Theories to Explain the Amazing Movie Discontinued. Here at THiNC. we claw our way through the desert landscape of Hollywood cinematic films in search of movie experiences that will make us think. Mindjobs are our preferred fare. But really anything that breaks the mold of the fairly routine formulas that we seem to overrun by. Unfortunately, Hollywood has become a stock market-esque community that only bets on sure things. You know… IP (Intellectual Property) films is where all the big time directors eventually end up going to (Justin Benson / Aaron Moorhead, a great example of this), mainly because that is where the dollars are… because that is where the bets are more sure.
ALL THAT TO SAY… we here at THiNC. love finding movies that are attempting to break the mold. And Trevor Peckham and his movie, Discontinued, definitely is doing napalm runs against the humdrum, standard movie fare. Which I absolutely adore. But, I will say this, before you go looking to find this movie – know that you are going to have to put your big boy pants on, and be prepared to maybe even take notes as you are watching. Me? I was just scribbling as fast as I could in order to see if I could make the necessary connections to understand what I was watching.
First things first – if you have not had the chance to watch the film Discontinued – please do so. And consider this your last warning that the rest of this thread will be a morass of spoilers. And I will not like you any more if you continue on without having watched said film first. Here are a few great places to watch Discontinued from… whatever you do… don’t continue on without watching first.
I have heard that Discontinued is so low budget, that it filmed in the actors’ own homes, used all their own wardrobes, and I personally believe that, in this way, the film carried this amazing patina of reality with it as a result. This great lived-in quality… which, sort of makes sense, since it was. But it’s this level of low budget practicality I just adore. Only have your grandmother’s garage and 12k to build a futuristic modern lockup space? Brilliant! (I’m referring to Infinity Chamber there.)
The movie opens with Sarah, an individual crumpling under the weight of existential dread, defeatism, and just general angst of the world at large. We watch as she intellectually and emotionally spars with her counselor Theodore (Robert Picardo – who I know from Innerspace, and you know from Star Trek I’m sure. There are a lot of really big names in this enormously small budget film). Her relationship with her best friend is wobbly, as is her relationship with her mother. But ultimately, she decides she’ll try for once. She goes out for a date, and Tucker (Michael Bonini), her date, turns out to be a complete and utter a%$hole. Like, EPICALLY and MYOPICALLY solely self-interested. And ultimately, she’s just had one psychic hit too many… and she decides to exit stage left on this life. And as a result, she starts to chug her pills.
But her last chance at attempting to control her life for the better goes upside down on her immediately. A TV broadcast kicks off where the host (played by Laurence Fishburne’s son, Langston Fishburne) tells her (and ostensibly the entire world) that the world she has been living in has just been a simulation. And that this simulation? As it has expended its usefulness, would be ending. That the specific reason for this version of the simulation has been completed. And that the residents of this particular branch of “reality,” are told that they have two options. 1) They can either stay here, and inhabit a basically empty planet, or 2) They can leave, and inhabit five of their favorite memories for eternity. Huh.
Let’s Review What We Know About Discontinued
Our hero/protagonist is suicidal. She’s depressed about how horribly humans are to each other, and to the planet. But, after attempting to kill herself, she realizes that all of that now doesn’t matter. And now, that the REAL end is coming, she’s reevaluating everything. The reality that we know? It’s a simulation… a test case. And this simulation has been crafted by humans from the 32nd century. Why? Well, specifically a test case to see what effect penguins would have on the planet. But now that they are extinct… the purpose of the simulation is irrelevant. Which isn’t how scientific testing works, but okay. I get it. But what will Sarah choose? Will she stay in this nearly empty planet? Or will she escape to a world of perfect memories?
Which is one of the seminal questions of Philosophy. Is it better to live a life of knowledge, and pain, as a result of that knowledge? Or is it better to not know, and live a life of blissful ignorance? That’s not a hypothetical… you live your life under the weight of those two choices every day. Do you choose to ignore the plight of the people the world over in your relative affluence, or do you choose to learn more and act as a result of what you have learned? Well, Sarah, she decides to stay in the world as most everyone else exits. And it is here, in the blissful peace of her aloneness, that she truly blossoms as a human being. She creates a routine that she falls in love with. She scavenges for food, gets fresh water, she visits her counselor’s office as she tells him about her amazing progress. Etc.
But what does this specifically say about Sarah? Is she actually growing and learning? Is she really coming to terms with her place in the world, and her own mental state? Or was she just being selfish for her own space? Did she just want the world to just commit mass suicide? And now that they had, that is why she is happier? I mean… we know that that is the case, because the moment Tucker shows back up in her life, she spirals again, right back to where she was before.
Before we go further I would ask a couple of simple questions.
1) Has Sarah suffered a mental break?
2) Was Sarah’s suicide attempt successful?
#1 – Could be a yes? But we can’t fully know the answer. (Unless – maybe – we talk to the writer and director that is.) But for #2, I can give it to you on good authority, that her suicide attempt was not successful. I mean, ultimately you have to decide that for yourself. It would make sense if her attempt worked. It would explain a lot of craziness that is happening coincidentally adjacent to her suicide attempt. But the biggest bit of evidence I can give you that she didn’t die from her suicide attempt is that she spat up the pills. This seems like an extraordinarily important little detail from Trevor Peckham.
The Ending of Discontinued Explained
This is where you are going to need to get out your junior detective magnifying glasses, and your Colombo flip-notebooks, in order to uncover what really happened at the ending of the movie Discontinued. I know you got this though. We can get through this together.
So, Tucker shows back up. Apparently, he showed some actual third-dimension qualities to his normally sexist-machismo inspired personality, and chose to stay within the simulation even after everyone else abandons the place and heads out to their own personally designed Nirvana’s. He might have actually grown up a little bit, and he acknowledges that he was a real jerk to her back on their initial date. He hunts her down the next day, excited about the prospect of having company again. But she is LESS than thrilled. What’s the opposite of thrilled. Disthrilled. Yeah, she’s decidedly disthrilled. No. Subthrilled. Antithrilled? Look, she is not happy at all.
And then, push comes to shove, literally. As he is attempting a go at chivalry, she pushes him, he falls… and he dies. Sarah kills Tucker. Accidentally, of course. But kills him still she does. Later, after burying him, she is rejoined by her Guide and she tells him:
“People, real ones and simulated ones alike, are programmed to care about each other. You just forgot that because society had trained you to think otherwise. In plain terms, people need people.”
And a moment later, Sarah says “Seeing him dead, there on the ground, it all became real. After two years of feeling more alive than I’ve ever felt, reality came crashing in and suddenly I was more alone than I ever thought possible. Before I was able to live like this whole world was mine, but now I can’t go anywhere without being reminded of what we used to be.”
So we know that Sarah realizes that her blissful aloneness was just a facade. And the death of Tucker broke this illusion and forces her to reconsider the reality of her recent false existence, and her flight from the real trouble she had been facing. The Guide goes further, and tells her that he is proud of her. That every other permutation of herself throughout the expansive simulatorverse (or whatever you’d like to call it) had already ended it, and given up. But she, Sarah24601, had lasted the longest of them all. She had given it every last ounce she had, and she had done quite well while doing it too. So buck up little bunny!
It’s interesting – The Guide tells Sarah that everyone will end up eventually in the same place. And that they are required to allow the individuals to make a decision as to when they want to go. But I’m confused, is this “place where everyone else is” the five best memories place? Or is physically where everyone else is? Better yet, why would anyone care about a simulated human playing out simulated choices, as these advanced humans attempt to learn what the key variances in the world are that really make a difference? Wouldn’t you just turn the simulation off if they learned what they needed? AKA, what difference did the penguins make?
The Interesting Details in the Movie Discontinued
Personally, I think that the simulations, The Guide, and the penguins are all a red herring. I really don’t think any of that matters. I’m more interested in Sarah, and her attempting to grapple with a horrible world where people don’t care about each other. The Guide tells her that really? We’ve all been programmed to care for one another, and she needed to remember that. And it took murdering someone to realize this fact. There was no moral dilemma here because we are all just 1’s and 0’s in a computer hardware, attempting to ascertain the importance of penguins of all things. So murder everyone you want… but you have to realize the central truth, the thing that is deeply missing in Sarah’s heart… that she needs to care about other people.
The movie takes a bit of a circuitous path, and it winds its way – this way and that – in order to present us with this central truth. But, in so doing, it has managed to take some of the cheese-factor out of the telling. It has made the bitter pill easier to swallow. That guy over there who may, or may not, be having the worst day of their life? Care about him. That woman with the kids pulling on her pant leg in order to get the latest toy… care about her. Living a selfish life, avoiding others… we all did that for two years. What did that get us? Vitriol. And hate. It got us lots and lots of vitriolic hate.
Thoughts on the Movie Discontinued
I adored this movie. I was confused by it. I was intrigued by it. And I ultimately fell in love with Sarah, her depression, and her desperation to make it all make sense. I loved the soundtrack, loved the acting. Loved the low budget lived in feeling of the “sets.” Loved the editing and directing here by such a great new talent. Maybe my only constructive criticism is that it feel a little bit bumpy in the screenplay… and yet, the bumpiness told a story and had a point to it. And if it means that I got to watch a movie that didn’t have the same beats and cadences of an off-the-shelf Hollywood movie… then I take those comments back. 10/10 would recommend!
Several Theories to Explain Discontinued:
#1 The Moral Analogy: She’s Paying.
I will say this, that her getting let off the hook for murdering one of the few remaining people on the planet, that there are no moral repercussions for her hate for this guy seems messed up to me. And actually, there is a line of thinking that she is trapped in a hell state for a reason. Yes, we like Sarah. We are meant to. But she despises everyone. Without restraint. Could it be that her moral angst is her own personal hell? And could it be that the place she’s about to step across to isn’t exactly the heaven-esque escape she hopes it will be?
#2 The Literal Theory: It is, what it is.
This is an easy theory to explain – if not to understand. Basically, the movie isn’t pulling any punches at all. Humans in the future have a killer server room, and they are simulating an infinite number of human past variations just for the fun of it. They are hopeful to figure out life, and the meaning of the universe. (In that respect it’s much like the planet sized server in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If you don’t know the reference… I’m sorry, read the books. Can’t help you there.) It’s a literal understanding of the movie. And it’s the most boring way to read this movie. No offense, Trevor Peckham.
#3 The She’s Dying Theory: slowly.
What if, instead, as Sarah takes the pills, falls the ground, and over the course of the next moments of her life… she is dying. And these experiences she is having are all about her in the process of dying? Look at how the movie opens. It’s with her at the lake, ready to “die.” Look at how the movie ends, at the lake, ready to die. Maybe the entirety of the movie is playing out while she is in the process of dying. I don’t know … No. Not I don’t know. I know exactly. I actually think that that is what is happening here. (There are a number of movies that follow this thread, and if I mention them, even if they are 25 years old, I will get hate mail. So, I won’t. Yes, you are welcome Jacob… so now go climb back up your Ladder… cough. Man, I need my JACKET it’s suddenly cold in here.)
#4 The She’s Dead Theory: Um, She’s Dead.
This theory is also easy to explain simply because when she attempted to commit suicide, this theory goes that she succeeded. And everything we see after she takes the pills, is her being dead. Maybe it’s after life. Or maybe it’s her soul wrangling with her life and trying to settle things. I don’t know.
Watch this space for an interview with the director soon!
Edited by: CY