely to see what he would do. To see how he would react. To see if he would take the pass, and run with it. And her ultimate test was her “calling” for a cop to be dispatched.

“Why does it have to be like this?”
“Because, if you are truly repentant, you should be willing to pay the price.”

So, the stakes are all on the table… Amy has made it clear. The only way an apology can even come close to being considered serious is if he is willing to pay for his crimes. She has said as much. And in that moment, we watch as Vince and Jon both show their true colors. Jon has decided he is staying, mainly because she has made it clear this is the price that needs to be paid. And Vince? In this moment, his true honesty is the most honest of the three. He cares only for himself, and his desire to not be caught with drugs on his possession. He doesn’t care about penance. He doesn’t care about making right with Amy. He assumes that Amy would have slept with him if she was sane, and that the rest of it is beyond him. He’s going to look out for himself, and only himself. He flushes the drugs, he comes unglued. But Jon stays seated, content with meeting the police and admitting to what he had done.

Tape Movie Closed Box Recommendation Discussion - three timeless actors sparring in a single hotel room is the stuff of legends.

Thoughts on Tape

I don’t believe that this movie is specifically about rape. Or about Amy per se. It’s a movie about guilt, penance, and our inabilities to really pay. The power dynamic between Vince and Jon shift tectonically over the course of the film. And it might as well be that Vince and Jon are a continuum of a single person’s perspective…

<JON ——————- | ——————- VINCE>

Are you Jon? An accomplished individual, a film maker, a indie artist? Have you made something of your life? Are you proud of your accomplishments, and do you lord it over those that are around you? And yet, are you carrying the debt of some internal crime, sin, that you’ve been hauling on your back, like a Sisyphean boulder? Or are you a purely selfish individual, living moment by moment for yourself? Pick your drug of choice. Pick your selfishness du joir… fine. The question is this – are you an obvious loser, or are you an accomplished person, with a hidden failing. Now, granted, you can be variations on the above. Some of Vince, and a lot of Jon. Some of Jon and a lot of Vince. But neither? Not an option. With that said – when confronted with your failings and flaws… what do you do with that information? Do you flush your shit down the toilet and run? Or, do you grapple with your failings?

Which, causes me great consternation as a movie viewer. Why? Because Jon – you know, the rapist – is the good guy here. Sure, he might have been caught, and forced into this situation. He might not have come forward on his own. But upon being busted? He really did attempt to make it right. He was willing to even go to jail as a result, he was willing to do whatever it took to make it right by Amy. Which, was the correct move. And yet, he is THE RAPIST! And Vince? He literally has zero idea here. He doesn’t understand why Amy wouldn’t stay with him, wouldn’t make love to him, couldn’t figure out why everyone didn’t think himself God’s Gift to the World. He was the one cutting and running, Amy be damned. Self-preservation was the name of his game at that moment. And when it came out that Amy didn’t call the cops, all he cared about was the drugs he had just flushed.

Which begs the question here. What happened here?

From my take, this trio, back in high school were all loosely connected. Vince and Amy were dating. But then Amy and Vince broke up. Then, during a party, there is an encounter between Jon and Amy. It’s pretty clear, at the end of the movie, that Jon raped Amy. Why? Besides the obvious. Was he getting back at Vince? Had he been jealous all along? Did he think Amy should be his? This didn’t come from nowhere. It makes sense that this was very personal between Jon and Vince, and that aspect of the relationship bears out with Vince inviting Jon to this hotel room, and his recording his confession of sorts. Why else would he have been that motivated to corner his “friend”?

And On Top Of It All – Memory

Layered on top of these power dynamics between these three characters is the fact that this horrible crime occurred years ago. In an interview that Linklater did years ago, he even concurred that Tape was also tapping into the unreliability of memory: “People act like ‘Oh, you’re choosing to remember or forget for your own purposes.’ When the fact is that your brains are reconstructing constantly, based on memories and they’re adding things to it and it’s more of a theatrical production than an exact film [laughs]. You know, there aren’t any exacts. It’s an imaginative thing. Every time you think of a memory, you’re re-imagining based just on the memory of an old thing. So you’re always building and changing. That’s why I just can’t believe that our court systems are so hung up on eyewitness accounts when everyone knows it’s “What the $&@!,” it could be anything. A couple of years later and you’ve heard so much and in the meantime maybe lawyers have told you things, or prosecutors have led you, or you’ve just added your own things. I guess there’s not much else, but still, I mean the strange thing is that we all kind of live in our own realities. You know we’re creating these kind of mental models of the world based on limited visual input. We’re trying to make it all comprehensive.”

Regardless of the nuances here of the she said, he said, and the details that are in dispute, this trio have decided that something did in fact happen. And it is Amy’s unsettling response that sort of throws everything into question at first. She though, is maneuvering these two people… she is manipulating them in order to find out what they really think about what happened. And, even though it was years prior, she has been holding this night, and these two people, close to her heart – and her manipulation of them both makes me think that there is another layer here I might have originally missed. What are the odds, do you think, that Amy maneuvered Vince, in order to get him to entrap Jon? I highly doubt Vince would have even realized what it was that Amy was even doing. You know? I think Amy held this memory, this trauma close to her for years, and she had been waiting in order to learn more and exact her revenge. Don’t you think?

At the end of the day, it’s open-endedness is the reason I have held this movie in such high regard for all these years. Re-watching the movie this week after so many years made me realize just how clever it really is.

Edited by: CY