Léon: The Professional ★★

i sure love Gary Oldman in this. other than that i think it's mostly just dull. but what always starts to gnaw on me every time i try this again is all the corny affectation: Leon's thing for milk, his gawk-eyed awe at Gene Kelly (calm down, i love it too, but it's cheap shorthand here) or Danny Aiello's cardboard goombah, or the domestic montage set to Bjork. comparisons to something like Melville don't hold up; none of these characters has any actual inner life. Leon's childlike presentation seems like a cop out to avoid any hint of desire, to nullify any general queasiness you might have about their plainly taboo relationship. when any authority figure in the film sniffs around it, it's a gag, like the stuffy building manager Mathilda messes with by claiming to be Leon's lover. does he call the cops? nope, just kicks them out of the room, har har. you're only supposed to register the cool or funny parts. it's a rather insidious excuse to sexualize and glibly inflict serious trauma and then, right away, an emotionally adult relationship on a young girl without ever really engaging with what it suggests is her capacity to handle it. sure, there's the scene where Leon adorably distracts her from her immediate grief with a hand puppet, but eventually she initiates things by confessing her love to him, which this plays as almost a direct psychological reaction to the death of her family, and cements that once she threatens suicide. it's more than a little fucked up, and part of me thinks this could be the stuff of exploitation greatness in less clueless hands. perhaps just less scarily pervy ones; i think separating art from artist is extremely important, but nobody ever talks about this specific movie coming from a guy who'd recently knocked up a 16-year-old. anyway this entire experience is portrayed as ultimately good for both of them.