Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mysterious movies

(originally published in The Outreach Connection in September 2001)

I keep a database of notes on every movie I see, new or old. Sometimes I start out describing a film as being difficult or obscure or hard to assimilate, but then in the process of writing about it I arrange things in my mind and end up identifying it almost as a masterpiece. Likewise, I sometimes start these articles thinking I’m going to write a thumbs-down, and find to my own surprise and pleasure that it ends up the opposite. In such cases, I think I subsequently remember that sense of discovery more than I remember the specifics of the movies themselves. This may entail that they become even more elevated in my subsequent memory. Sometimes a second viewing supports this reassessment; sometimes not.


Some films almost seem designed to be played with in this fashion – to be even more of an optical illusion than all movies are already. I especially love movies that seem in command of their own mysteries. I’m not thinking of conscious jigsaw puzzles like Memento – that’s too deliberate and hermetic a challenge for my taste – and I’m not thinking about rootless quirkiness. I’m thinking of films that are unprecedented in their specific wisdom as well as their structure.

I started thinking about this after watching Bob Rafelson’s King of Marvin Gardens again the other day – for a while I was thinking it seemed more fragmented and offputting than I remembered, then it all came together for me. After that I went to see Jon Favreau’s new film Made, about a couple of guys who think they’re going to make it in the world of Big Crime when they get sent on a job. Made concentrates closely  on its main characters, and it’s much more interested in behaviour and interplay than in narrative. Some people have compared the texture to a John Cassavetes film.

That’s very high praise in my book – for me, Cassavetes films like Husbands and (especially) Love Streams are saturated in the qualities I was talking about. Made, unfortunately, is not. One of the main characters, played by Vince Vaughn – basically a stupid, self-regarding weight around the other’s neck – is allowed to be ingratiating, even cute, and never has to answer for anything. That’s not much like Cassavetes. The film cares far too much about keeping the laughs coming. Even the short running time of around 95 minutes testifies to its strained audience-friendliness – Cassavetes usually had trouble keeping his films at manageable length.

Its ending, though, has stuck in my mind, and almost serves to place the whole thing on a higher level (potential spoiler ahead here). When the Favreau character returns from the job, thinking he can start a new chapter with his lap-dancer girlfriend, she rebuffs him instead; when he expresses concern for her daughter, she tells him just to take the kid. Which he does, and in the epilogue some months later he and Vaughn seem to be sustaining an unconventional family.

George Washington

It’s rather hard to relate this development to the rest of the film, but the mother’s abandonment is genuinely cruel and shocking, and the two men’s reaction to it seems like much more fruitful territory than the earlier stuff about setting up a drop point and whether or not they should carry a gun. It’s almost as though Favreau realized what a parched movie he’d ended up making, and couldn’t resist a crazy attempt to do something that might thrust the whole thing into greater profundity – a grungy equivalent of the revelation at the end of The Sixth Sense.

That’s a small thing though compared to David Gordon Green’s George Washington – one of the best films of the year so far. Set in a derelict corner of North Carolina, it follows some kids, mostly black kids, as they hang out and see what happens. Some of the kids are precocious – like the 12-year-old that dumps her boyfriend for someone more mature; others just do the best they can. The film has a languid pace, and it’s full of lightly poignant dialogue like this exchange: “It’s too bad you can’t see the stars on account of the smoke”/”My room ain’t got no windows anyway.”

This is all fine, but a little of it goes a long way, and the film drags for a while. Then a tragedy strikes one of the kids. The scene itself is beautifully conceived and executed, but when the other kids try to cover it up, the film threatens to enter familiar melodramatic territory. The sense of contrivance deepens as one of the kids saves another from drowning, becoming a local hero. He responds to the praise by starting to run around town in a makeshift superhero costume, convinced he may have the power to save more lives.

Of the imagination

As the film’s narrative becomes stranger, everything else about it becomes richer, culminating in a series of images that’s almost hallucinatory. The 12-year-old girl I mentioned seems to be directed as a knowing scene-stealer in the early scenes, but in her last appearance in the film she delivers a disconnected strand of conversation; we’re losing our sense of her – she’s threatening to dissolve into pure poetry. It becomes clear that the movie isn’t about poverty, or racial issues, or about anything much in the concretely here and now. There’s an unusual lack of pop culture in the film; there’s not much of anything to anchor it in time or place except a photo of George Bush Sr. on one of the bedroom walls. It barely distinguishes between children and adults for much of the time. In part it’s about the tentative way people attempt to anchor themselves in their environments and in their own skins. But as much as that, it appears to be a pure creation of the imagination – it could have been documentary or teen movie or much else, but found a strange muse that makes it all of these, and none of them.

I suspect that there’s something in the film to mystify or annoy just about everyone. Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum got hung up over why the film only once flashes a caption to identify the date, and it does this at a point that doesn’t seem very relevant to the bigger picture. I liked that touch, but I thought that an uncle’s speech about his fear of dogs – apparently designed as a revelation – was rather silly and stilted. But I don’t want to overemphasize the film’s challenges. Really, it’s not difficult at all. Mainly you just need an open mind and a belief that relatively simple things can work to thrill in very complex ways.

Monday, May 22, 2017


(originally published in The Outreach Connection in November 2001)

One of my friends at the office has been entertaining himself by telling people about his encounter with me at the film festival. He arrived ten minutes into the movie, and with all the seats taken in his preferred area at the back of the theater, he moved down to the first few rows. He came across a row that was empty except for one guy sitting in the aisle seat, who he recognized as me. He whispered my name as he pushed past me, but I didn’t respond. Then he tapped me on the knee, but I again didn’t respond. Then he reached across and tapped me harder, at which I finally did look round, offering a cursory smile before settling back into the movie.

Thomas in Love

I guess the point of the story is that I was unnaturally wrapped up in the movie (an especially unnatural state since this happened at the relatively unengrossing Sex and Lucia rather than at, say, Pulse). My angle on the story is that I knew some jerk was tapping me, but I figured that if I ignored him he’d just go away. It’s true that to me, hell in movie theaters is other people. I like to sit as close as possible to the screen so that I won’t be distracted by the audience. I have an unnatural memory for bad encounters – the old woman with the Scottish accent who caused me to move during The Insider, the guy with the cellphone in Bringing out the Dead, and so on.

The other week I went to see Thomas in Love at the Carlton. I got there about five minutes early and passed maybe five or six people on my way down to the front. I slumped down in my seat for ninety minutes and watched the movie. When I stood up at the end, I realized that I was the only one there. Everyone else had given up at some point during the film. Which puzzles me, because the film surely delivered well enough on what it claimed to be.

But maybe Thomas in Love is best seen in just the way I unknowingly saw it – as a film for one. It’s set in a near future where connectivity has reached its full potential. The title character is a severe agoraphobic who never leaves his apartment and can’t even bear to be in the same room with other people. Living completely alone, he communicates with the world via an all-purpose monitor. The film’s gimmick is that we never see him – we hear his voice, and we see only the screen he’s staring at. In that sense the movie consists of a single unchanging camera angle, although the format accommodates lots of diverse stuff. This includes videophone conversations with prostitutes, his mother, his shrink, and a simulated female with whom he has cybersex via some kind of sensor-laden body suit (a practice that the movie presents as being highly effective, but socially frowned upon).

Better on TV

Given the constraints, the film develops some quite effective story lines – although maybe if I knew what some people already do online or over the phone, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. The film hints at the source of dramatic tension – how can Thomas maintain a love if he won’t let anyone near him? The story arc is pleasant, but ultimately a little rushed – it reaches for an emotional impact that’s not quite there. Thomas’ voice over seemed to me too bland and monotonous, although so much time alone would do that to you.

It’s usually a put-down to say of a particular film that it might look better on TV, but that should be a fair comment for Thomas in Love, which evokes the condition of a whole life spent watching the box. Theoretically, seeing the film on TV might make you more likely to identify viscerally with Thomas’ predicament; on the other hand though, TV lives among all the distractions and paraphernalia that remind us we’re not sealed off from human contact. The movie theater is a far more insinuating environment. The street may only be feet away, people may be laughing and talking in the lobby, but there you are in this dark space, divorced from everything. If the movie works and you’re willing to go with it, you could find yourself anywhere.

The communal aspect of movies, sitting near the back with your pals and your popcorn, whispering and laughing out loud, always seems to me like an evasion of cinema’s power. If you’re watching Me, Myself & Irene, I guess it doesn’t matter – the movie virtually aspires to be hanging out with you in the aisle. I’m not necessarily criticizing – I saw that movie on cable and thought it was just fine. For me though, there’s no need to pay the premium to see it in the theater. If I were interested in the nature and texture of communal experiences, it’d be different. But when I talk to people about movies, I realize how it never occurs to them, even to some of the smartest people I know, that if they put everything else aside for a couple of hours, if they let the coordinates slip, the movie might repay the effort ten times over.


Did everyone all walk out on Thomas in Love because they decided they’d save it for TV? Who knows? Maybe it’s just coincidence – a few people all realizing they’d left the oven on.

This is a wacky town for movies. There’s not a week when the New York Times doesn’t carry ads for five or six cool movies that will never make it here. They’re usually foreign films of course. But then, on the other hand, the Carlton will occasionally make a totally unexpected programming move. Thomas in Love hasn’t played in the States to my knowledge. And Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure recently opened out of the blue – four years old, but extremely welcome.

Cure is one of the best releases of the year, but we’re in a year where even the best releases are a touch disappointing. I know Kurosawa’s work only from his most recent aforementioned Pulse, which played at this year’s film festival. Maybe there’s a problem with seeing his work in reverse – after the apocalyptic Pulse, the more intimate traumas of Cure seem a little tentative. But the film – about a detective investigating a series of apparently unrelated murders – has superb poise. It’s very much a genre exercise, certainly a cousin to standard-issue serial killer fare, but it manages to make the plot mechanics reflective of our deepest fears about the fragility of relationships and self-identity. You don’t want to be tapped on the knee during this movie, even by someone you know.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Too many games

(originally published in The Outreach Connection in December 2001)

Just as The Last Castle retreats from theatres  (a clear box office failure), Robert Redford returns in Spy Game – clearly a shrewder commercial calculation if only because it only stars Brad Pitt. I wrote a couple of weeks ago of my bemusement at The Last Castle’s lack of much significance. In Spy Game, things are a little clearer – the movie is superficial, and doesn’t care who knows it.

It may not have helped me that just before going to Spy Game, I’d been watching The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, the 1975 German film about the interrogation and media hounding of a young woman who’s been having a relationship with a wanted anarchist. Katharina Blum isn’t perfect by a long shot – it’s very strong on the portrayal of the woman and the ambiguous implications of her interactions with the system, but has substantially less finesse in how it bangs the drum against the gutter press. In a case like this though, the flaws are no less integral to the film’s ability to provoke. It’s a film of unquestioned serious intent, with the overall facility to support that ambition.

Katharina Blum

Katharina Blum is a contemporary of the golden age of Redford’s career, when he made The Candidate and All the President’s Men and Three Days of the Condor and The Way we Were. One might forget how even that latter film, the memory of which tends to be shaped by its sappy title song, spends considerable time tracking the workings of the McCarthy era. It’s as if there was a brief period when entertainment could hardly avoid being challenging. Now flash forward. Katharina Blum was co-directed by Volker Schlondorff, who in 1979 would win an Oscar for The Tin Drum. In 1998 he made the Woody Harrelson potboiler Palmetto, at which time he seemed ready to renounce his former achievements. Schlondorff said: “I want to be more like my brothers who are doctors – just do the operation.” He said of Palmetto specifically: “It’s unabashed trash, and I’m fully conscious of that and it’s guaranteed to have no deeper meaning.”

Since then, Schlondorff has again made a more serious film, so maybe it was just a phase he was going through. But his case is just one of hundreds that would make the same point – that there’s been a pervasive loss of ambition in cinema. Mulholland Drive, which continues to get better and better the more I think about it, is one of the very few films this year that suggests a multiplicity of interests on the part of its maker.

I know I write about this subject too much – like a voyeur that keeps creeping back to the scene of the car wreck. I just can’t get away from it. If I hadn’t written about Spy Game this week, I probably would have taken on Novacaine, an utterly lackluster film that fancies itself to be a daring amalgam of film noir and black comedy. The film evidences no grasp at all of cinema past, present or future.

Spy Game

Anyway, Spy Game was directed by Tony Scott, whose last movie was Enemy of the People – a tremendously fast-moving and stylish piece of work that tapped very ably into our neuroses about being watched and manipulated and outwitted. Spy Game isn’t as fast moving (except for rather odd moments when the film suddenly seems to start running quicker through the projector) and doesn’t have as strong a structure. Redford is a CIA mission director, one day short of retirement, whose protégé (Pitt) is in a Chinese prison, one day short of execution. Realizing the Agency has written Pitt off, Redford puts together his own rescue plan, while the movie flashes back to the greatest hits of their time together in the field. It’s a rather oddly organized movie, suggesting a lack of both focus and confidence.

The action takes in Vietnam, Berlin, Beirut and China – without displaying an iota of specific interest in any of those locales. The film builds to an incident that has the potential to be immensely destabilizing to US-China relations, but then it ends before we know what comes of it. It’s one thing when a popcorn movie conjures up some cartoon version of a rogue state; Spy Game evidences enormous research and care for visual authenticity, but then has no use for it beyond the usual shootouts and set pieces. It’s actually rather unnerving. Other aspects of the film add to  the sense of a skin that doesn’t fit the beast. For example, the casting (Charlotte Rampling, David Hemmings, Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is superbly imaginative – far too much so given how little these actors actually have to do. The fact that virtually all of Pitt’s part takes place in flashback gives his entire role a feeling of dislocation.

But it’s Redford’s presence that most clearly drives this home. How could he have been content to deal so superficially with this material? For sure, this film is a better vehicle for his charisma than The Last Castle – he radiates ease and assurance. It looks like being on the set was barely any more effort for him than being at home – although with all his varied interests, maybe Redford’s days at home are pretty hectic. Unlike most of his media-shy contemporaries, who’ve gradually crept onto Leno and Letterman, Redford still keeps his distance from the media. It’s a shame, because we could use his help in figuring out what the hell he’s up to here.


I have no idea what the Oscar contenders will be this year, except perhaps that Amelie looks like a good shot for best foreign film. Some people might regard this film as exactly what’s needed to cure a movie grump like me – a surefire crowd pleaser with at least half a brain in its head. The title character is a shy witness who intervenes in various peoples’ lives, but has trouble going after the man she desires. The film is sometimes widely expansive (when Amelie wonders how many couples in Paris are reaching orgasm at that particular moment, we’re taken on a quick ride through fifteen heated couplings) and sometimes intimate and whimsical.

One has to admire the thought behind it all – the film gives the impression of hitting every target for which it aims. Whether they’re the right targets is another question. Lead actress Audrey Tautou is perfectly sweet, but might seem rather one-note in a less adept film. And sometimes it’s just too contrived to care about. Still, although there have easily been better foreign films this year, this is probably the one that American voters will feel takes them on best at their own game. But like Robert Redford, Amelie is a long way from the depths of Katharina Blum.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Strategic exercises

(originally published in The Outreach Connection in October 2000)

The day after the final episode of Survivor, I was ten minutes late for a meeting at the office. But it didn’t make any difference because when I came in they were still arguing over the final tribal council. And I didn’t need any help getting up to speed. “Kelly blew it,” I declared, heading for the cookies. “She never even mentioned that she won five straight immunity challenges. However you think the game should have been played, no one could match that. Why was she relying on all that touchy feely stuff?” This sparked a new round of discussion, which I could reproduce here more or less line by line, regardless that the (I assume) important stuff we went on to discuss at the meeting has pretty much faded away already.

Kelly blew it

Well, like everyone said, the show was a phenomenon. I work mainly with accountants and lawyers, and Survivor was as hot a topic in that environment as anywhere else. Maybe more so, because we white-collar types love talking about strategy and tactics, and Survivor lent itself quite magically to those kinds of discussions. Richard certainly got some lucky breaks on the way to victory, but he always maximized his opportunities (even though I really do think Kelly blew it). And in the subsequent days, scanning my regular sites on the web, I read several analyses of Survivor which were barely distinguishable – whether in tone or content or seriousness of intent – from the op-eds on the Bush vs. Gore race.

Mike Hodges’ latest film Croupier isn’t as big a phenomenon as Survivor of course (although the veteran Hodges is shaping up as quite a survivor himself), but it’s doing pretty well in its own way. Initially scheduled for the most minimal possible release, the film refuses to quit and has worked its way up to a box-office gross in excess of $4 million. The audience for the Saturday matinee I attended at the Cumberland was the largest I’ve seen in a while. It’s always a bit of a mystery why some movies take off like that. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s that Croupier’s cool-headed, articulate artistry appeals to that same strategic bent.

A strategic artist

It’s written by Paul Mayersberg, who wrote The Man who fell to Earth and the unjustly forgotten Eureka and whom I think of as a very strategic kind of artist – working within complex investigative structures that treat time as flexibly as space, casting truth and identity as malleable and unstable. Croupier is about an aspiring author called Jack Manfred who takes a job as a croupier or dealer in a London casino. The film tracks his analytical fascination with the milieu and the people in it, particularly various women – all of which he transcribes into a thinly disguised fiction.

Voice-overs from the novel in progress accompany the action, and it’s these voice-overs that carry the bulk of the film’s thematic ambition, spinning off a dizzying array of one-liners on the metaphorical possibility of the croupier, and of the gambler he might otherwise have become. The gambler is a familiar subject in movies, but the croupier occupies a lonelier and (this film suggests) more ambiguous territory. Forbidden to interact with customers or to intervene in the game, he’s trained to be as impassive as possible, but also to observe the players minutely. Actor Clive Owen’s dead-eyed, controlled performance conveys this internal tension quite well (although perhaps not quite in the Brando or Bogart-like style that the ads suggest).

Jack’s uncertain bearings are unmistakable – a problematic relationship both with his father and his girlfriend, a failed career as a writer, hints of trauma at every turn (most explicitly when he takes excessive relish in beating up a cheat who accosts him outside the casino, and shortly afterwards shakes off the last of that aggression through violent sex with a co-worker). His self-mythologizing is shot through with insecurity, but Jack tends to identify the role of the croupier with an idealistic detached certainty, confusing his own disillusionment with a privileged sense of realism. The gambler, on the other hand, seems to embody all the errors and self-deceptions of mankind: gambling, says Jack, is about not facing reality, ignoring the odds.

This all generates a subtly obsessive quality that’s always entertaining, and effective in evoking the smell of the casino. But the film (at least judged on a first viewing) never goes much beyond simply reiterating its basic ideas. Exchanges like “You’re an enigma you are”/”Not an enigma, just a contradiction” seem trite, and there are an awful lot of them in Croupier.

Master of the game

In the final scene, Jack refers to himself as “master of the game…(who’s) acquired the power to make you lose,” but events seem at least as much to confirm his impotence. In finding a specific place for each of its major characters within the resolution, the film suggests that it might best be viewed as a therapy or psychoanalysis, the object being to tuck all Jack’s loose ends away and regain functionality. But nothing about Croupier is quite that easy to summarize.

I would certainly much rather watch Croupier again than something like The Tao of Steve, another highly-praised movie in which the moderate air of intelligence just makes the contrivances particularly annoying. And at least Croupier doesn’t try to be cute. But even though you could probably discuss it for hours afterwards, I wonder whether those discussions would amount to much more than the post mortem on Survivor. It’s fun to figure out how the pieces fit together, and how the final tribal council is played out. But it’s not worth delaying the meeting for more than ten minutes on that account, whereas real art might force us to cancel it altogether.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Without cream

(originally published in The Outreach Connection in October 1998)

A man walks into a coffee shop, says to the waitress, “Gimme a cup of coffee, without cream.” She says, “We don’t serve cream – want it without milk?” The object lesson (once you’ve stopped laughing): sometimes, in dealing with the unavailable, the form of the absence (or to put it in more contemporary terms – the spin you put on the absence) is just as important as the absence itself. This isn’t leading to a point about Clinton, but rather – after seeing the current comedy Next Stop Wonderland – to one about the eternal subject of romantic yearning; about the bumpy journey to love, and what it says about those who embark on it.


I’ve long been a huge admirer of composer Stephen Sondheim, and I’ve never forgotten reading – twelve or fifteen years ago – a piece about his solitary life, describing how he’d never been in a long-term relationship; written in terms that seemed to paint this as Sondheim’s choice, and that implied his insightful genius was somehow rooted in this emotional austerity. It never occurred to me to doubt the accuracy of this account, and I was so impressed by Sondheim’s apparent superhuman self-control that I’m sure I decided, for at least a few days, to follow that route myself. But you can guess how well that turned out.

More recently, Sondheim’s been open about his homosexuality and about the years of inner turmoil that barred him from attaining intimacy (better late than never, he is in a relationship now). I must admit to being a little disappointed when I found this out. I’d grown really attached to the idea of an artist having a boundless ability to portray the span of romantic frailty in his work, while retaining his own immunity to it. The truth (which frankly seems to me less interesting), by suggesting that you can never take contented isolation at face value, just feeds into the much remarked-on contingent quality that colours our view of living alone. It’s a state that invites analysis and commentary in a way that being coupled just doesn’t.

In Hollywood movies, the single man is generally an icon – his solitary state all the better to afford us an obstructed view of him. Sex comes where he needs it; hang-ups are incidental, if any. A single woman is seldom bathed in such a favourable light. A female critic once said there aren’t any great films about women, because even movies with strong women perpetrate the notion (she may have used the word “myth” – I can’t remember) that a woman’s fulfilment lies in the eyes of a man (based on this analysis, she cited A Touch of Class as the only halfway grear film for women).

Eyes of a Man

An Unmarried Woman, for example, ends with Jill Clayburgh imposing her own terms on the relationship with Alan Bates; still, it is a relationship, and she needs it. Whether she needs it just for physicality, for self-esteem, for fun, because of her biology, her inadequacy – well, we probably all just place our bets based on ideology. Speaking very generally about it, I don’t think Clayburgh’s self-improvement during the course of that film is compromised by wanting a man somewhere in her life. As a practical matter, I wonder whether her ending point wouldn’t have seemed incomplete or impermanent to the mass audience had it not included a man. After all, the assumption of adults organized by pairs holds pretty widely among the population at large, even if not among feminist film critics (I know I’m letting some same-sex themes drop here).

In Next Stop Wonderland, Hope Davis plays a young nurse, recently abandoned by her boyfriend, who walks the fine line between loneliness and romantic wishfulness, and her revulsion at what’s entailed in dealing with those states. At one point her mother places a personal ad on her behalf, setting up a fine montage of Davis’ various unsuccessful dates; hyper-sensitive to insincerity, calculation and “technique,” she occasionally resorts to lecturing the men on their lack of naturalism.

As she goes about her life in Boston, she keeps narrowly missing an easy-going marine biologist who’s amiably juggling financial and career and romantic problems. A film from last year, Till There was You, similarly followed the intertwined lives of Jeanne Tripplehorn and Dylan McDermott, bringing them together – to instant happiness – only in its last five minutes. That was a bad, clumsy film, with nothing to it beyond that gimmick. Next Stop Wonderland, and Davis’ performance, are unusually subtle. The structure as I’ve described it may be too straightforwardly evocative of fate and fairy tale (and eliminates any suspense as to the final outcome), but the picture is shot in a nimble, lightly edited, almost semi-documentary style that dances observantly over the numerous potential pitfalls. The heavy use of Jobin-style bossa nova is a modest inspiration too – being both highly listenable in itself, and evocative of a tasteful exoticism that sums up the character’s ambivalence: she wants the dream, but doesn’t believe in it, and won’t act as if she did.

Wide Awake

Although the title refers to an actual stop on the Boston subway system, it has an initially sappy ring to it that, however, reveals an air of skepticism on closer consideration. Alice woke up from Wonderland of course, which carries a negative implication for the climactic union in this film. But consistent with the movie’s general intelligence and consideration, the final scenes aren’t gooey or overblown in a way that would make you doubt their sustainability – they’re marked more by quiet contentment and peace of mind. To the Davis character, this may be the proof of Wonderland – that it’s a state she more or less slides into, without rituals and calculations and games.

Maybe that’s why Next Stop Wonderland often seems close to being a great film about women – it disdains the notion of a woman as a prize, as a commodity trafficked between men (Davis’ mother is something of a sexual predator, and the film’s other key female character is very much a pursuer rather than one of the pursued). Of course, the best way to avoid the potentially degrading rituals is not to need them – to make an instant connection that transcends all that. Which, conveniently, happens to be a romantic ideal in itself. So although the outcome is preeminent, all routes are not equal. Very definitely, insist on having it without cream.