“I won’t cry,” I tell myself. I hear a male voice address the crowd, but I can’t focus on what he’s saying. He sounds so far away. I look over and see a tear flowing down a classmate’s face. She’s eleven years old-- so am I.
I look away, but it’s too late. My face wrinkles up. I can feel my skin flush. Emotions start flowing. I can’t stifle the tears; they’re unstoppable. I remember Kleenex, a woman’s hand reaching toward me. I remember silence and stuffed animals. I peer into the casket and see my friend’s face. She looks peaceful, her hands folded in prayer across her chest. Maybe I don't believe in God, after all. Her face looks familiar, but seeing her like this is so foreign. I say goodbye.
People may say they go to the movies to be entertained, to escape the mundane realities of their own lives. While that’s often true, I’d say there’s more to it. People go to the movies to feel alive, to live vicariously through the lives of others. We seek human experiences and connections that may be lacking in our own lives. We seek to understand ourselves and our relationships just a little bit better. Looking at life through the prism of a movie, we allow ourselves to express human emotions that we may be afraid to acknowledge in real life.
Gross-out comedies. Sequels. Franchises. Merchandising. There’s a lot of schlock in Hollywood. Where have all the dramas gone? The tearjerkers? They may be harder to find, but they haven’t entirely disappeared. A handful of darker movies have been released recently. [More on the way this awards season.]
These movies reflect the emotional pulse of what people are feeling right now, given world events and economic times. These films fill a void that so many of us have tried to fill in other, less satisfying, ways. Audiences are hungry for good stories. They want films that fulfill them in ways that so many other things can’t. They want to laugh; they want to cry. They want to cringe with embarrassment on behalf of a character; they want to ponder situations they may face in their own lives. They want to leave knowing just a little bit more about themselves and the world at large. Dramas don’t have to be dark and downtrodden. Many are hopeful and inspiring. Many are funny and witty. Many are bittersweet.
I finally got around to seeing Rabbit Hole (2010). That film, based on a play of the same name, explores a marriage, a family, and previously disconnected characters that become linked by tragedy. Each of the characters handles the grief in his or her own way. Grief doesn't give you a schedule. There are no steps to follow. There is no "getting over it." You come out on the other end, forever changed. In Rabbit Hole, each character learns that to continue living in any meaningful way, he or she must move forward. Embrace one another, support each other. Acknowledge the past, but look to the future.
50/50 is another satisfying, human film. It’s rather amazing that the so-called “cancer film” was able to make it to the starting blocks, let alone get a full theatrical release. Those who haven’t seen the film may call that depressing; I call it progress. So many people are affected by cancer—directly or indirectly. And those of us who haven’t been affected by cancer worry about whether or not we might be…sometime in the future, when we’re least prepared for such news. 50/50 manages to capture both the dramatic and tragic elements of cancer diagnosis and treatment, while acknowledging that comedy can (and does) exist in those experiences, too. I’ve known (and lost) several people to cancer. There are moments when you cry and think about the possibility of living life without them. Then, there are times when you’re together and you both laugh heartily, inappropriately at the absurdity of it all:
"Your hair's growing back red and curly? How bizarre. You look like Bozo the clown!"
"But I have CANCER!" [Ahem, but you can still do your own dishes.]
These are the true moments of life. And these days, I think don’t think people want escapism as much as they want to live their lives in a real and meaningful way.
UPCOMING CHARACTER-DRIVEN FILMS:
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) - Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult. UPCOMING CHARACTER-DRIVEN FILMS
Like Crazy (2011) - A British college student falls for an American student, only to be separated from him when she's banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa.
Another Happy Day (2011) - A wedding at her parents' Annapolis estate hurls high-strung Lynn into the center of touchy family dynamics.
The Descendants (2011) - A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.
The Artist (2011) - Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.
© 2011 by KLiedle
Above film loglines from imdb.com