Yesterday I was accused by a friend of being a "cynic" because I said I didn't like The Notebook, and thought it was a horrible movie. I know my friend was kidding (well, I think she was), but if you want to know the truth, what I think is cynical are naive notions of the wreckage of heartbreak, and offensively romanticized portrayals of Alzheimer's Disease. Okay, perhaps not cynical (that word is so over and mis-used, it makes me want to scream), but certainly manipulative and exploitive.
Another time, a close friend told me that the only way I could not be moved to an emotional wreck by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (a movie I hold a particular resentment towards) is by being cynical about love.
I will proudly stand and say I am not a cynic about love. A bit pessimistic perhaps, but not cynical, and there is a huge difference.
What I've been trying to do with this post, probably fairly unsucessfully, is segue into a discussion of Black Snake Moan, a film I just saw. It didn't move me to tears, exactly, but it did twist me into all kinds of emotional knots. It's the kind of film that I can already tell will stick with me for days. Haunting, I think, is the adjective critics like to throw around to describe these kinds of films that grasp some kind of deep emotional truth, that, I think, is sorely lacking in modern filmmaking.
I don't know anything about Craig Brewer, and I never saw Hustle & Flow, but based on BSM, he seems like a man who has an innate understanding of what it is that makes us human, warts and all. And that sometimes those warts, used effectively, can be our biggest strengths. Acknowledging the reality of who we are, and what we have to give, and confronting our biggest emotions, no matter how frightening or painful they may be, can be the most generous gift we can give anyone.
BSM could have been awful. It could have been the most exploitive, trashy, dumb, and (okay, I'll say it) cynical movie ever, and on paper, it seems like it. But Brewer doesn't shy away from the hard stuff, from the despair, from the wreckage, and from the sincerity of his love for his characters. It's real, it's palpable, and it's smart. He pulls wonderful, and wonderfully compassionate, performances from all of his actors, and even when the movie falls a little short, you still have to admire his sincerity and the effort.
Everyone dreams of finding that one person in life that not so much completes them (I don't believe in such an idea; it fosters codependency), but will love them and accept them, even with all their disgusting insides hanging out; with their metaphoric black eyes, and skinned knees, and fucked-up sunken eyes; with their restless souls and bodies; and their pasts full of shame, regret and misery. Very few people are lucky enough to find that person, the one that not only loves those aspects of you, but lets you love those aspects of themselves. Craig Brewer believes that such a love can exist, and redeem you, and he makes you believe it too.
That, to me, is worth getting weepy over. Not Gena Rowlands pretending like she's really old and confused and dying of Alzheimer's in a beautiful garden filled with laughing children.