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The Butterfly Effect

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004 · 2 Comments

If you’re not a teenage girl, a member of a frat, or Demi Moore, then you probably aren’t very into Ashton Kutcher. But if you can get past that, then give his latest movie, The Butterfly Effect, a chance. Feeling a bit stir crazy and the need to get out of the house, Jen and I took a drive twenty miles north (to Glens Falls) last night to see the film. It was a lot better than I had expected.

I have long been intrigued by and incredibly interested in the concepts of time and Yin and Yang. These notions, along with the butterfly effect itself, are what this movie is all about. So it was a perfect recipe for my interests. Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors and two of his novels, Slaughterhouse Five and Timequake, are among my favorites. The movie was not unlike one of these books. And it works.

If you can look past the occasional bad acting (though not necessarily by Kutcher), the film is intense, interesting, and well made. The audience is not slapped in the face with moronic explanations of plot details, as too many big Hollywood films often do, and the movie ends with a feeling of satisfaction. The ending also conveys an important life lesson: That sometimes you can’t have everything. Finding balance (Yin and Yang) requires sacrifice. Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be.

Jen and I have long talked about the domino or butterfly effect at constant work in the world. We can even pinpoint the beginning of our relationship — the day we met — to a particular event and a specific person. Without this event and this person, Jen and I may not have met. We may not be married now or living the lives we are. We may not have met many of our great friends, adopted our dogs (would they have been put to sleep?), or found the happiness and balance we now enjoy. I’m a strong believer that every action — every little detail and every decision we make throughout every day — determines the course of and can drastically alter our lives.

And then there’s the discussion about the fabric of time, that pesky fourth dimension. “I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is.” -Slaughterhouse Five

Or is it? Does the course of one’s life exist as a predetermined path? Or are there alternate existences of our lives that might have happened (or are happening simultaneously to ours) had we made a different decision along the way? A clock is a human construct that does not represent time itself, but the physical forces at work in our world. Enter Einstein’s theory of relativity and everything I learned in Morton Tavel‘s class on the same at Vassar. His book, Contemporary Physics and the Limits of Knowledge, discusses this topic. Which reminds me: I own that book and have been meaning to read it. Maybe I’ll do that today. But I digress.

The Butterfly Effect is a good movie that gets me thinking about all these philosophical issues. All that and one of its stars is the exquisite Amy Smart, also seen in Rat Race.

Tags: movies

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dave Reed // Jan 27, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    Actually, Dan Savage doesn’t fit into either of those categories, and he’s constantly expressing his love for Ashton Kutcher. 🙂

    I’m glad that the movie is as good as the preview seemed to me. I’ll certainly have to check it out.

  • 2 Jordan // Jan 29, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    I have never been steered wrong by The Onion AV’s movie reviews. Though I was inspired by the previews of Butterfly Effect, the onion gave it an awful review (
    Still, with Gabe’s endorsement, may I will see it… at a matinee… in a second run theatre!

    “Fans of Kutcher, from little girls to prominent gay sex-advice columnists…”