Led down a brand alley

13th January 2012 at 00:00

I've just seen New Year's Eve. If aliens ever needed an excuse to destroy the Earth and all its inhabitants, this film is it. You'd have to be pretty thick-skinned to watch it and NOT want to nuke the planet. Everything about this film is Hollywood at its worst: celebrity vignettes and product placement take precedence over convincing dialogue and credible storylines. If it were an Ofsted lesson, it would be all buzz and no progression. All you get is hype, a few old troupers who should know better and no real sense of direction; the cinematic equivalent of my SMT.

Of course, you may need to take this criticism with a pinch of salt since a) I'm not a film critic and b) I'm not the film's target audience. Maybe a 15-year-old girl who sweeps up hair trimmings on a Saturday afternoon might think it plausible that a hunky, heterosexual record company chief would spend New Year's Eve sipping Disaronno and cranberry juice with his mother. When I was that age, I thought you could snag Mr Right by drinking brandy and Babycham, wearing Biba lipstick and pretending to be bisexual.

But even a gullible teenager would struggle to swallow the film's ending. What self-respecting New York businessman would hang around an empty lot on New Year's Eve waiting for Rip Van Sarah Jessica Parker to turn up in a My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas horse and carriage when he could be dating a girl half her age and with twice her bone density? Precisely. In the real world, he'd be shagging the arse off the youngster from Glee before you could say "Nivea Creme".

But my main problem is that the film sends out conflicting messages. While it explicitly commands you to "follow your heart", it implicitly tells you to snaffle up as many consumer products as your bulging avaricious heart desires. The film contains 45 product placements. That's not a film, it's an extended advert break.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable pitch of all is for electronics giant Toshiba, whose advert lights up the iconic Times Square building. Perfectly placed behind the New Year's Eve ball drop, the Toshiba logo acts as a sort of deus ex machina, bringing peace and closure to terminal cancer patient Robert de Niro. Indeed, the film seems to say, "Why fuck about with morphine and a Macmillan nurse when you can slip away with dignity watching a neon advert for a Japanese electronics manufacturer."

The film's hollow commercialism makes me thoroughly ashamed. I grew up watching It's a Wonderful Life, which values what we give our communities; our kids are given "It's a Wonderful Brand", which values what they can buy in the shops. No wonder the poor kids riot. If Wordsworth thought the commercial world was "too much with us" in the 19th century, he'd be horrified by how much it's running the show today. Even Twitter is infested with thinly veiled advertweets for GuardianTeach, celebrity book plugs and Chris Addison's one-man show.

Surely there must come a time when you become so appalled by the venality of the human condition that the prospect of being eaten by worms is preferable to opening any more emails from ASOS, or receiving targeted e-flyers from CountryCottagewithWiFiandHotTubBut noDishwasherTablets or sitting through New Year's Eve. In 1984, O'Brien describes his vision of the future as "a boot stamping on a human face forever." Our reality is more chilling than that; this boot has a Jimmy Choo heel.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the north of England.

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