Wednesday, March 1

Keeping An Accounting ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

Ben Affleck as The Accountant
Over the weekend while the rest of the country was obsessed with the Oscar outcome (and that snafu with the Best Picture announcement), RadioMan and I were enjoying a not-Oscar-contender: The Accountant.

The movie came out late last summer and stars Ben Affleck, who has become one of my favorite actors. You know, outside of that Dare Devil movie. I'm not sure what anyone was thinking with that one. Anywho.

The movie is told in flashbacks as well as real time, and follows Affleck's character, Christian Wolff, from childhood until the present day. He's somewhere on the autism spectrum, with high math abilities. When the movie opens, his mother is trying to get him into some kind of program while he puts together a puzzle in another room - the puzzle is upside down - and his military-man father insults the doctor they're talking with and they leave. Then we see him as an adult in his accounting office, helping a small farmer with his taxes. The farmer can't pay, and so Christian finds some interesting deductions that save the man's farm. And then we learn he's an accountant for Bad People - drug dealers, mafia members, etc. What I found fascinating in these opening scenes is that his character is very detached no matter what is going on around him. In fact, he's distant in just about every scene as is to be expected because the character is somewhere on the autism spectrum.

This is where I'm going to stop telling you about the movie because if you're interested you'll watch it and if not, you're probably ready for me to get to the point already. I mentioned the distance/detached thing. In several reviews, Affleck and the writers take a lot of heat because the reviewers say the movie never really goes anywhere, that it's just a shoot-em-up-for-no-reason movie, that Affleck's character is nothing more than a killer automaton, created by a sadistic father, who speaks in too much gibberish and is prone to tantrums.

That isn't what I got from the movie. What I saw was a control-freak father, absolutely. A man who had no idea how to deal with his child and who was absolutely not going to accept his autism diagnosis because he saw it as 'less than' in some way...and so that made me angry. But I also saw a man who was dedicated to ensuring that his son knew how to take care of himself. In the movie, his father is military and not just military but psychological warfare military. So he's seen the worst that can be done to the strongest of people and he is going to do his best to see that those things don't happen to his son. So he teaches him a code of self-control, self-reliance, and protection - you protect those who are weaker than yourself and you protect family and you control the emotions that might otherwise send you spiraling. This is how Christian copes with a world he doesn't understand. The father did this in awful ways (forcing him to fight for 'respect', forcing him into all kinds of self-defense classes, etc), but those were the lessons that we see Christian following throughout the movie.

His first truly illegal act was in defense of his father, his next was to avenge the torture of another man he saw as a father figure, and the last was to protect and defend a young woman who was kind to him, who was only doing her job when she found that someone was embezzling from the company Christian has been called in to audit.

What I took away from The Accountant was an interesting character study: a man who isn't a good man by society's definition, and who does very bad things...but for not altogether bad reasons. A man who could easily only be an automaton, but who cares for the people he meets - from the farmer who needs tax help to the woman in actual jeopardy to the brother who...well, I won't give away that spoiler. He's a kind of Robin Hood in that he protects those weaker than himself. He doesn't steal from the rich, but makes sure that the bad guys are caught doing actual bad things (like transporting drugs, or killing people) that will get them off the streets and that will expose/destroy their nefarious businesses. We see him connect (not romantically, but a connection nonetheless) with the young woman he was trying to save, and we see him ensuring that she will be safe after he leaves...and, yeah, he kills a lot of bad people and he does it without emotion. But he's not a tantrum-throwing, gibberish-speaking automaton. He's an adult on the autism spectrum, who has been shaped by the environment in which he was raised...but who has also figured out how to be a protective force instead of just a machine.

                              ~Kristina

9 comments:

  1. I haven't seen the movie, but love the idea if the imperfect hero/heroine. Writers and readers want "relatable" characters, and life is often a wide gray line where the end justifies the means (or at least we sometimes talk ourselves into believing this). Thought-provoking post, Kristi!

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    1. thanks, Ava! And imperfect heroes/heroines are some of my favorites!

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  2. I don't know that I'll watch the movie--I sense violence there and I avoid that--but I agree about Ben Affleck and the story sounds fascinating. There's nothing better than a complicated character. I agree with Ava: thought-provoking.

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    1. yes, the violence is...violent, to put it mildly. Thanks for visiting, Liz!

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  3. Sounds like an interesting film, Kristi--I'll have to think about it. I'm like Liz, although I love complex and fascinating characters, I'm really not into violence...which was why, although you know how I feel about Jeff Bridges, I wasn't all that crazy about Hell or High Water... good post!

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  4. Definitely an interesting character. I haven't seen the movie either (I'm with Liz on the violence thing),but I like imperfect characters. I think if the writer gives good motivation for what the characters do, a reader/watcher will believe in that character and accept his or her actions. Characters who are imperfect in some way are far more interesting, and believable, than someone who is perfect in every way.

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    1. Yes, yes, yes, Jana! Thanks for visiting!

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  5. So, basically, you're the only Wrangler to have seen this movie. LOL

    I couldn't tell from the preview glimpses that he was on the spectrum. Interesting. Mmm I might have to check it out.

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