4/29/14: Jacobs Ladder (1990)


“When I first went to UConn in April to get ready to teach Directing Time Featuring The Hours and Jacob’s Ladder for their OLLI Program, the lobby was overflowing with people. Some were handcuffed to their laptops. The UConn Police were about. I approached the reception desk nervously & said, ‘I’d like to speak to Dr. Chapman, please.’. The receptionist said, ‘Chapman? Is he new here?’. ‘New? No! He’s been here for years.’. She shrugged & looked in her log book & said, ‘Not according to my charts. Do you have an appointment?’. ‘Um, no. Look, I just need to see him. I know where his room is. Just give me a pass. I won’t be long. 10 minutes. I’m teaching a course in his old office, Room 119.’ ‘Our PhD’s are seen by appointment only.’, she replied. ‘Damn it! I presented a course for the OLLI program in March. He knows me.’. ‘Okay then, what’s your name?’. ‘Paulie Marino’. She looked on her laptop, then flipped furiously through her filing cabinet & and said, ‘I’m sorry but there’s no record of a Paulie Marino in our files.’. ‘Whadaya mean, no record?’. ‘Do ya want me to spell it out for ya? There’s nothing here.’. ‘That’s ridiculous! I’ve been coming here for 7 months. Listen to me: I need to see him!’. ‘If this is an emergency, we have a staff of Grad students to assist you. There’s about an hour’s wait. Just fill out this form.’. ‘Goddamn it, I don’t want a Grad student. Chapman knows me.”, I yelled as I darted down the hall, right here to Room 119, where he used to hold brainstorming sessions.

Ladder - OLLILadder - HandcuffedLadder - PoliceLadder - ReceptionistLadder - BrianLadder - 119

It’s a good thing I did too. Otherwise, I may never have been set up to present the course. And we wouldn’t be able to Blog this great film, my favorite movie of all time, Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder. It stars Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, a Vietnam War vet a few years after his Honorable Discharge, who’s haunted by the 10/6/71 Mekong Delta battle he was in. Jake’s PTSD is so severe that, although he has a PhD, he works as a blue collar postal worker. He lives with his girlfriend, Jezebel – who likes to be called Jezzie (Elizabeth Peńa) – in Brooklyn. Jezzie can never remember the names of Jacob’s sons: 2 of whom are living, Jed (Bryan Larkin) & Eli (B.J. Donaldson); and one deceased, his youngest, Gabe (9 year old Macaulay Culkin in a critical uncredited role). Jacob had all 3 with his ex-wife, Sarah (Patricia Kalember). Jake’s best friend is his chiropractor, Louis (Danny Aiello). Watch for Jason Alexander as Attorney Geary, Ving Rhames as George, and stand-up comedian Lewis Black in the tiny role of Jacob’s doctor.

Ladder - JakeLadder - JezzieLadder - FamilyLadder - GabeLadder - AielloLadder - AttyLadder - VingLadder - Black

Jacob’s Ladder is disturbing, surrealistic, existential & confusing. It’s a perfect film for a movie party where you can discuss it over cocktails & help one another interpret it. 2 points to ponder: The title is a double (or even triple) entendre referencing both the Biblical story & the protagonist’s name; and, something very few people know, it’s subtitled Dante’s Inferno. It received no Oscar or Golden Globe nominations. It’s biggest accolades are its cult following & it’s influence on several other newer psychological dramas, including M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense and Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others.

Ladder - BibleLadder - DanteLadder - SixthLadder - Others

Watch the Trailer below, then add Jacob’s Ladder to your Netflix Queue. You won’t regret it! Well, yes you will. It will haunt you for days! Pay particular attention to the props & items you see in Jacob’s Ladder. They help reveal the subtext (the implicit/unspoken meaning or main theme) of the film. Subtext is symbolism subsidiary to/beneath the text. 2 important symbols in the movie are characters: Louis & Jezebel. Who or what are they? And what the hell is happening to Tim Robbins in Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder? 4 Stars!


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