In the past 3 days, I’ve seen 3 movies and consumed 3 bags of movie theater popcorn, all in the name of “Birthday Weekend.” It’s time to reel it back in and forgo the popcorn, but heading to the movies is an external pleasure that also brings me internal joy.
That’s the definition of pleasure, by the way, something external and temporary. Food, shopping, gambling, alcohol, pills, sex. Anything you might over-do in a desire to feel a sense of joy, is pleasure. Shopping trips bring us temporary pleasure but not lasting joy.
Joy is internal, and one of the ways it’s cultivated is through a practice of gratitude. Not a casual relationship with the idea that we should be thankful, but happiness is increased with the habitual practice of acknowledging things for which we’re grateful. I’m grateful for dark movie theaters, and the bit where the sound pipes in, while the opening screen is still dark. The equivalent of when the orchestra begins before the curtain is raised. It’s my favorite part. The anticipation and declaration.
If I were to take an eagle-eyed glimpse of my life, I’d never regret time spent at a movie theater. Movies make me feel and think. They’re an external pleasure that continue to give as I continue to think about them. I can safely binge my way through them without any adverse consequences.
This weekend, I saw “Battle of the Sexes,” “Brad’s Status,” and “Home Again.”
I awoke the morning following Battle of the Sexes convinced that I’m bi-sexual. My dreams that night were NC17, and there wasn’t a single male cast in that show. And no mistake, it was a show. Battle of the Sexes stayed with me long after the film’s credits rolled. It’s not, by the way, a highly sexualized film by any means. But it is a film about desire. The desire for change. The desire to win. The desire to be true to yourself.
I couldn’t wait to tell a friend of mine about Brad’s Status. That is, until the end, when the film did just that: ended abruptly. You’re not really left with any questions that need answering, but when movies end suddenly, I’m always left feeling dissatisfied. Brad’s Status is about a mid-life father (Ben Stiller) bringing his son to visit schools, and all the status strung up in the entire process. The calls that need to be made, the name of the school, what it means if you’re accepted, what it says about you as a parent if your child is “successful.” What it means if you went there, do people see you differently?
I put “successful” in quotes because success is defined differently as we age. I used to think success meant having a white kitchen with an island that seats 12, but when I look at life, really look at it, I define it as having the freedom to do what’s most important to you, and being at peace. To me, success looks like freedom and peace.
Stiller’s character spends a lot of the film envying the lives of his now “successful” college classmates. You know where it’s going from the start, right? He’ll envy these people, then learn that they envy him, or that there’s a chink in the success armor, and the lives he envies will be revealed as “less than.” My disappointment with Brad’s Status is that it was too expected, and the writers let “us”–the viewers, along with Stiller’s character–off the hook too easily. A stronger film wouldn’t have revealed that “everyone’s got problems,” but instead showed us the value that comes when we stop comparing our lives. It’s a harder sell, but a stronger message.
The best thing about Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s (Nancy Meyers’ daughter) Home Again is the soundtrack (Carole King and Carly Simon will win me over every single time). I feel badly saying it because I was rooting for Nancy’s daughter Hallie! Really rooting for her. But in watching the film, it was painful to watch Reese’s male love interest (Pico Alexander) deliver his lines. He’s dishy, for sure, but his timing and the delivery of the lines made you aware that he was doing just that. And that brings up the flawed script. I have zero problem with the Hollywood bubble premise, that a group of strange men move into the guest house where a single mom lives with her young impressionable daughters in her childhood Hollywood home. I’m fine with the bubble and its wish-fulfillment. My problem with the film is that I didn’t know what was broken and why it was broken. Reese’s character, Alice, sobs as the film opens. Is it because it’s her 40th birthday? Because she misses her father? Because she’s newly separated from her husband? But what’s bad about 40 to her? I never know, but worse, I never believe it. I never know why she’s ill-suited for her husband. There’s one moment where she needs to stand up for her herself, to really make a statement and define who she is, and she does it weekly, and while she’s drunk at that. It would’ve been better if she restrained herself while drunk, and then, in the sobriety of morning, she got the courage to stand up for her life. As written though, it just isn’t the mark of strength, not a flawed hero we’re rooting for, no. It just didn’t work.
The interiors were lovely, and it was pretty to watch, but the characters weren’t rich enough, and the conflicts were short stalls, easily fixed. But the doors are locked! Oh, wait this one is open. But if he finds out I’m doing work on the side, he’ll blow a fuse. But why? And when he does find out, it’s anti-climactic. It just didn’t work… at all.
Movies I’m looking forward to seeing:
Same Kind of Different As Me
Goodbye Christopher Robin