Film Reviews

THE FOURTH NOBLE TRUTH

By • May 26th, 2015 •

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Entertainingly, THE FOURTH NOBLE TRUTH, serves as a great mechanism to engage the public and inform them about Buddhism in a practical way. Rather than a preachy documentary, writer-director Gary McDonald provides an intriguing tale of human drama that depicts the lessons to be learned by all humans seeking to avoid suffering in this lifetime.

Aaron (Harry Hamlin, we last saw him in the last seasons of MAD MEN) is an egocentric movie star. Aaron is an action star who is used to getting everything he wants in life – on his terms. After a violent assault, his lawyer talks the judge into having Aaron do a course in meditation. The judge recommends his friend Rachel (Kristen Kerr), an out-of-work actress who teaches Buddhism meditation.

Rather than being altruistically motivated, Aaron’s intent is simply to provide evidence to the judge that he is enrolled in alternative anger management training in order to mitigate his sentence. From the beginning of their engagement Aaron makes it very clear he couldn’t care less about meditation. Rachel is not discouraged. She is a beautiful young woman, and Aaron assumes that if he plays along he will add her to his lengthy list of sexual conquests. Especially since he has spotted Rachel naked coming out of her shower, and immediately upon seeing who her new student is, she tells Aaron she has had a crush on him all her life and has seen all his movies.

This is Aaron’s personal first noble truth: All women want to sleep with a movie star.

No one can objectively deny the power of movie stardom in their kitchen. While overly enamored with the possibilities, Rachel attempts to maintain professionalism, objectivity, and to follow the Buddha’s Four Nobel Truths.

The ensuing scenes demonstrate episodes that are relevant to what Buddhists know to be the Noble Eightfold Path. Frankly, the use of written titles introducing each step, while providing specificity, also detract a bit from the flow of the story. But again, this is a thinly disguised educational experience and the digression can be forgiven.

As can be expected, Aaron learns certain lessons, falls off the path, but returns to greater clarity in his life. The audience is allowed to view the drama while understanding that they too have their own unique experiences that fit into the overarching patterns encountered by Aaron and Rachel. In the end, McDonald, with THE FOURTH NOBLE TRUTH has provided a far more pleasurable method for introducing viewers to Buddhist philosophy than reading a book and self-exploration—though that too must follow.

Hamlin and Kerr are exceptional, especially Kerr who has the more dramatic arc. Rachel does fall for the movie star’s lifestyle (and a small part – with the all-important SAG requirement of a few spoken lines), but understanding how this kind of lust for happiness and success ultimately leads to what the Buddha said was the First Noble Truth, she leaves Aaron. Aaron’s new-found realization completes his journey.

First Noble Truth: All life knows suffering (dukkha).

The definition “Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of dukkha: Birth is dukkha; aging is dukkha; death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.”

Member of Boadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:www.lvfcs.org

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at masauu@aol.com.

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