Friday, October 10, 2008

Someone is Writing My Life

Do you ever see movies and think, "Oh my god, that is me! Or, my husband or family..."?

I do. All the time. So, the question is, am I so unremarkable that everything seems like it's about me, or do I just look for connections to my own life in everything. (I do this with the books I read as well.) Or are these screenwriters so good that they manage to write a specific situation and yet have it seem personal to me, the constant Viewer? Or, maaaaaaybe, all these screenwriters are really my separated-at-birth septuplets? nah...that can't be it. It's happened more than 6 times.

First there's When Harry Met Sally and her high-maintenance ways. That is so totally The Fam (and by that I mean the family in which I grew up: my parents, two younger sisters and me.). To be fair, though, over the years I've mellowed a bit (due in absolutely no part to living with my low-maintenance husband for the past 15 years.) You should experience, just once, what it's like to go out to eat at a restaurant with The Fam. The interesting thing is, it's clearly genetic. My oldest son, Will, in this regard is just like my side of the family. He wants caramel sauce for his apple slices (and he'd take them peeled if I let him), his ham & cheese grilled, and for his birthday 2 weeks ago, he wanted Oreo Cheesecake. (That's homemade, mind you, not the pick-up-at-the-Factory variety.) OK, yes, I admit it. I prefer all of those options myself!

Although I've loved the movies since I was a child, Moonstruck was probably the birth of my identification with and love of movies as an adult. I was 16 when it came out and I instantly loved it the moment I heard Dean Martin crooning That's Amore. I have Italian family up in Rome, NY, that seem just like the characters and every melodramatic sigh and eye roll is so familiar, so them. I get warm & fuzzy feelings every time I watch it when Cher's character, Loretta, and her father repeat the same table-slapping gesture after toasting to her engagement to Johnny Camarere. (I can't even type his name without hearing it in my head the sing-song way Aunt Rita says it.)

The movie's tagline says it all: Life. Family. Love. I love every moment of Ronnie's "I lost my hand; I lost my bride" speech by the bakery ovens and his and Loretta's subsequent "bride without a head/wolf without a foot" argument and to this day I still say to my husband, "Go ahead. Take me, take me to the bed!" Every actor in that movie is incredible and it was, of course, Cher's finest acting. And Nicolas Cage at his most broodingly handsome. Especially outside his apartment in the cold, saying "We're supposed to ruin ourselves and love the wrong people." And the final scene when everyone is at breakfast and Ronnie asks her to marry him and her mother asks her if she loves him, Loretta says, "I love him awful." Obviously, you don't want to get me started or I'll just quote the whole movie.

Other ways Moonstruck has impacted me: Inspired by my love of the film, my husband asked me to marry him in a little Italian restaurant, Carmello's . And I love opera. In fact, seeing La Boheme at the Met (I can't even say the New York Metropolitan Opera. It will always be The Met to me. --After their unexpected tryst, Johnny says he'll leave Loretta alone if he can have one night with the two things he loves the most: her and the opera. "Where's the Met?", Loretta resignedly responds.) is one of my life goals.

Cinema Paradiso
is an amazing movie I only just saw recently, despite it being 20 years old. When the little boy peeks his head through the curtain to watch the movie, his face gleefully delighted, I feel a kinship to him. I have that feeling every time I sit down in my seat, the anticipation making me giddy almost. (I try to imagine what it would have been like if I'd seen it when it first came out.) It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't get it, how much value I place on a great, or meanful [to me] film. The truths they tell, the essence of something they are able to express. The way they can make you feel. So vital. So valid. So valuable. Yes, I'm talking about me as well as the film here.

Then there's the Jane Austen Book Club which, unfortunately, didn't do well on a global scale, but it was practically a perfect Jenny movie: Jane Austen, Science Fiction, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, love, literature, friendship, and family. I loved nearly every moment of it while seeing it in the theater and that still holds true on rewatch. I'm in a neighborhood book club which I enjoy immensely but it isn't like this book club. I always envision having these heart-to-hearts about how the book spoke to us and although we usually have a very authentic discussion (We've read plenty of serious literature: Reading Lolita in Tehran, The Fountainhead, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Uncle Tom's Cabin to name a few.) it's never quite as personal as I'd like. It's just too large a group to do that and realistically; unless it's a small group and you get to know each other well, you can't have the kind of connections the characters in this movie had. I relate to the books I read and films I see just as the characters relate Austen's books to their own lives and experiences. I live and breathe them for a time, sometimes a long time, sometimes forever. (James Clavell's Shogun = forever. One day I will write about my Shogun obsession but this is not that day.)

If I had to define my ideal genre, I guess I would loosely categorize it as Drama But. The but being large here. Although I'll admit I do have a penchant for picking heavy fare (Have I mentioned Rand refers to my Netflix queue as The Depressing Queue?), mostly I just want to watch something real. That is not to say that it can't be whimsical or imaginative or futuristic as I love all of those (American Beauty, Amelie, Pan's Labyrinth, The Matrix to name a few) but it has to feel real. It makes me laugh and cry. It inspires. It makes me appreciate my life. It makes me dream. It makes me want to tell my most precious ones how much I love them. To be passionate. To do, to experience. It makes me want to live.

That's not too much to ask, is it?


So, what other movies fit the bill? (This list will obviously be a work in progress.)

Firefly (yes, I realize it's not a movie...but Serenity was.)
Life as a House
Love Actually
The English Patient
Almost Famous
An Unfinished Life


  1. Ok, I totally didn't realize you liked Life as a House. I *loved* that movie and Dave was sure I was the only one.

    I'd put English Patient on your list.

    I also feel that way about The Piano, but that's probably my own neuroses.