Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Movie lies and life truths

When I love a movie, I love it to death. After the initial viewing and corresponding emotional connection I am likely to re-watch the film at least once over the next 2-6 weeks, depending on whether I watched in a cinema or at home. I will read as much trivia I can find, look up and memorise quotes and trawl message boards to see other people's opinions.

'Obsessed' is a state I am clearly familiar with.

This goes for most genres of film and the timeline is pretty standard. Watch, re-watch, obsess, frighten others with knowledge. Rom-coms are different. When I love a rom-com, I follow all of the usual steps but on a greater scale. I particularly like watching rom-coms online as it means I can schedule my first re-watching for immediately after the first viewing. I will watch a rom-com over and over and over again and am unlikely to get tired of it. I don't necessarily offer my undivided attention each time. After the second viewing I am likely to watch the film accompanied by a game or other pastime which only requires half my attention. It's not that I don't want to pay attention to the film; it's more that I feel that most films require my virtually undivided attention to continue to have an impact (for example: I can't really imagine films such as The Silence of the Lambs or Black Swan eliciting a passionate response unless my eyes are glued to the screen). Rom-coms are more like companions to my life. Background music, if you will. I like to have them there so that I can continue to interact with the characters and enjoy the story but I don't need to focus entirely on them to keep enjoying them. I know where the characters are going and how the story will end. This is the case with other films I've seen before but a rom-com is often comfortingly predictable so it doesn't feel so bad to not pay attention to every pratfall a couple (or love triangle - ooooh! different!) faces on the way to the inevitably pleasing ending.

I mention all this because I was thinking the other day about one of my absolute favourite rom-coms, He's Just Not That Into You. Central character Gigi, played by Ginnifer Goodwin, has the task of delivering the film's closing moral monologue. (Spoiler nazis, keep your hair on. She basically paraphrases her opening monologue and it doesn't give much away if you haven't seen the film and even if it does she is the central character in a rom-com, of course she ends up happy!). Gigi presents the audience with some uplifting advice, which I will repeat here:

"Girls are taught a lot of stuff growing up. If a guy punches you he likes you. Never try to trim your own bangs and someday you will meet a wonderful guy and get your very own happy ending. Every movie we see, every story we're told implores us to wait for it, the third act twist, the unexpected declaration of love, the exception to the rule. But sometimes we're so focused on finding our happy ending we don't learn how to read the signs. How to tell from the ones who want us and the ones who don't, the ones who will stay and the ones who will leave. And maybe a happy ending doesn't include a guy, maybe... it's you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over, freeing yourself up for something better in the future. Maybe the happy ending is... just... moving on. Or maybe the happy ending is this: knowing after all the unreturned phone calls, broken-hearts, through the blunders and misread signals, through all the pain and embarrassment... you never gave up hope."

Now I can safely say that I have never tried to trim my own 'bangs' (I thought about it the one time I had a fringe. I was five and hated the frizzy wave that made my forehead itch and obscured my vision. Luckily my mother explained to me that if I did go down the radical route and chop it off with my little pink safety scissors I would be left with an ugly little tuft of hair that would grow back into the detestable fringe before it achieved the all-over, even look I was going for), and I have never believed that ridiculous thing about how if a boy likes you he will treat you badly. Although my parents happily left me with my "boys have cooties" delusions in primary school, neither of them would have ever let me think that if someone was mean to me it was because they liked me and any parent who tells their kid that is just setting everyone up for trouble down the line. I'm more inclined to agree with Justin Long's character, Alex, in the same film who gives Goodwin's Gigi a wake up call when he points out that "if a guy is treating you like he doesn't give a shit, he genuinely doesn't give a shit. No exceptions." That makes much more sense. Even if the guy does like you and is just "treating 'em mean to keep 'em keen", is that really the sort of guy you want? One who doesn't treat you as well as he should because society has suggested different behaviour? Excuse me if I expect a little more.