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I never would have thought the key to understanding Twister resided in the character of Melissa (Jami Gertz), the lily-livered fiancée of tornado-chaser Bill (Bill Paxton), but as I watched her throw her arms around Bill’s neck and gasp, “All this time, when you said you chased tornadoes, I thought it was a metaphor,” something clicked. This remark turned out to be a springboard to dime-store Freudian analysis—as the movie continued, I realized that Twister is actually the story of a couple fighting impotence while trying to have a baby.
Consider: Bill wants a divorce from Jo (Helen Hunt) so he can marry Melissa, a reproductive therapist (!), and resume his staid life as a weatherman (i.e., a meteorological voyeur). His plans are forgotten the moment Jo unveils Dorothy, his invention, which she has completed. Dorothy is a cylinder on wheels filled with hundreds of little tadpolelike sensors. Bill and Jo’s goal is to get Dorothy close enough to a tornado so that the contraption gets sucked up along with all the little balls, which will then transmit crucial measurements back home. The rest of the movie consists of a series of attempts on the part of Bill and Jo to get Dorothy up there. (Amusingly, Dorothy keeps tipping over and spilling its contents nowhere near the tornado.)
At the climax, Bill and Jo encounter an “F5”—the same kind of tornado that killed Jo’s father. The breathless moment arrives—will Dorothy go in? And…yes! Up it goes, sending hundreds of pods wriggling up into the tornado’s core, a process demonstrated by a computer-screen image that resembles nothing so much as a health-class filmstrip.
Hurrah for the happy couple. Next week, an interpretation of James and the Giant Peach. —Olivia Kim