Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Provocative Art of the Tear Jerk

What's going on in your back seat?
 Yesterday Michael and I saw the The Descendants, now playing at the incredibly cool Tropic Cinema, located just a short hike away from our house. As always Michael examined reviews of the movie before agreeing to see it. The reviews were good, he reported. And so we went. In the bustle of people leaving the theater, as we waited on line to buy tickets, I heard a woman say: “I used every Kleenex in my purse!” and assumed she had seen the Marilyn Monroe film, Marilyn’s being one of the most heartbreakingly poignant stories imaginable.
Key West's Tropic Theater: a treasure
    The Descendants is set in Hawaii, and features scenes of not only downtown Honolulu, and the bustling tourist center of Waikiki, but also sweeping and magnificent images of pristine areas on other, less frequented Hawaiian islands. George Clooney very artfully plays the husband of a mortally wounded woman, comatose on her deathbed, as the drama of her demise plays out. It is sad. And funny. And authentic, but for the fact that the husband is a multimillionaire. In the very beginning of the film, he narrates that when people know you live in a place like Hawaii, a paradise, they don’t think you experience life’s darker truths. But it is true, he assures us, that people in Hawaii suffer deadly cancers and addictions and boat accidents just like they do everywhere else on the planet.
Inside the Tropic, voted the best movie theater in Florida!
    Where can this go? Just where you think it will of course. The story plays out. We learn terrible secrets about the wife and about her husband’s regrets. We see children losing their mother. Elderly parents losing their adult child. As the story spooled toward it’s inevitable end, the sound of tearful sighs, nose-blowing and sniffling came from every corner of the theater. I saw Michael’s eyes shining with brimming tears. But I wasn’t buying it. I don’t like being played like a violin.  
    Later Michael said that the experience reminded him of seeing the movie Love Story, in a packed to the brim New York City theater, full of hard-bitten New Yorkers, who sniffled and sobbed every time the heroine or the hero spoke the immortal words: “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  If only!
    I was reminded of seeing the film West Side Story, which came around when I was 10 years old. I saw it with my cousin, who was older, wiser, and, in my mind’s eye, cooler than me in every way imaginable. Everyone seemed to be sniveling, but not her. She didn’t cry. So I wouldn’t cry. I think I sprained something deep in my throat, and perhaps my soul, with the effort.
    This morning I talked with son Miguel. I told him about the film. He said he believes that people like sob stories; they appeal to the voyeuristic instinct in all of us. We know of life’s inevitable truths — loss and death — but when, as children, we watch Bambi, or Old Yeller, or Charlotte’s Web, we witness someone else's tragedy. Not our own. We get to leave the theater, go home, unscathed, our Kleenex used and tossed into the trash along with our temporary heartache.
Where do I begin?
    When I slogged through cancer treatments, radiation and chemotherapy, I felt pretty awful, but I never imagined that I would die. Chemo takes you right to the brink of death, hopefully without killing you along with the cancer cells. It’s pathetic indeed. I felt truly sorry for those who love me having to bear witness to my suffering. But I survived. We all did. And when it was all over, when I went back to work and rejoined the human race, people had many questions about my cancer, my prognosis, and my feelings about it.
    I soon realized that I wasn’t the only one in denial of my destiny. We all are. No matter how green your paradise, no matter how many millions in your bank account, no matter how wonderful or horrible you are, you will die. So I say live creatively, love lavishly, create irony, so that when the tragedy of your death occurs, perhaps the drama of your story will be fodder for a Golden Globe-winning, tear-jerking film. The world will cry for you. And you will go down in cinematic history.

1 comment:

  1. june...i was underwhelmed by "the descendants."
    "love story" was the violins what killed her!!! happy new year to you and michael and yours!!! love, tina