It's not a profound thing, but I've been noticing more than usual lately how films often put a trio of characters at the center of the story. Just running back the recent films I've watched for this blog, you've got: Joy and Sadness and Bing Bong in Inside Out; Samantha and Jake and the Geek in Sixteen Candles; Andie and Duckie and Blane in Pretty in Pink; Keith and Amanda and Watts in Some Kind of Wonderful; Gerda and Einar and Lili (yes, those last two are, arguably, the same person) in The Danish Girl; Lucas and Maggie and Cappie in Lucas; two versions of Ronald, along with Cindy in Can't Buy Me Love. Serendipity breaks it because of its deliberate plot division--Jonathan and Sara each get their own sounding board rather than (sort of) sharing one.
Then, of course, we get back to Groundhog Day. I've written at least one whole entry just about trios in that movie. Of course, I'm not sure I ever revisited that topic, and with as little screentime as Larry gets, is he really that influential? I think it's really about--classic movie descriptor here that always sounds like bullshit--the town of Punxsutawney being its own character. So it comes down to Phil and Rita and Punxsutawney...
But, I'm not even watching Groundhog Day today, so why get sidetracked in that?
Maybe it's a romance thing? Offer up a trinity of characters because it puts conflict into the primary relationship. Sometimes it's a religious thing but I would not argue that it is that, that much of the time. Really, it's just a simple way of raising the stakes. Two characters just talking out their problems--that's going to make a boring film, but throw a third character into the mix and it's like a wild card altering the value of both of the other two parties. Classic setup--just look at many of those examples listed above--is the love triangle. One party choosing between two others. The notable exception above is actually from yesterday, Inside Out. Joy doesn't choose Sadness over Bing Bong. But, Bing Bong's presence offers the opportunity for Joy to discover something about Sadness that she did not already know. Different characters challenge one another, and bring out the strengths and weaknesses of one another in different ways. But, in film, you also can't just have all the characters all the time, so the simple form is a trio...
Which might be a good way to segue into today's film. I've decided to clean house for the rest of the month (maybe), get a few of the movies that I've got sitting around waiting to be watched watched. The movie I only just settled on for today, as I have been writing, is Romancing the Stone. It's another movie that was a staple of my childhood. We had it on video--the cassette was Footloose, Romancing the Stone and Splash--and it got watched a lot.
Sure enough, there's a bit of a trio at the center. Though the obvious trio of Joan (Kathleen Turner) and Jack (Michael Douglas) and Ralph (Danny DeVito) never quite forms up, that's what people remember with this movie, and, while it has been a while since I've seen the sequel Jewel of the Nile, I remember that sequel playing up Ralph's role (much like the Lethal Weapon series latched onto Joe Pesci's Leo and turned a good buddy cop action drama into a comedic franchise). But, there's also, structurally-speaking, the trio of Joan and Jack and El Corazon.
(Sidenote: I never noticed how Joan is kind of rude when Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor) calls. Elaine's husband was just recently murdered--and only once piece of him was ever found--but Elaine says she's in trouble and Joan is like, "Elaine, please." I mean, sure, Joan has just found her apartment ransacked but she's a writer; you'd think she'd have some perspective, maybe even connect the dots before Elaine mentions the envelope Joan received earlier that day.)
Really, it doesn't have to be a third character to finish out the trio; you just need something (if not someone) to pulls the two characters, in turn, both away from and toward one another, depending on the beats of the plot. Here, for example, as much as Joan and Jack might be drawn to one another, differing plans along the way as to how they deal with the map or the jewel drive wedges between them.
(Speaking (earlier) of Footloose and Splash, I just noticed that they were in theaters at the same time as this film. Romancing the Stone was #4 its opening weekend; with Splash at #3 in its 4th weekend; Greystoke, starring none other than Groundhog Day's Andie MacDowell--(though, you won't hear her voice in that film. I know I've written specifically about MacDowell at least once, and I mentioned Greystoke and the voice dubbing, but did I mention my wish from a couple years ago that I could somehow convince Glenn Close to dub over all of Rita's lines in Groundhog Day? I think I forgot to mention that one)
--at #2 it's opening weekend; and Police Academy at #1 in its 2nd weekend. Footloose was #5 in its 7th weekend. I'd seen all of those top five in the theater, probably in each of their respective weekends. Also saw #7, Tank in the theater. #6, Against All Odds; #8 Ice Pirates; # 9 Children of the Corn; and #10 Racing the Moon--I'd see all of those on video or cable. Rounding out the top 12 would be two of the saddest movies... well, ever: Misunderstood and Terms of Endearment. Twelve movies and I'd eventually see them all.)
And then came the point in the blog when I just sit here and enjoy the film for a bit, say a few lines with the characters because I've seen it so many times, and forget all about what I was saying about... love triangles or something.
Really, what I'm thinking about now is how easily I can just... be here, with some old movie I've seen a million times. If any movies were an escape for me, it would be the movies of the 1980s, stuff I grew up on. It's comfort food for the soul... to mix metaphors a little.