If this post had a subtitle, it would be: on the off-chance you want to make yourself very sad via a long weekend movie marathon, watch these movies!
These are five movies I think about more than is maybe healthy, because of the way these stories seem to question themselves. Always anxious, always: Couldn’t we have done that another way? Couldn’t we have lived better? Couldn’t we have been smarter? Wittier? Less terrible at our lives?
The answer, always: “Probably not.”
When I was younger, my idea of friendship was smaller, more specific. We were girls. We would have slumber parties and lay on our stomachs across beds, giggling and flipping through yearbooks and braiding hair. Which kind of happened, for the span of a few years, in small specific lumps, but not with friendships that ended up mattering. The friendships that founded themselves and rooted were the ones where we drove for hours, sometimes talking, sometimes not. The friendships where one of us would say something like, “I’m not so sure I mind really actually” and the other person would look over and not say anything but still mean: “Bullshit yeah you do.”
Real friendships feel dangerous, in a way, because they are so real. Because they don’t leave when you think they should. Because they hurt sometimes, often, because the other person is living a life that you can’t fix for them. They’re making mistakes that are only theirs, and you’re making mistakes that are only yours, and the only things you can do for each other is watch and listen.
Which isn’t why I love this movie the way I do. It’s part of the reason. The other part is because of how inextricable those friendships can become from what you want to write, how you want to write, the life you want to live versus the life you find yourself living.
But most of all, my favorite thing about this movie is its potentiality, the way it loops and reloops around everything that could be, rather than everything that will be, and then everything that will be becomes things that were, and those things build into more things that could be, more and more and more forks into the future, separating point A from point B further and further and further. This movie places what might have been against what was.
Because of all of this, really. Because of how breakable it makes all of this seem.
2. A Very Long Engagement
If I don’t break the peel, Manech is alive.
The first time I watched this movie, I was a freshman in college, depressed and lonely and insomniac. I sat huddled in front of my computer, knees tucked in on the uncomfortable wooden chair wedged between the desk and dresser, in turn wedged into that free space beneath my lofted bed. I didn’t know what the movie was. A friend had recommended it. I’d watched Amelie and loved Amelie, as everyone and their mother at my school did, but I’d never heard of this particular Jean-Pierre Jeunet work.
I could tell you––but won’t–– why the movie rang true to me back then. I can tell you––and will––why it still rings true. The specific reason is different; the core is the same.
There are love stories, and then there are love stories. The first are the kind that begin “Once upon a time, boy meets girl,” then travel into, “girl doesn’t like boy but boy is so winning so they go out and boy wins over girl,” into, “boy does something stupid and girl leaves him,” and finishes with, “boy chases after girl in the airport and kisses her and they love each other again. It’s a love story built of pastel colors and batted eyelids and holding hands while skipping through a springtime park.
The latter, though. The latter is what this movie is. This movie is hope. This movie is about losing something and not losing that hope. This movie is that small round coin you rub again and again, sure that the thing you’re told is gone isn’t. It’s a kernel. It’s staring out your window and saying, “If the mailman comes right now, that means everything’s okay,” and having him come right then but crash his bike into the rock wall.
I’m allowed to talk about the movie like that because that’s exactly what this movie is. No cynicism. Just gorgeous sincerity.
3. Kicking & Screaming
I’m nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I’ve begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I’m reminiscing this right now. I can’t go to the bar because I’ve already looked back on it in my memory…and I didn’t have a good time.
The tag line for this movie is something like, “Post-collegiate men not doing anything and talking wittily about it.” Which is kind of true. Mostly true. The boys (because they are boys) orbit around each other, talk the same, inherit ex-girlfriend’s bad habits. They drink more beer than they should, listen to telephone messages again and again, start taking college classes at the college they just graduated from.
Which is what we’re all doing now. Fresh from college, sitting at our friends’ dining room tables and replaying everything we said to someone whose opinion of what we said matters, who doesn’t yet know that often we only say the stupidest version of what’s possible to be said. We drink a lot of wine or whiskey or beer and we keep talking. We keep replaying the past. We keep waiting until the present we want finds us. Or we try to find that present-day life but we find it in a way that we’re not ready to admit isn’t what we want. It’s off by like 45 degrees. We remember things specifically because we can and hold onto the perfect moment when we said the perfect thing rather than all the times when we said the exact wrong thing.
We hang out on the floor with our heads down because we don’t want the Cookie Man to see us.
Which is really a loop of me saying the exact same thing again and again. Which is fine, because that’s what this movie is, too.
4. Reality Bites
I was really going to be something by the age of 23 / Honey the only thing you have to be by the age of 23 is yourself.
I once almost saw Ethan Hawke in New York. My friend did see him, said he was wearing a newsboy cap. Of course he was. It was up near the MOMA and right around the time I’d fallen in love with Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. I was jealous she got to see him and I didn’t. I’ve told that story probably about a dozen times.
Which is not what this is about. This is post-college, again. Again choosing to not choose. It’s about that immediately-post-college year when you’re facing a future where you actually to have decide and do something with yourself that is more real than the wavery boundaries of a liberal arts education, and coming up against the age-old-movie-question: do you choose the man who colors in the lines and wears suits and buys your dinner, or do you choose the messy one who can’t afford Cheez-Wiz and challenges you because it’s more fun than listening to you talk? Artistic integrity or success? Do I wear those 90s high-rise jeans again?
If you’re me, you choose neither. If you’re Winona Ryder, the choice is less clear and filled with dialogue immediately regretted.
Also, so many points for Janeane Garofalo. And the pitch perfect sequence in the GAP. Back then the GAP was still relevant.
5. Harry Potter & the Sorceror’s Stone
Ha ha just kidding.
Anyway. Pour yourself a very full glass of whiskey & go for it.