Sarah and Karl: Doomed From the Start
This is probably one of the saddest storylines in the movie. It’s interesting the way it plays out, because the focus is on Sarah, and her problematic crush on Karl. Karl hardly says anything, and is mainly there to be hot manly eye-candy…and oddly enough, he never makes any romantic moves toward Sarah, despite his own interest in her, instead waiting for her to come to him (he does ask her to dance at the party, but not until near the end, when he’s sure she’s not going to ask him). I’m not sure what this implies…insecurity on Karl’s part? Role reversal?
The crux here is the scene where Karl brings her home (to her place, note) and they start to go to bed together (at her initiation, note), and just when things are getting hot and heavy…her cell rings. Bam. And then she answers it. BAM. And then, for the piece de resistance, she tells her mentally disturbed brother (on the other end) that she’s not busy. bam. The look on Karl’s face…I think he literally flinches at this point.
Long story short, the budding romance is dead. And in fact, I think it was stillborn…from the film’s point of view, there is no way this could have had a happy ending.
Now this says lots of things. One, it points out that this relationship is (as far as viewers are concerned) entirely based on Sarah’s conflict between her brother and her love life. Karl’s problems (if any) are never dealt with…he’s presented as a “perfect man”, handsome, successful, eminently available but not pushy. While in some ways this is a female empowerment thing (putting the path of the relationship in her hands), it seems like it was only done to screw her over…hmmm, should she break Karl’s heart and take care of her brother, or should she hurt her poor crazy brother’s feelings by ignoring him? That’s a nice catch-22 there, isn’t it? Two, how it plays out: she chooses the brother. While there’s something admirable about caring for one’s ill relatives, you’d have to admit, having a relationship with Karl is likely to be a lot more rewarding to her personally than always being there for her crazy brother. This kind of reminds me of Purtek’s recent post on the mother-martyr syndrome…how women are expected to be all self-sacrificing for their family. At the end, we get a sad little scene of Sarah with her brother in the mental hospital, and yes, it’s kind of heartwarming to know that she’s willing to take care of her brother…but why does it have to cost her any shot at personal love and happiness? I mean, she can hold down a job (and presumably, friendships), why not a relationship? Is her brother going to off himself if she’s not available 24/7? For that matter, would this have worked out better if she had started by trying to involve herself with Karl in a non-sexual way, rather than jumping straight to bed with him, when she must have known she’d be interrupted? Was this whole story just about setting this poor woman up for failure?
It’s a sad story. But while it’s sad for both of them (and hell, the brother too), I think it’s sadder for her. Karl can go find some other woman. Sarah’s going to have this problem with any guy she meets.