Californians...we are an unique breed of people.
Chris and I were invited to a screening of 'The Californians' Wednesday night at the Metreon starring Noah Wyle, Illeana Douglas and Kate Mara. I didn't intend to write about it today, but as I rolled the characters and the story line around my head some more over coffee, I realized I had actually lived parts of this movie - so why not add my $0.02.
The plot: A slick, smug developer Gavin Ransom (Noah Wyle) has a dream: make millions by blanketing the coastal hills of Northern California with flamboyant mini-mansions. His sister Olive (Illeana Douglas), a raving environmentalist, thinks otherwise, and aims to stop her brother's land-gobbling plans. When Zoe Tripp (Kate Mara), a beautiful folk singer, joins Olive's cause, Gavin gets thrown for a loop, falling hard for the striking young woman with the golden voice. Caught between Olive's righteousness and Gavin's affection, the idealistic and innocent Zoe, coached by her parents (Keith Carradine and Valerie Perrine) and a maternal environmentalist (Cloris Leachman), must choose between a cause she's grown up supporting, or the affections of a man who stands for everything she believes is wrong.
The Californians pokes fun at any individual or group that clings so close to its cause that it loses sight of its goal. I think it is worthy and recommend everyone see it. The only negative comment (if I could call it that) was I thought it had more singing in it than necessary. But it provided interesting characters, good story line embroiled with personal conflict and a couple of good one liners to boot.
This story really opened my eyes and several times throughout I found myself questionning what character I wanted to support - do you try to make as much money as you can and develop that beautiful untouched patch of earth or do you leave it to the salamanders and the field mice? I think I leaned slightly more towards Olive, the saver of mother earth - but she was so extreme, I felt sorry for Gavin the developer and was rooting for him at times. Strange.
In 1975, my family bought an acre in Clayton which housed a small gathering of people at the base of Mt. Diablo. Clayton was considered a 'horse' town with a single lane road to get you in and out. There was a small grocery store, saloon, beauty salon and a pizzeria. That was it. Our family lot was in a cul-de-sac at the top of the hill shared by one other family, the Seeno's, and both our families broke ground at the same time putting up 2500+ custom homes which was a pretty big deal back then.
The Seeno's owned a development company that had been turning the beautiful hillsides of the East Bay into mini housing developments for several generations and were a big part of turning Clayton from a small ranching community into the new Blackhawk development - think Atherton, Hillsborough, Tiburon, etc. I didn't really care when I was younger as it meant I had more friends in the neighborhood, but as the years past, I started to resent the increased traffic, the longer lines at the store and the never ending flow of excavators, cement trucks, roofers, etc. I saw Clayton lose the essence of what made it great. It once was a community where deer came into your backyard, kids played in the streets and families left their houses unlocked. Today it is nothing but a sea of smog and snooty people - and everyone is trying to keep up with the Jones' - which California is famous for. We have so much...but we aways want more. Of course, I can't imagine living anywhere else (well, except for NYC) and I am the first to admit (good or bad) I fall right into the California mold...
I don't fault the Seeno's for taking the opportunity to build back then because I know if they didn't - someone else would. I can't blame my dad for wanting to build a nice house for his kids to live in - even though it meant we developed a plot of pristine land and probably forced a field mouse out of his home. Do I feel strong enough to stand on a soap box or lay down on a train track to inhibit progress? No. It will happen with our without me. It does, however, make me wonder how our communities can continue to grow at this fast pace, and what effect it has on the environment, and if there ever can be a happy medium - but this post is already getting way too long, so I will continue that discusson on another day.
Go see the movie.