Charles Jensen

Spliced: Get Them to the Niche / Get Him to the Greek

Get Him to the Greek, 2010. Dir. Nicholas Stoller

FRIDAY

We approached the U.S./Canada border checkpoint. The human remains in my lap were concealed by an old blanket. I tried to seem casual.

Aaron Green has one job: get Aldous Snow from London to Los Angeles for a concert at the Greek Theater, with a quick layover in New York for an appearance on The Today Show. It sounds easy enough, except that Aldous Snow, sitting at the bottom of multiple addictions and the most devastating low of his career, is a walking, uncooperative id. This is the fundamental problem of Get Him to the Greek.

Aaron, a huge fan of Snow and his band Infant Sorrow, is over the moon to meet and spend time with his idol, until he’s spent literally one minute with the man. Aaron realizes anything that goes wrong, even direct results of Aldous’s decisions and actions, will be Aaron’s fault, and that Aldous will not only not listen to Aaron’s instructions, he will often do the opposite.

THE TUESDAY BEFORE

We met my uncle for breakfast the morning after we arrived in Port Huron, Michigan. He was impossible to ignore. At 6’5” with a thick frame, he entered any room like a planet, complete with his own gravitational pull. He stood with stooped shoulders, his blond hair flecked with orange. His speaking voice usually rasped with a whiskey huskiness to it, though he was prone to raising his voice into a boom that got everyone’s attention. Like my dad, he cleared his throat constantly, and any time he moved his joints, he would groan, or mutter, “Jesus Christ.” The last time I’d seen him in person was his wedding when I was 12 years old. When we reunited in Port Huron, I was 30 and gay; he was divorced, legally barred from seeing his children after threatening to kill his ex-wife with an axe, and living in an enormous house in Sarnia that was as cold and empty as his life.

He took us to the hospital. My grandmother lay propped up in bed in intensive care, a breathing tube shoved down her throat. She was conscious and responsive, but exhausted, overwhelmed. She could hear and understand me but couldn’t respond beyond a soft pat on my hand when I said hello and that I loved her. Her skin was thin and pale as airmail paper, bluish and translucent.

My dad and uncle spoke with the hospital staff. My uncle was convinced she had a good chance of a miraculous recovery. The nurses explained that was less and less likely with each minute that passed. Rather than improving, she merely held steady, almost entirely due to the machinery keeping her breathing.

A decision would need to be made. It was up to the three of us to make it.

We first meet Aldous at his London flat, overlooking the Thames and Parliament just over the river. As played by Russell Brand, Aldous is mercurial. When Aaron explains he’s arrived to take Aldous to the concert at the Greek, Aldous insists the event was scheduled for two months later and that Aaron himself has changed the date without telling him. Aldous’s mother, a quiet, birdlike woman, chirps back whatever Aldous tells her. Yes, it’s in two months. Yes, they changed it. Yes, you’ve been inconvenienced. Aldous’s brother echoes her, and it’s clear they both exist in Aldous’s world to reinforce the man’s delusions and enable his bad behavior.

Aaron wants to get right to the airport, but Aldous won’t be sidetracked. They end up at a pub, then a club, and then we see from Aaron’s POV in the quickfire editing of the rest of the night how discombobulated he’s become on the buffet of drugs and alcohol he’s fed by Aldous. They barely make their plane to New York. A time stamp tells us when they land they have less than an hour to make it to Aldous’s interview and performance on The Today Show.

A hair and make-up artist fluffs Aldous’s look in the car on the way to the interview. Aaron needs to keep him sober for the TV appearance, but Aldous, like a magician, keeps conjuring new controlled substances. Aaron isn’t accustomed to addicts or their tricks, so he does the only thing he can think of to keep the booze and alcohol out of Aldous’s body: he puts it into his own.

Undeterred, Aldous insists the car pull over so he can buy “a pretzel” from a man on the street and returns to the car with drugs. Aaron is drunk, stoned, and in a bad way, and they might not make it to the studio on time. Aldous’s narcissism prevents him from caring, convinced (and confirmed through lived experience) that nothing can begin without him. These characters, living at opposite ends of the economic spectrum of the same industry, stand in for something larger than themselves. Aldous’s race, wealth, and privilege mean he never faces consequences, partly because he does not acknowledge they can exist. All Aaron sees are consequences: what failure now will mean for his idol’s career, what getting fired will mean for him financially, for his own future.

TUESDAY EVENING

We got the call that my grandmother was in her final hour while we ate dinner at a Canadian Chinese restaurant. We rushed back to the hospital to be with her, and I sat by the bed holding her cool hand in mine, her skin eerily smooth as vellum, as she labored to pull each shallow breath into her body. I was there when she took her last.

My dad went quiet. My uncle paced like a caged lion. “C’mon, Ma!” he yelled at her. “Wake up!” He huffed and moaned and sighed as he stomped around the room. I sat by the bed, tears leaping from my eyes. “Wake up, Ma!” he yelled again.

His shouts alerted the nurse, who swept through the curtain like a breeze. “Why don’t you give me a few moments to get her ready,” she suggested, her tone practiced. We moved into the hallway to wait. My uncle, still raging but now in silence, gave off beams of energy that electrified the entire ward.

When the nurse rejoined us in the hallway, she explained a funeral home was en route to collect my grandmother and prepare her for what was ahead. Her demeanor was so kind and loving. What would it be like to work this way, family after family mourning a loved one? I appreciated her even as I shrank from my embarrassment of my uncle’s performance of grief.

There was nothing more for us to do that night, but we waited for them to arrive, and my dad and uncle watched the workers put my grandmo