Last night I caught Sweet Home Alabama with Mark. I have to confess, it was my idea to see it, ‘cause I hadn’t seen a new romantic comedy in awhile and I was curious about this one.

As with The Good Girl, the symbolism in it was a little heavy-handed, but overall it wasn’t too bad. It certainly doesn’t rank up there among my favourites, but it was a half-decent way to spend the evening.

It’s interesting watching films with Mark, partly because of the different perspectives we have on them. He often views films from a technical side, and he’s said he dislikes porn because of the lighting and camera angles, and the problems he has with them – I think that’s absolutely priceless.

I’m making more of an effort to watch the “arty” films that people tout as being absolutely incredibly brilliant and/or hilarious, but I often have major problems with them. As an example – High Fidelity, which Mark had described as a guy’s romantic comedy. Sure, the movie had funny moments, but overall, I felt like the main character (John Cusack) would have been obsessed with any particular woman at that point in his life. Yes, he does give a brief rundown of things he finds fantastic about her (five, if memory serves, in keeping with his top five list themes), but … that was about the only time that he seemed to have anything worth saying about her. Otherwise it just seemed like spite or something – he was upset because she moved out on him and started seeing someone else, so he was obsessed with the one that got away.

I know, it wasn’t the first relationship he had where the girl left him, but… argh. The other huge problem I had with it was that we never saw why she came back, why she cared about him, any of that stuff. I mean, shit – show him doing something nice for you, other than attending your dad’s funeral, show you two in a romantic time or three, give me something to understand why you want this guy and why he wants you.

Lord knows I’ve consumed enough romantic fiction and films, so I know what I need to feel convinced that a couple cares for one another. That’s not me trying to claim that I’m an expert on real-life romance (not even close, if you know my overall history), but I do know when I’m left disappointed or skeptical of a fictional presentation of love and romance.

I’ve said it a few times before in conversations with Mark; because I don’t generally watch films for the technical aspects (a good reason behind why I have yet to see either Lord of the Rings film, or the Titanic, for example), I tend to miss out on things. I saw Citizen Kane in one of my film classes in years past, and it reminded me that I watch films for the story. If I’m disappointed with the story or the characters for some reason, then I’m less likely to enjoy the movie. Watching the classic films, such as Citizen Kane, Charlie Chaplin movies or Buster Keaton movies, it’s sometimes difficult for me to appreciate them properly – I need reminding at times that these techniques that I’ve seen duplicated a billion times in modern movies (such as the crane shot that first introduces us to the club in Citizen Kane, if I remember correctly) were done for the first time in these films; these were pioneering techniques.

Watching Keaton or Chaplin, I remind myself that those stunts were done without doubles, without blue or green screens, without any kind of outside assistance or camera tricks. A few of the commonly reproduced scenes out of these movies were ones that could have easily killed the actors, such as the scene of Chaplin passing through the gears in Modern Times, or Buster Keaton on the train trellis in Go West (if memory serves)… One scene in Steamboat Bill, Jr. has a house front falling onto Keaton, with him standing in the window and remaining unscathed; my prof told the class that half of his crew quit the day they filmed that scene because they didn’t want to be at fault if he was killed. Watching that scene I felt somewhat underwhelmed – after all, I’ve seen it before – until I realized that hey, this was done live, without outside help, for the first time, and it was captured on film. That’s pretty impressive.

So movies such as The Good Girl, that are supposed to be about – what? Being trapped in a suffocating marriage with a husband you’re growing to resent, having his best friend blackmail you into sleeping with him, you wind up with the baby you wanted at the end of the film, but you’re still depressed… what meaning am I supposed to get out of this? If you’re unhappy, then you might as well resign yourself to it, ‘cause it ain’t getting any better?

No, I don’t look to all the films that I see as an attempt to generate or receive meaning for my lot in life. That would be foolish, and I see movies primarily as a form of entertainment, which is why I don’t often see the arty films, or why I might wind up disappointed with them. That’s not always the case, and I do certainly find films I enjoy – Run Lola Run, which would rank on my desert island picks, I believe; or Like Water for Chocolate, which I hope to see again soon and read the book – that are out of the ordinary, but I find that the films I greatly enjoy gave me something. Be it a good laugh, some hope, some insight, retribution, justice, escapism… they all provided me with something.

After watching The Rules of Attraction, someone in the group commented how it was a poor date movie, and that it left you with the feeling, “Well, life sucks and you’ll never be happy, so you might as well give up and die.” I didn’t get quite that feeling from that movie, but many of the award-winning films seem to have that theme, and it’s a reason I often wind up being disappointed with them.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for a happy ending.

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