"When the shit gets bigger than the cat, get rid of the cat," the character formerly known as Jay Z intones to bartender Sean Penn, explaining that he, too, didn't know what this proverb meant when he first encountered it. Thus the stage is set for the hellscape into which we are about to descend in the trailer for "Run," an art experiment created by the Carter-Knowles enclave to promote their upcoming summer tour but also to explore the deeper dimensions of the American psyche.
When you lead off with these kinds of speaking words, you better have something big to back it up. In the case of "Run," that big thing is a cast that includes Sean Penn, Don Cheadle, Jake Gyllenhaal, Blake Lively, Emmy Rossum, Rashida and Kadida Jones, and Guillermo Díaz.
What follows is a surrealist escape into the gangster fantasias of American folklore and the broader pop cultural imagination:
Beyoncé fires a gun into our brains, imprinting us with a key hypnotic cue and inducting us into the world that the Carter-Knowles have wrought. In this world, the law is dead, Jay and Bey are on the run, and the rich backdrop of the American landscape provides a release from the perils of consciousness and capital gains taxes. As we head into this dreamlike panorama, anything could happen...
For instance, wind power. Always lingering at the edges of our consciousness is the majestic power of wind turbines, which also linger en masse at the edge of the screen next to Jay Z. The plot of "Run" could be that Jay and Bey are escaping to invest in the Southwestern United States' burgeoning wind farm industry, like so many renegade energy barons before them. Or it could be that, like wind turbines, they are merely captive to the whims of the air around them in the current state of existence in which we live.
The plot of "Run" is that Jay and Bey are robbing a bank. But not just any bank—the fancy old kind, a tip-off that they are also taking a stab at the entrenched power and wealth structures of America, a country riddled by greed and plagued by a long-running collective awareness of its past (and future) as a playground of robber barons and pillaging hedge fund managers. Will America ever come to terms with this legacy, or will it limply continue to embrace capitalism even as it is repeatedly fucked over by it? Are Jay Z and Beyoncé complicit due to their own exorbitant ticket pricing? Is this a dramatic reenactment of Jay and Bey walking into the Beats Music headquarters and announcing that Dr. Dre isn't about to be the richest dude in hip-hop if they can help it? What is the meaning of money, ultimately? Let us journey deeper...down a couple floors at least, into the basement of the collective American subconscious.
Jake Gyllenhaal calls an elevator. Where is he going? What is he doing? Why does he look so satisfied? These are questions we all must ask ourselves as we descend ever deeper into the maze of the American experience. Jake Gyllenhaal calls an elevator. Gaze upon his triumphant visage:
A man. A plan. An elevator Gyllenhaal. But like any dream, this trailer is ultimately collection of red herrings because it is really only headed in one direction:
Here is Beyoncé in a pool with money raining down upon her. Henceforth, we will wake up in cold sweats sometimes at night picturing this image, grasping at the unattainable, crying at our own imperfection. This shot is the literal pinnacle of American civilization. American iconography has been redefined.
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Streetwear aside, though, look at where we have arrived when we burst free of the conventions of action movie montage into the still, calm landscape of the Carter-Knowles state of consciousness. Much like the world around us, this trailer is a sideshow of imperfections and strife, and, at the center of it, is utter tranquility:
America is a beautiful place. Much like Jake Gyllenhaal, no one knows where it's going.
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