Looper is About Good Parenting

It’s been a while. I’m sorry about that. Writing about hospital staffing policies takes a lot out of you.

Anyway, I saw Looper this past weekend. It was fantastic. Go see it. The theories of time travel used during the movie were ambiguous, but, as Bruce Willis said in the movie, if you’re going to talk time travel theories you’d be diagramming for hours (with straws). What I’d like to talk about is loops in society and how parenting breaks that. For the purposes of this post, “loops” is a replacement for the word “cycle.”

As always, spoilers ahead.

(c) 2012 Sony Pictures

“Time travel isn’t invented yet. But in thirty years, it will be,” says Joe, our main character. But time travel is illegal, so it’s only used by the mob, and even then they use it to kill. Send someone to the past, they die, the body is disposed of, and authorities of the future will never find who they’re looking for. A Looper is that person in the past that does the killing and the disposing of the body. They’re well paid in solid silver. However, as a Looper, you have to come to terms with the fact that you’ll one day kill your future self. This is what’s called “closing the loop” and it marks your retirement as a Looper. Once you close the loop, you’re paid in multiple gold bars, and you can spend the next thirty years enjoying yourself before you’re hunted down by the mob.

Looper explores the underworld of the only big city in Kansas. Despite the occasional flash of big bucks, most of the city is overridden with vagrants and hobos. And even then, the rich don’t seem to have it much better–at least for my tastes. I’m not someone to go out partying, dripping drugs into my eyes, and falling for a stripper who doesn’t really believe your feelings for her. For the most part, our main character Joe is stuck in that lifestyle. Even after he closes the loop and moves to China, he still gets involved with the mob and crime and drugs. He breaks free with the help of his wife, who cleans him up and starts a life with him. And it’s because of her that he breaks the cycle when the mob comes a-calling. His ultimate goal: to kill The Rainmaker–the big mob boss that single-handedly takes over multiple crime syndicates. This person is so mysterious you only know that they’re maybe closing the loops because it’s rumored they watched their mother die. But you ultimately know nothing else.

Mothers. The majority of the characters in this movie will say that they hardly remember their mothers. The first instance comes with Seth when he lets his future self run because he was singing a lullaby (let’s not talk about that scene anymore). We see it again when Joe is with his dancer/prostitute/girlfriend (named Suzie) and just wants her to run her fingers through his hair, which is the only thing Joe can remember about his mother. Abe tells Joe he knew Joe’s story the moment he looked at him, orphaned and falling into the wrong crowd. The Rainmaker is rumored to have watched his mother die, as I previously noted.

And then Joe meets Sara. Sara used to live the “high life” in the big city, but then she had a child. A few years later, she lives in a farm house growing sugar cane doing her darnest to just be there for her son.

Emily Blunt as Sara hugging her son

The loops break with parents. Here is the proof.

FIRST. Old Joe gets away. We know this is not supposed to happen because immediately after we see him get away, we see how his life should have progressed. He’s SUPPOSED to kill his future self, move to China, continue his life of drugs, meet his wife, get clean, and start talking about babies. Old Joe’s Wife (she has no name on IMDB) wants a baby, and Old Joe wants to give this to her. But the mob comes, kills Old Joe’s Wife, and takes Old Joe to the time machine. That’s when Old Joe decides he wants his life to be a little different, which is how the first loop breaks.

SECOND. Sara wants to be there for her son. She sees all these people growing up without their mothers and she thinks that if someone grows up WITH their mother, then maybe they won’t turn out so bad. Which is why she’s in the country raising her son instead of the city. As it happens, the kid turns out to be this mysterious Rainmaker, and the only thing between this kid and being the God of All Crime is Sara. Except we know mothers haven’t been physically present this entire movie, so Sara’s existence hangs in the balance.

But perhaps the actual Breaker of Loops is Joe. He breaks the cycle by escaping his own death because he wants to grant his wife her one wish to be a mother. Then he breaks the bigger cycle so Sara and her son can actually have a life together. Or does he do that before he escapes his death? Let’s diagram this with straws for a few hours.


Discussion Question: On a scale of “nonplussed” to “lost sleep for a week,” how perturbed are you by Seth’s fate?



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