It’s not every movie about academics that gets what the life is like. Take, for example, the truly execrable The Mirror Has Two Faces. I’m probably more guilty of redirecting my dreams of being a stand-up comic in the George CarlinRichard Pryor vein into my teaching style than most lecturers working in New Zealand. But even I find Barbara Streisand’s Rose Morgan impossible to stomach when it comes to her thoughts about how to teach or how to make people care about your research. It’s such a smug, self-satisfied idea to place at the centre of the film that, especially when you have Jeff Bridges’ near-boundless charm and Lauren Bacall’s gloriously withering disdain for others waiting around for a better movie to emerge.

However, when I went to The Bourne Legacy a while back with my friend Steve, I was shocked to hear a couple of tossed-off lines of dialog that captured the academic mind-set. After Aaron and Marta have escaped from the make-it-look-like-a-suicide set piece, Aaron starts going a little bonkers about his blues and greens. At this point, Steve leaned over and said to me, in trailer voice, “the thrilling adventures of a junkie in search of his next fix!” But then Weisz’s Marta puts Aaron in his place (I paraphrase): “You don’t know what I gave up for this! I couldn’t publish. I couldn’t conference. I couldn’t even talk about my research.” It’s that special recipe of well-founded pride in intellectual prowess and pursuits with a healthy glop of pettiness that sums up The Academic.

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