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Feature
Jaws Threesomes
Jaws' best things come in threes

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Out To Sea: Brody, Hooper, Quint

The moment that the Orca sets sail from Amity, Jaws becomes a different beast entirely. For an hour or so it has been part suspense picture, part conspiracy thriller, part fish-in-and-out-of-water drama. By the time it reaches the seas, it is a high adventure flick (Spielberg partly chose Martha’s Vineyard as a location because it was ideal for avoiding coast lines in the background), a men on a mission where three men have to put aside their differences and overcome their fears — Quint (class, knowledge), Hooper (machismo, experience) and Brody (water) — to save the day. In description it sounds trite, but Spielberg modulates the dynamic beautifully. The beer can-coffee cup crush is a marker of antagonism and difference without a word being spoken. The little word that Quint has with Brody after he has pulled the wrong rope to let the air canisters fall. He also doesn’t let Quint become a complete monster: after Hooper incorrectly identifies the fish Quint hooks as a “marlin or stingray”, Quint’s rebuke — “It proves one thing, Mr. Hooper. It proves that you wealthy college boys don’t have the education enough to admit when you’re wrong” is measured and reasonable. That Hooper answers by arm gestures, face pulling with added Long John Silver (“Argh Jim me lad!”) and W.C. Fields impressions (“I can’t take this abuse much longer!”) is how wealthy college boys deal with reproach.

Spielberg mostly emphasizes the differences in the group by separating the actors physically, most often in a hierarchy of shark knowledge. Hooper on top driving the boat, Quint in his chair, Brody at the stern practicing knots or setting a chum line.

It takes the shark’s arrival and a night comparing scars, both physical and emotional, to bring the group together (even during the wound comparing session, Brody is separated in his own shot until the sing-song begins). Yet at the moment where the three men seem to gelling as a group — Quint even affectionately calls Hooper “Hoop” — the salty seaman bashes the radio to bits with a baseball bat stopping Brody calling for back-up (once a cop, always a cop). Shaw’s approach with the baseball bat to camera is perhaps the most ‘70s shot in the film. Why he does this is not quite clear. You can make arguments that, Ahab-like, his obsession with the shark is so all consuming he can let nothing get in its way. Or that, as a professional fisherman, catching it “single handedly” is a point of pride. But it’s a fuzzy point in a film where the motivation is mostly crystal sharp.

Yet the shark’s reappearance brings the threesome together — it does this so often it should think about a career in marriage guidance. Watch Hooper slickly load, then hand Quint the harpoon gun to sink another barrel into Whitey. Or Hooper and Brody tie barrels to the Orca. The group of disparate men has become a slick unit and the distinct spheres of action (Hooper-bridge/Quint-chair/Brody-stern) have all broken down. The chase to sink the second (or is it third?) barrel into the shark is as exhilarating as Jaws gets — even landlubber Brody is enjoying the hunt. Perhaps he is listening to John Williams’ score.

That Brody shoots at the shark with his handgun, Quint decides to drag it towards shore and the usually verbose Hooper has nothing to offer is a sure-sign this team is running on empty. When the Orca conks out it is Quint that suggests using Hooper’s new-fangled cage thing. When the scientist descends into the deep, it is the first time the trio has been broken up for about an hour of screen time. Three have become two.

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1 Love it!!
Have to say though I think the best scene involving three characters in Jaws is the scene over dinner with Brody, Ellen and their youngest son. With Ellen looking on, their son (Michael I think?!) impersonates his father in a scene that is visually beautiful, stunningly played by all and almost heartbreaking at the same time. As a father myself the line "Give me a kiss"; "why?"..."because I need it!" is perfectly toned and written. It could have been to his wife, that it's to his youngest son is pure genius, VERY Spielberg and always brings a tear to my eye :) More

Posted by waltham1979 on Thursday September 6, 2012, 17:07

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