Clichés are tasty!

Ok, so I just saw Under the Tuscan Sun.

Great movie. Typical, in many ways, but also touching, and poignant and sharp at the most unexpected moments.

Indeed, the movie saves itself from ignominy mainly in that at those moments where I most expected the film to fall apart into base and useless clichés, it held together most proudly. The touching scene at the wall with the trio of Polish workers was an example of such a moment.

But at other moments (the wonder-man who shows up for the last 90 seconds of the movie) the demand that hollywood churn out a feel good ending seemed to overpower the beautiful simplicity of the story.

It reminded me a bit of my impression of "Something's Gotta Give". I loved the film, but I thought it would have been far more fitting it the movie had ended just 3 minutes early, while Jack Nicholson was standing alone on the bridge. Let him realize his life lessons. Let him mature in such a way that we as an audience can share in his maturity as we observe it overtake him. And let the woman go home with the younger man. The relationship isn't the point. Growing up was, or should have been.

Sadly, American audiences aren't grown up enough to stand for that, and so the car must pull up, and Diane must get out and explain that she's always loved him. Because this is America, dammit. Learning isn't enough, we have to succeed against all odds, as well.


Wouldn't it be nice if more people realized that sometimes trying and failing is enough? Sometimes the fairytale ending isn't as good as the delicious real-world tragedy that overtakes us as we realize that we've given our all to something and still couldn't manage it? The recognition that we are not Gods but mere mortals struggling to adapt to an everchanging world is something I think we would do well to remind ourselves of more often.

Why can't more people make endings like the end of Lost in Translation? The kiss of friends, recognizing the moment of connection, learning from it, and continuing with their lives is a beautiful thing.

And yet, Under the Tuscan Sun was a fun film. It was enjoyable. As I'm sure the critic's put it, it would make a great date film*.

And so we swallow it cheerfully and call it good, even when the ending full of too much sugar and sunlight seems a little over-the-top compared to the quiet dignity the rest of the movie maintains so wonderfully.

*[Cynicism] For those of you who haven't heard, I have a theory that the words "it would make a great date film" are intended to be translated two entirely different ways for men and women in modern America.

To the women, the meaning is supposed to be "It's a touching and romantic film that will help you temporarily cast off any doubts you have that the relationship might not be wise or prudent, and drown them in the sea of romantic self-interest. You want to love him, and this movie will allow you to feel like you do."

To the men, the meaning is supposed to be "While watching this movie you'll be able to get one base farther than whatever base you've currently reached when making out."

Disgusting, isn't it?

Y'know why? Because it's true.

Monday, March 01, 2004


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