A few weeks ago I did what I hope was a humorous riff about Robots, where I drew parallels with the Bush administration. I was goofing that time, but in Silver City it really could not be more obvious who director John Sayles and star Chris Cooper are skewering. Cooper plays little Dickie Pilager (cute), son of the Governor of Colorado, running for the US Senate. He is a total, clueless, fumbling, bumbling, tongue-tied idiot, exactly like George W. Bush. Even his dad knows it. He is incapable of stammering out an answer to the simplest question without stepping on his dick. Richard Dreyfuss is there to keep him from doing that, teaching him to walk and talk and wiping the drool from his chin, which is apparently all that we require from a leader these days. By the end of the film Dickie has learned to sit up, roll over, bark, wag his tail, and deliver a simplistic speech, and has managed to retain a few Pavlovian answers to stock questions. That is all his handlers will ever allow him to face. W only does his crapulous “Town Hall” meetings with picked audiences of adorers, and will never face a tough question in a press conference twice from the same reporter, as that reporter will never be called on again. In fact, by the end of the film you can hardly tell Pilager’s an idiot, the only way I can see that he differs at all from W.
The plot closely resembles Chinatown. A private detective is hired to investigate a drowned man that Dickie inadvertently hooks while pretending to fish for a TV commercial and quickly gets in way over his head. The water in his lungs is chlorinated. (“He had salt water in his lungs, Jake.” “He drowned in the LA River, which is bone dry.” “It’s Chinatown, Jake.”) Silver City is all about water, too, polluting it, not stealing it. But it’s still Chinatown, Jake. I won’t tell you how it comes out, but remember that Jake Gittes didn’t bring anybody to “justice.” They were just too big. In this case, the only one powerful enough to have the last word is Mother Nature, and unfortunately it isn’t the actual bad guys she will punish (they’ll get off with a pathetic fine), but their descendants. And yours.
The movie is well-written and has a fantastic cast, and should make you angry … but it is also frustrating because, unlike Chinatown, this isn’t in the past, this isn’t old felonies and crimes against humanity, this is today, and all too accurate. I’m afraid that, five years into the ongoing train wreck that is the Bush Administration, I just can’t really appreciate the satirical side, and am mostly too discouraged to get enraged by the reality. So they’re raping the environment. What else is new? Get in line, Mother Nature, behind the war in Iraq, the stolen election, the degradation and terrorization of the American electorate to the point they will actually vote for a man and a party as evil and cynical as W and his neo-con thugs.