Matchup of the Day: Life of Pi vs. American Pie
In celebration of Pi Day earlier this week, we have a couple of coming of age films today – Life of Pi vs. American Pie.
American Pie is about four high school guy friends who make a pact to lose their virginity by prom. Each of them takes a different approach, but they are all single-minded in achieving their goal. There’s a scene where one of the friends, Jim, manages to get the unimaginably attractive European exchange student, Nadia, to come to his house. She asks him to tutor her in world history and he agrees with the intent of getting some action. Jim sets up the webcam in his bedroom so his pals can view whatever erotic events transpire (is that legal?). Nadia arrives after ballet practice. Jim offers to let her change into her regular clothes in his bedroom. He then runs down the street to watch her undress with his buddies. After removing most of her clothes, Nadia finds some of Jim’s naughty magazines and begins to feel amorous after flipping through them. Jim sees this as his big opportunity, rushing back home to make his move. Before he opens his bedroom door, he looks up and says “Please God, let this be it.” The excitement proves too much for Jim, however, and he fails to take advantage of the opportunity.
In Life of Pi, the main character, Pi, is a young man who is deeply interested in understanding his place in the universe. He studies various religions, while committing to none exclusively. His father believes this is impractical, because, he explains, believing in everything is like believing in nothing at all. The main conflict in the film comes when Pi’s father, who runs a zoo in India, decides to move his family to Canada. All the animals are loaded onto an ocean cruiser and they set sail. A violent storm causes Pi to abandon the ship, drifting off in a lifeboat. A tiger, named Richard Parker, along with several other animals, jump on the boat with him. Pi must struggle not only with surviving lost at sea, but also with keeping the hungry Richard Parker at bay.
POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT
According to this Psychology Today article “Meaning, Faith and the Life of Pi”, the film is about maintaining faith under adverse circumstances. Toward the end, it is revealed that animals on the lifeboat weren’t really animals at all, but people. The tiger, Richard Parker, actually represents Pi. He created the animal story in his mind to make the ordeal more endurable. The real story is much grimmer. So, the entire time Pi is learning how to adapt to and understand how to coexist with Richard Parker, he is, in reality, trying to figure himself out. Or, at least, that’s how I interpret the events.
It could be said that each of the four friends in American Pie are trying to deal with their own Richard Parker, which is sex for the purposes of the movie. At first, their only interest is in losing their virginity. They are not concerned with pursuing a meaningful relationship as much as “scoring”. As the movie progresses, each of them starts to realize that there is more to life than simply getting it on. The girls that they intend to use as a means to achieve their goal become real people. Instead of a single-minded pursuit, they learn to adapt to and understand themselves and others.
Now I’m just trying to determine which of the friends in American Pie are best represented by the tiger, orangutan, hyena and zebra from Life of Pi.