Viva la difference!

Last night I watched two very different movies.
(500) Days of Summer = my pick; Total Recall = Eli's pick.

Now if you haven't seen either of them, and wish for me not to spoil anything for you, you should probably stop reading here. Cause we know how I like to spoil things for others. Then again, if you haven't seen Total Recall yet, chances are, you aren't going to. (You've had almost twenty years, people!)






Ya still with me? Ok, then. Good. Let us proceed.

(500) Days of Summer, despite its title's gratuitous use of parentheses, is a wonderful movie. In fact, it's quite possibly the best movie I've seen this year. I can't remember any other contenders just now, so we'll go ahead and call it my favorite movie of the year. Why not? The only thing I wasn't really likey-likey about was the ending, which was a little too saccharine, and seemed to run counter to the point of the entire rest of the movie. In my opinion. What did you think? Oh. You haven't seen it. Huphmf. Well go see it, then, and run right back here and tell me your opinion of the ending.

Basically, boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't. Boy's heart is broken, repeatedly. But with lots of quirky humor, wise words from boy's precocious adolescent sister, irresistible irony, and lots of charming montage.

Hmm. It's quite apparent that I don't write movie reviews for a living, huh? I'd have to sell it a little better than that, I'd think.

I liked it for many, many reasons. Because it did two things that I tell my freshmen writers they need to strive for when writing personal reflective essays: forge a connection with the audience by giving them something recognizable, and then surprise them with something new, something they didn't already know, so that they can discover a new way of thinking or seeing. Tall order for college freshmen? Maybe. But not for this film.

I appreciated the way that the film's writers show us a female character who runs counter to popular stereotypes. She doesn't believe in love and she's candid about it. This is recognizable. And needed!--recognizable, real female characters are so sorely lacking in Hollywood. Girl doesn't feel the need to be part of a couple in order to feel whole, and she won't apologize for her opinions or defer to others. She simply says, "Well. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, then." Albeit in a wide-eyed, doe-like manner. (Zooey Deshanel is so innocent and sweet looking, you just can't seem to hate her. Great casting choice.)

And yes, as a viewer, you kind of hate her for breaking poor boy's heart. Because boy is quite charming, loveable with his consistently mussed hair, his small frame, and his great taste in music. We love him, yes?! So why doesn't she?

The answer is: because she just doesn't. She doesn't love him. And that's the part that hit me as discovery. The idea that just because you love someone, it doesn't mean they will necessarily love you back. Unrequited love isn't exactly new, but this seemed different, because the two characters seem so right for each other. But only because you're "seeing" their relationship through his eyes, not hers. As precocious sister points out, "I know you think she was the one, but I don't. Next time you look back, I think you should look again."

Ah, the wise one. Her character's name is...drumroll..."Rachel." a-hem.

My favorite quote from her? "Just because she likes the same bizarro crap you do doesn't mean she's your soulmate." Ah! What a revelation! So true. So true.

I could gush on and on about this movie for a good long time, but then I wouldn't have any space left to devote to Total Recall, which, in its own way, I have to admit, was also delightful.

Oh, how I love the wet towel wrapped around his head to thwart the tracking device. A wet towel? Really? They can colonize Mars with giant atmosphere providing enclosures, but their "futuristic" tracking technology is stymied by a wet towel? I don't care who ya are--that's funny!

Also, you have to love Schwarzenegger's one-liners. Are they so prevalent because he's just too dumb to remember longer lines? Or because audiences love to equate the appearance of bulging muscles with stupidity? Maybe a combination of both. "Consider that a divorce!" after plugging a round into his wife's forehead. Now that is some funny shit.

The best thing about both these movies, perhaps, was watching the two of them in the same evening, with the same person. After (500) Days of Summer we had a thoughtful conversation. After Total Recall we repeated one-liners at each other and marvelled over the three-breasted woman.

But sitting there in the dark laughing, crying, and laughing again with Eli, I was reminded that we don't have to have much in common in order to love one another. One of us prefers our entertainment fare multi-layered, nuanced, and cerebral. The other prefers special effects involving explosions, weapons, and alien nudity. But that's okay. Because with each other, we can constantly be discovering. If we both liked ALL the same "bizarro crap," life would be boring. And that ISN'T what makes people soulmates.

I don't know whether I believe in soulmates, truthfully. But I do believe in love. And I believe that there is a lot more left to discover. We just have to be willing to make the voyage together.

But not to Mars. Lest I kick you in the crotch and yell, "You KNOW how much I hate this fucking planet!"


Terri said...

I also saw 500 Days of Summer last week and really liked it. I agree with you on the ending...it was a bit too perfect.

For me, what appealed to me was how Summer could call Tom her "best friend" but have to admit to herself, in the end, that she wasn't in love with him. Even though she kept telling him she didn't believe in love, I saw her trying to convince herself that the relationship was right or ok and that she was happy. I could imagine a less independent woman or man staying in such a relationship a lot longer than 290 days.

My other favorite part of the movie was when Matthew Gray Gubler was describing his (ridiculous) ideal woman and then said his girlfriend "was better than an ideal woman. She's REAL." With that statement and the way he said it, I shifted from laughing at his relationship to seeing it as special and truly loving. I love when a film can mess with the interpretations I'm bringing to a character or scene.

Rachel said...

I loved that part too, Terri! It was wonderful and surprising.

So much to like about this movie.