Very impressive people worked on The Counselor. Directed by an Academy Award-nominated director. Written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who is In The Conversation for a Nobel Prize. Starring a mixed-company cast of movie stars, Oscar winners, and internet boyfriends: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt. You would be forgiven, then, for thinking that The Counselor is not the sort of movie in which someone engages in sexual congress with a car.
But in point of fact, The Counselor is indeed a film in which someone (Cameron Diaz) has sex (intercourse) with a car (Ferrari). The scene comes relatively early in the movie – although The Counselor is a movie that seems to last forever and also a movie in which nothing really seems to happen, so it might be more accurate to say that Cameron Diaz is actually having sex with a car for the entire movie. Indeed, it might be that the entirety of human history is merely an endless repetition of the essential primal state of being, and said primal state is in fact a state of Cameron Diaz Having Sex With Car-ness.
If you’re reading this, that means you’re probably a human person, which means you probably didn’t see The Counselor. And I can’t really say that you should – our movie critic Chris Nashawaty gave it a D+. But the more I think about The Counselor, the more I think it is a document that deserves close study. Cormac McCarthy, after all, is Cormac McCarthy. He wrote Blood Meridian. He wrote The Road. He wrote Child of God, which is basically Tom Sawyer with slightly more necrophilia. He’s a genius. I’m not a genius. You’re not a genius. Maybe we should try to understand what Cormac McCarthy is saying. Maybe we need to really analyze the rich symbolism intrinsic to the action of Cameron Diaz Car Sex With Having.
In the movie, the scene occurs in flashback, as a conversation between two men. One of those men is Michael Fassbender, who plays a nameless character referred to as “the Counselor” by everyone. The other man is Javier Bardem, who plays a decadent criminal named Reiner. Basically, try to imagine a scene where Cary Grant in North by Northwest has a conversation with Al Pacino in Scarface. Bardem is in love with Malkina, a femme fatale played by Cameron Diaz.
Bardem tells Fassbender that he’s trying to forget something. Fassbender asks him to elaborate. Bardem, apropos of absolutely nothing whatsoever in history, says, “I would like to forget about Malkina [having intercourse with] my car.” He then proceeds to explain the story. Bardem and Diaz were out for an evening drive on the golf course, in Bardem’s Ferrari. Diaz tells Bardem: “I’m going to [engage in an act of copulation with] your car.”
She then proceeds to grind atop the windshield of Bardem’s Ferrari while Bardem watches. She ultimately achieves what D. H. Lawrence would have termed “her crisis,” although, of course, D. H. Lawrence was writing in a time when, generally speaking, one was unlikely to go to the local cinema and see Cameron Diaz have sex with a car – or, indeed, anyone having sex at all, with a car or otherwise.
The scene is intercut with Bardem trying to describe his feelings about the whole Cameron Diaz car-sex thing, while Fassbender looks on in awe. Their dialogue is some variation on this:
Fassbender: That’s crazy.
Bardem: It is, yeah. I don’t know. It’s crazy.
Fassbender: What do you think it means?
Bardem: Something. Everything. Nothing. I don’t know.
Fassbender: Car. Sex.
Bardem: Cameron Diaz.
The key thing you have to understand is that the characters in the movie The Counselor are exactly as shocked/surprised/weirded-out-by/uncertain about the Cameron Diaz Auto-Eroticism Literally Amiright Scene as the people watching The Counselor. After meditating upon the scene for several hours, speaking to various religious professionals and consulting the Necronomicon, I’ve come up with four possible explanations for the deeper meaning of the scene where Cameron Diaz makes all your Charlie’s Angels/Knight Rider cross-species fanfiction come true:
1. It’s about the fall of American industry and the rise of American consumerism. The Counselor is set in a world where America is barely even a concept anymore. Characters freely skip between countries and continents: The movie is populated by the kind of stateless nomads defined by George Clooney in Up in the Air. Every character has a bizarre shifting accent and an incoherent nationality. Fassbender is occasionally Texan; Diaz is said to be from Barbados; Bardem appears to be playing the bastard child of a Martian supersoldier and Marlon Brando. In The Counselor, America is less of a place and more of a delivery system: For drugs, for money, for sex. It’s a country whose sole product is all-encompassing want.
The scene where Cameron Diaz has sex with a car is filled with ambient signifiers of Americana. They’re on a golf course. They’re in a car. You could almost confuse them for a couple of high school kids out late, furtively second-basing on makeout hill. Except that this is America after the apocalypse. Bardem – nominally a hyper-masculine figure – is impotent. He has purchased, as a sign of his awesomeness, a cool car…a foreign-made car. This is the kind of thing that should make him more attractive to Diaz; in fact, it merely makes her attracted to his car. Diaz represents pure consumerist desire detached from any spiritual or emotional yearning. She is a vampire. By the end of the movie, her actions have directly or indirectly caused the deaths of everyone around her. She doesn’t care. She kills one more person, takes his money, and plans to live forever someplace new. Maybe Hong Kong. They say China is the future.
2. It’s about male anxiety and the complexity of female empowerment. You could argue that Cameron Diaz in The Counselor is basically playing Sharon Stone in the early ’90s: A hyper-sexual subject of the male gaze who also subverts the male gaze by frequently tearing the male gaze’s eyes out. The Counselor features three variations on the Alpha Male: The slick corporate professional, the decadent criminal, and the suave seen-it-all cynic. These variations are played by walking representations of Alpha Male-hood: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt.
But the movie quickly sets about deconstructing their Alpha Male-ness. Fassbender is the star of the movie, but he is a passive protagonist, constantly being acted upon and begging others for help. None of the men ever figures out that the vast majority of problems that assail them throughout the movie are actually caused by Diaz. When Cameron Diaz is having sex with a car, she isn’t just having sex with a car, although she is definitely having sex with a car: She’s also saying, “I don’t need you for anything.” And her sexuality simultaneously fascinates and terrifies all of the men around her. The way Bardem describes the action to Fassbender hovers between the clinical and the terrified. At one point he says, “I don’t know what I thought about it. I still don’t. It was too…gynecological.” Describing Cameron Diaz having sex with a car as “gynecological” is kind of like describing a giant shark attacking a cruise ship as “maritime” or describing Cormac McCarthy as “writer-esque.”
In the context of the movie’s running moral ambiguity, she might actually be the film’s hero. While everyone else is undone by weakness or emotional frailty or just bad luck, Diaz keeps her face forward. Early in the film, she has a long soliloquy – the first of the film’s seven-hundred soliloquies – in which she clearly establishes that she does not believe in dwelling on the past. She is leaning in. You could argue that this makes her the most detached character in the film; you could also point out that she ends the film in a much better place than most people. In this metaphor, Having Sex With a Car is basically Family Planning taken to dystopian extremes.
3. It’s a subtle hint that The Counselor is a prequel to Cars. The Ferrari was brought to life by the incredible powers of Cameron Diaz Sex-Having. Like all the men in The Counselor, the Ferrari was driven mad with lust for Cameron Diaz. Unlike the other men in The Counselor, the Ferrari was a car. The Ferrari thus led an uprising of automobiles against the humans. Presumably, the four-hour director’s cut of The Counselor will strengthen this theory when we finally get to see the scene where Cameron Diaz has sex with a plane.
4. No but actually, it’s about the triumph of pleasure and the end of human evolution. Cameron Diaz owns two cheetahs in The Counselor. She also has a cheetah-print tattoo. In Greco-Roman myth, Cheetahs were linked to Dionysus/Bacchus, the god of pleasure – you can see two cheetahs leading the god’s chariot in this painting.
Pleasure in Cormac McCarthy’s fiction is often linked to evil, largely because the evil figures in McCarthy’s fiction are the only people who ever seem to experience joy. The Counselor begins with a bedroom scene between Fassbender and Cruz. For the first minute or so, the scene plays out with the two actors completely under the covers, wrapped around each other, a visual that is at once intimate and dehumanized – not unlike Magritte’s painting “The Lovers.” Fassbender ultimately cajoles the angelic Cruz to allow him to engage in an activity that results in an outcome not dissimilar to the outcome achieved by Cameron Diaz upon the instance of her having sex with a car. The film begins, then, with pleasure exchanged between two people in love: The root, you might argue, of all humanity.
Diaz, however, represents pleasure unadorned by humanity or connection. She’s a portrait of a world where pleasure has been commodified. If she needs more pleasure, she can just take money from someone else. The Ferrari, then, stands for everything synthetic about our contemporary emotional landscape: Internet pornography, smartphones, videogames, Google, the fact that you will soon be able to Google “Cameron Diaz Car Sex” and get several million video hits.
Late in The Counselor, a random character never introduced before takes over the movie for about 10 minutes and soliloquizes about a wide assortment of things. One of the few coherent things he expresses is the idea that, for an individual, their life is the entirety of their universe – which means that, when they die, the universe functionally dies with them. Cameron Diaz has sex with the car in The Counselor in order to express the fact that her universe will never die, which also means that no new universes will ever be born again. In this sense, we can only truly understand Cameron Diaz having sex with a car as Cormac McCarthy’s reinterpretation of the Book of Revelations.
Or maybe it’s just his stealth audition for the Fast & Furious 8 screenwriting gig.