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Explaining Cast Away Symbolism to Guys
Jan 2, 2001 (Updated Jan 2, 2001)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Visually gorgeous, solid Tom Hanks performance
Cons:A little too long on the island for me
It's not that often that my husband goes to the movies with my daughter and me, but he likes Tom Hanks, and the idea of surviving both a FedEx jet crash and several years alone on an island was too much for him to pass up. We made a point to see Cast Away over the holidays.
Recommend this product?
The Symbolism: Chicks Pick Up on THIS from the Get-Go
The moment the camera pans in on a rather desolate Texas ranch in the opening scene, prominently showing the artistic sculpting at the gate that says "Dick & Bettina" with a wing symbol combined with three rings, you know that this is going to be a continuing theme in the movie. A FedEx driver comes to pick up a package that a female sculptor (who is at that very moment welding a larger version of the three-ringed wings) is sending to someone. The package also has the symbol. We don't see much of the young artist, but we can presume she's Bettina.
Cut to a chic urban townhouse where Bettina's package is delivered to a half-dressed man who is wearing a cowboy hat and not much more. Behind him is an exotic-looking lady, also half-dressed, who is curious about the delivery.
"Present from my wife," the cowboy grunts. Then we can presume he's Dick, and he's cheating on Bettina. After that, you don't have to be a brain surgeon to realize that this is going to mean something.
But if your husband is not a super-sensitive guy like Tom Hanks, this will fly right over his head as he gets into the next scene:
Meet Chuck Noland, Time-Obsessed FedEx Honcho
Chuck, Hanks' character, is in Russia, giving a crew of relaxed Russian FedEx workers a lecture on the importance of timeliness. In this scene, Hanks effectively establishes Chuck as a by-the-books, driven and ambitious FedEx up-and-comer, a globe-trotter who helps make sure FedEx's well-oiled machine never turns into the U.S. Mail. Chuck calls his sweetheart, Kelly (Helen Hunt) back in Memphis and promises to be home for Christmas -- which he does.
Kelly is getting an engagement ring for Christmas. Chuck presents it to her as she drives him back to the airport to catch yet another FedEx jet to some remote location that requires traveling over the Pacific Ocean. But Kelly presents Chuck with an antique pocket watch that holds Chuck's favorite photo of her. So any girl knows that this, too, will be very important later in the story.
Chuck is the Sole Survivor of the Crash
A Pacific storm takes the FedEx jet about 200 miles off course before crashing into the ocean. Chuck is in the men's room when the horrible turbulence starts, but he manages to hold on to the bathroom door when the air pressure sucks him out -- he sees his pocket watch, and risks his life to grab it. This actually saves his life, because when the jet hits the water, he's pushed back into the cargo area where the jet breaks in two. He grabs an inflatable raft, which inflates and pulls him to the surface.
After a night of being tossed and broken by huge ocean waves, Chuck awakes on the sandy beach of a totally deserted tropical island. As he gets his bearings, a few dozen FedEx packages wash ashore. Some of the packages contain unique items that he will use as survival tools. But here, I'll leave the survival techniques out and continue with the symbolism. Of course, the only package Chuck does not open is one that has the wings and rings symbol. He has not seen it before, but the viewer must presume that Chuck is trying to keep one package intact so that he has a mission to survive this impossible situation -- he WILL deliver that package one day.
Four Years Later, Chuck Builds a Raft and Catches a Wave
After years of living off fish, crabs, coconut milk, and having a volleyball with a face painted on it with his own blood as a friend and confidant (besides Kelly's fading photo in the pocket watch), Chuck decides no one will ever come for him, and he builds a primitive raft. He uses part of a port-a-potty door as a shelter on the raft -- but he paints the wings and rings symbol on it, and the FedEx package (and the pocket watch) is one of the few things he takes with him from the island.
With great struggle, Chuck makes it to the open sea. A whale seems to make friends with him and become his guardian angel, blowing him with spray when he must wake up -- to see a freighter moving alongside him. Chuck is rescued and returns to Memphis and Kelly -- who presumed him dead and married a dentist.
Chuck and Kelly Do the Math -- They Don't Have a Future
They still love each other deeply. Kelly is almost ready to leave her loving husband and her baby girl. But she's a very decent young woman, and she can't do it. Chuck sadly understands. This romance is in the past. Both of them must move on because, as Chuck says and learned from his experience on the island "You have to take a chance and see what the tide will bring in tomorrow."
The next scene you see is the same desolate stretch of Texas back road, which has a four-way intersection (there's another obvious symbol). Chuck is going to complete his mission and deliver the package with the wing-ring symbol to Dick & Bettina's ranch. But now Dick's side of the gate sign is torn down, leaving only Bettina's name on the right side. Looks like that marriage went down the tubes when Bettina found out about the exotic lady at the city townhouse.
No one is home when Chuck leaves the package, with a note that says "Thank you for saving my life." He leaves, and starts back down the dusty gravel road. He stops at the crossroads to decide which direction to go, when a pickup truck approaches from the other direction. A very attractive, friendly young woman stops to offer assistance.
"Are you lost, Cowboy?" she asks, brightly. Yeah, Chuck is kind of lost. She tells him a little bit about what he'll find to the north, south and east -- the ranch to the west is where he's been.
"Good luck, Cowboy," she says, climbing back into the driver's seat and pulling away. The wing-ring symbol is painted on the tailgate of her pickup truck. Chuck sees it, staring thoughtfully and purposely in it's direction -- you know he is going to follow Bettina back to the ranch, and they will live happily ever after.
As I was feeling all warm and fuzzy about the lovely symbolism, my husband asks: "So what was that wing thing all about?"
"It meant that when Chuck was alone on the island, he had with him a symbol of his past with the pocket watch and Kelly's picture, and he had a symbol of his future with Bettina's package!" I said, incredulous. "You didn't get that?"
"No," he said. "How would I get that out of this?"
If you're seeing Cast Away with your husband or boyfriend, be prepared for the very good possibility that to you, it will be a heartwarming romance. To him, it will be a movie about jet crashes and survival of the fittest.
So see it. There's something for both of you!
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