Sunday, April 26, 2015

you don't do what you want

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams--two beautiful people cast to tell, well, a beautiful story I'm guessing. I've never seen The Notebook. I was busy its opening weekend seeing Fahrenheit 9/11. That's the kind of thing I was watching then--not that romantic movies were every my thing, really. Also in theaters, though I didn't see any of these until video or cable: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (hilarious), The Terminal (a solid film), The Day After Tomorrow (a ridiculous little mess), The Chronicles of Riddick (not even close to being as good as its predecessor, Pitch Black, but it had its moments), Napoleon Dynamite (didn't care for it as much as some people, liked it more than others), Mean Girls (I remember liking it but barely remember much of the detail), Man on Fire (pretty solid action drama), Hellboy (a pretty good movie and a damn fine DVD), The Story of the Weeping Camel (I barely remember this one but I know I liked it), and The Punisher (not anywhere close to the best of the comic on which its based)... (I'm only scrolling down the top 40 movies that opening weekend, or we'd be here all day.)

Movies I had seen in the theater that were still around when this one came out: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (not that I haven't spent time complaining about Chris Columbus recently, but getting him away from the Harry Potter films was what made that series great), Shrek 2 (better writing than the first one but not as genuine), Troy (solid film, great DVD), Super Size Me (despite some potential factchecking issues, a solid documentary), Kill Bill Vol. 2 (not Tarantino's best, but his films are always good)...

One of my favorite movies ever was in theaters that weekend, actually--Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind--though I'd seen it probably 14 weeks earlier when it first came out. Now, there's a love story. This one--The Notebook--I'm not getting an immediate sense of why these two people should be a couple, what they have in common. Love doesn't always make sense, of course, but... other than them both being beautiful it seems like we're supposed to assume more than the film is offering us. A problem with a lot of love stories. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, on the other hand, we get to know Joel and Clementine as they get to know one another. Noah and Allie are cute, they make a nice couple... Actually, she just got a lot more interesting when she couldn't help but interrupt their first attempt at sex because she's thinking too much. Maybe I just want too much from a movie sometimes. And, the basic setup, the guy who's not good enough for the girl--hell, her parents just sent police out to find her--cinematic-shorthand-star-crossed-lovers. Instead of "Allies was surprised how quickly she fell in love with Lon Hammond" I think I want to see the process, see the feelings.

Earn me caring.

Sometimes that can come from the script, sometimes the direction, sometimes the actors. Ryan Gosling as Noah, Rachel McAdams as Allie--these two can almost make me look past the the script. Lon is so obviously a speedbump on the way to a reunion the way the film skips right past any detail of Lon and Allie's relationship.. Seriously, he's like Noah-lite and he's proposing within minutes (screentime) of meeting Allie. There's no substance to it. But we're supposed to believe Allie fell in love. I mean, sure, she's falling for him because of the desperation in him that surely reminds her, and definitely reminds us, of Noah, but still...

Or, maybe I'm mistaking what the movie is about. Maybe it's not about that falling-in-love moment and that's why it skips past it, or shorthands it. The framing story tells us that this movie is not simply about a love story, nor simply about love. It's the story part of it that matters. The Notebook is about memory, about the story of a relationship, however it began, however it continued. And, like I said yesterday, we want our stories to be magical. In a story, you can fall in love in a moment. In a movie about a story, that's just a given. Boy meets girl and... Actually, boy just saw girl from a distance and he's in love, and it makes perfect sense. It can work that way in a movie. It should work that way in a movie.

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