Monday, March 12, 2007

Don't call it love.

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.


Stacy said...

I didn't really mean you're a cynic. What it is: I'm a marshmallow, it got me.

But, I don't think you're a cynic and I can't wait to see BSM.

One of my favorite love stories is Wings of Desire, it's a love story about wanting to be in the world with all its pain because that's where your love is. I also love One from the Heart.

The Notebook reminded me of my grandparents and how devoted they were to each other, what good companions they were for each other and how they set the gold standard for a sweet, supportive relationship between two smart, independent people.

As for that special person: I think when we become that person for ourselves, they might come out of hiding. I'm crossing my fingers that this is the case.

But, I agree that there is a fine line between codependency and loving completely. I don't think love requires us to give everything away or be with someone who is unkind. But what do I know...?

Dr. Cox said...

You know a lot. ;)

Sorry if you felt like I was attacking you with the Notebook antecdote. I would never want to take away, or belittle, something from someone that moves them. I guess I was just using that to illustrate my point about what moves me particularly.