Movie: The Butterfly Tattoo (2009)
Starring: Duncan Stuart, Jessica Blake,
Synopsis: Chris is a kid from Oxford in between high school and college. He works for a company that does lighting for fancy parties. At one such party, Chris sees a frightened girl running. She’s being sexually harassed by some neanderthal guys. Chris directs her to a nearby boathouse where she can hide out and then tells the guys who were bothering her that she went the other way. He goes to the boat house and finds that the girl has already left, leaving only her dress behind (presumably she changed into something else before she left!). Chris tracks her down via the dry cleaning tag in her dress, and returns it to her (and learns that her name is Jenny). She asks him out and they start seeing each other. They soon fall in love.
Chris tells Jenny that he really admires his boss, Barry, because he’s a “decent family man:” who Chris has recently learned is a former cop who left left the force after a criminal he busted got away. Barry worries about this guy finding him now. Jenny confides in Chris that she ran away from home because her father was abusive. Now she works in a cafe and shares an apartment with some loser guys. When these guys get arrested Jenny needs a new place to stay, and her boss starts putting the moves on her so she leaves her job. This leaves Chris worried and unable to find her. Meanwhile Jenny is having similar problems finding Chris, and Barry’s past has recently caught up with him. As they desperately try to connect, Chris and Jenny are caught in the crossfire.
My Thoughts: This is based on a novel by Phillip Pullman which I haven’t read. I can’t make any comparisons there except to wonder why the book’s alternate title was The White Mercedes (there is no white Mercedes in the film, so I doubt it was a huge plot point in the book…) A lot of reviewers compare this to “Romeo and Juliet” (check out my thoughts on the various film adaptations of that in my megapost from last year). I suppose the comparisons have some validity in that a young romance ends tragically due to mixed messages and miscommunication. And the film invites audiences to make parallels when Chris and Jenny attend a local production of “Romeo and Juliet” on a date. But the huge (IMO) key difference is that the love between Chris and Jenny is not forbidden. They don’t come from warring families/rival gangs/different races or religions. That let’s them take things a bit slower. Romeo and Juliet knew that they were in danger which caused them to rush things. Chris and Jenny think they have all the time in the world and they take things slower. There’s an attraction when they first meet but it doesn’t become love until later on. There’s no talk of marriage. The tragic ending isn’t a result of general hatred or prejudice but rather knowing people who aren’t the nicest, and having terrible luck and timing.
One thing that bothered me a bit is that Jenny is sexually harassed by several different men in the film, and it’s hinted that her father molested her. Sadly that’s probably not unrealistic. The people who target her are all people who (wrongly) think that they have some kind of power over her or that she owes them something. However Jenny is in general a cheerful, optimistic character. She believes that there are good people in the world. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was naive given her experiences. She’s very willing to trust Chris (who did help her out of a difficult situation when they met) and trust the people that Chris trusts. Perhaps that’s where she’s naive: assuming that Chris’ trust is never misplaced. But Chris is also naive in trusting people he shouldn’t.
Asked by jazzmuse
I have, actually I featured it on here quite a while ago. Check it out. Thanks for mentioning it. It gives people who are newer to the blog a chance to discover it. I found it really randomly on TV one day and was surprised by how good it was! And it’s different from so many other movies in the genre where you know exactly what’s going to happen from the opening credits!
Asked by Anonymous
No I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard of it and made a mental note of it at one point but I still haven’t gotten to it. But that’s for the rec! It’s nice to know that there’s good stuff out there waiting for me!
Asked by Anonymous
I’m glad you like, and I agree. Love is love. Gender doesn’t change that. I tend to feature more heterosexual romance films on here simply because there are more out there, but I think that it’s starting to change a bit with films like Blue is the Warmest Color, My Summer of Love Brokeback Mountain, and Imagine Me and You. LGBTQ stories are entering the mainstream which is awesome. Viewers are starting to realize that can relate even if they’re not LGBTQ because the emotions (love, attraction, fear, sadness, joy, anger, jealousy etc) are the same. I hope to feature more loves stories of all kinds on here.
Movie: Girl on a Bicycle (2013)
Starring: Vincenzo Amato, Nora Tschirner, Paddy Constantine, Louise Monot, Stephane Debac
Synopsis: Paolo is an Italian living in Paris where he drives a tour bus and explains to tourists why Italy is really better than France. He and his girlfriend, Greta (A German flight attendant living in Paris) have just gotten engaged. He’s happy.until one day he sees a beautiful woman riding a bicycle past his tour bus. Paolo loves Greta, but he can’t get this woman out of his head. So his friend, Derek (an English tour bus driving living in Paris) suggests that he talk to the girl on the bike the next time he sees her. That way she’ll stop being a mysterious, glamorous fantasy and just be a person. Paolo tries to do that. But instead of talking to the girl, he accidentally hits her with his bus. Oops!
At the hospital the woman’s medical information can only be released to her family so Paolo says that he’s her husband to find out if she’s OK. He learns her name is Cecile, and she has a broken arm and leg. She’ll heal but she’ll be out of commission for a few weeks. Then the nurse shows him into the hospital room. Where she tells a sleepy, doped up Cecile that her “husband” is here. Cecile doesn’t respond. But her two kids are thrilled to finally meet their father who they’ve been told was off fighting dragons for the past few years. Paolo doesn’t even know how to begin to explain things to a five year old and six year year old. So he lets them call him “Papa”.
Over the next few weeks he helps Cecile around the house, gets her kids off to school in the morning, picks them up in the afternoon, makes them dinner, puts them to bed and helps Cecile with basic tasks (it’s a good thing he got fired from his job when he hit Cecile with his bus, because taking care of her family is a full time job!). More than full time actually.
Greta begins to wonder why Paolo is away from home so often. Is he lying to her when he says he’s going jogging at 6am every morning? What about when he has to leave in the middle of the night to take care of his sick friend? Sensing Greta is upset, Paolo asks Derek to help out with Cecile’s family so he can spend more time with Greta. Which turns everyone’s lives upside down.
My Thoughts: This is a silly, fun, romantic comedy. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s got a very international feel. It’s set in France but the main characters are Italian, German, French, and British, and they all speak their native languages on occasion but mostly they speak in English which seems to be everyone’s common language (Derek even complains that living in Paris, he never gets the chance to practice his French!).
Some people have complained that the characters are stereotypes of their various nationalities: the French characters are sexy, the German is very organized and orderly etc. But as the film continues some of the comedy comes from the assumption that people are stereotypes when they’re not. For example, Greta’s friends warn her that Italian men are unfaithful. Which makes her suspicious and paranoid and informs her actions, which leads to comedy. Really I see this movie as mocking those national stereotypes more than affirming them.
Just a note that it was released in Germany under the title Love and Turbulence so depending on where you live you might find it as either title.
Movie: Adam (2009)
Starring: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Amy Irving, Peter Gallagher,
Synopsis: Adam is a young man living alone in NYC after his father’s recent death. Adam has Aspberger syndrome (an Autism Spectrum Disorder that’s characterized by difficulties with social interaction and nonverbal communication. You can read more about it here), which restricts his social life significantly. Harlan, an old friend of his father’s, is his only support system. Adam’s condition has cost him his job and he faces a uncertain future. When Beth, a school teacher and aspiring children’s book author, moves into his building, the two strike up a friendship.
Adam is attracted to Beth but dating her means breaking out of his comfortable routine. He does this with some difficulty, and Beth’s support. Beth also helps Adam to communicate and connect with her, and she teaches him things like job interview skills and how to meet new people.
However, when Beth’s family faces a crisis and Adam is offered his dream job in California, Beth and Adam have to face the kind of challenges that all couples face eventually. And Beth can’t be Adam’s relationship tutor for all of it. He’ll have to support her as well.
My Thoughts: One thing that I liked right away about this film, is that Adam is not portrayed as anything less than a sweet, intelligent guy. Actually he’s usually the smartest person in the room, and his characteristic honesty means that he’ll say so if it comes up! The flip side of that is that he has difficulty interacting socially and forming close relationships. That means that the few people he is close to often act as tutors, which makes him feel dependent.
Even though Beth is “normal” she’s far from perfect. She’s rather high strung and dramatic, when her family has a crisis, she’s very touchy and overreacts to perceived slights. She’s also kind and nurturing. Just like Adam she has strengths and weaknesses. Her weaknesses give her difficulty making her way in the world. Those difficulties are just different from Adam’s.
This isn’t really a film about someone with a disability falling in love with someone who doesn’t. It’s about the difficulty that all people have in connecting on a deep emotional level. Insecurities and weaknesses come out sooner or later. In a good relationship, power and strength is fairly even between both partners. Sometimes one partner needs to be the strong one, and sometimes the other partner does. Sometimes both partners can be strong together. Sometimes even if they love each other, a separation can bring the strength out in both of them. I think this film is about these tensions and dynamics more than it is about Autism.
Movie: Letter To Three Wives (1949)
Starring: Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas, Jeffrey Lynn
Synopsis: Debra Bishop, Rita Phipps, and Lora Mae Hollingsway are three well to do women involved in a charity that is taking a group of underprivileged children on a riverboat ride and picnic. Just before they leave, each of them gets a letter from a mutual acquaintance, Addie Ross, saying that she has run off with one of their husbands. She just doesn’t mention which one. The letter prompts each woman to examine her marriage over the course of the day. We see the relationship in flashback.
Debra was a farm girl who joined the Navy WAVES (info about that here) during WWII. That’s where she met her husband, Brad. After the war they return to civilian life and Debra finds herself in the midst of Brad’s social circle, which is decidedly more worldly and wealthy than what she’s used to. Making matters worse is the fact that Brad was one engaged to the glamorous Addie Ross…
Brad’s friend, Rita, is a “career woman” who writes stories for radio soap operas.becomes an ally for Debra. Rita is married to schoolteacher, George, who feels emasculated because she earns more money than he does. He also resents the fact that she pays more attention to her boss than to him. Rita flashes back to an evening when she threw a dinner party for her boss, forgetting that it was actually George’s birthday. She got a reminder when Addie Ross sent him a present.
Lora Mae grew up ambitious and poor, living in small apartment next to the railroad tracks where passing trains would regularly shake everything in the house. She sets her attentions on her boss, Porter, who owns a chain of department stores. They start seeing each other but Porter isn’t interested in marriage. Things come to a head when Lora Mae sees Addie Ross’ picture on the piano in Porter’s house. She tells him she wants him exclusively and if he isn’t interested in that she isn’t interested in their romance. Porter eventually comes around and they marry.
Each woman has tensions in her marriage. But each one is ultimately in love with her husband. Who will be the one to come home to heartbreak? You’ll have to watch and see.
My Thoughts: This film was based on a novel called A Letter to Five Wives by John Klempner. I’ve never read the novel but as I understand it early drafts of the screenplay were too long and so they cut the two wives who they felt had the weakest stories. Aside from that there were major changes to the romances themselves and the reasons for tensions within the marriages.
What I like about the romances here is that each woman has been married to her husband for at least a few years. We see where they are now, and then we are allowed to see how they got to this point. All couples make mistakes, and there are reasons why each of these marriages could fall apart. But whether or not they will depends on the partners underlying love, willingness to compromise, communicate, and commit. As each woman examines her marriage, she realizes that’s what she wants. Two will get the chance.
Interestingly, we never meet Addie Ross. Her voiceover narrates the beginning and the end of the film, but she’s generally referred to- not met. I think that’s because ultimately she’s not an important character. She’s not the real threat to these relationships. The real threat is weaknesses within the marriage itself, weakness that can be overcome and turned to strengths, or weaknesses which can unravel the relationship. Addie is merely a symptom. She’s what gets these women to examine their relationships and see what they could do differently. They all have faults and so do their husbands. Addie’s letter is what forces them to confront those problems.
This is a good movie to get lost in for a few hours on a rainy/snowy day, when you’re not feeling well, or just feel like watching three love stories in one.
Movie: Newlyweds (2011)
Starring: Ed Burns, Caitlyn Fitzgerald, Kerry Bishe, Marsha Dietlein,
Synopsis: Buzzy and Katy are thirtysomething newlyweds. It’s the second marriage for both of them, and they want to learn from their past mistakes, and begin their lives together with their eyes open and realistic expectations. Katy works nights (she owns a restaurant) while Buzzy works days (he’s a personal trainer), so they don’t have much time together during their work week. They believe that this allows them to enjoy one another’s company all the more and helps them avoid over-familiarity.
One day, Buzzy’s troubled younger sister, Linda, shows up on their doorstep. She wasn’t at the wedding, and lives across the country. Now she’s visiting for an indefinite period of time and expects to stay with Buzzy and Katy. Buzzy offers to put her up in a hotel. But Katy says that she’s family, she’ll probably stay a few weeks and then go back home. However within 24 hours of her arrival, Linda “borrows” Katy’s favorite coat (without permission) and loses it, uses every towel in the apartment when showering, and brings a guy she met in a bar back to the apartment with her in the middle of the night. Naturally Katy’s patience begins to wear thin!
Meanwhile Katy’s sister, Marsha, is having marital problems of her own. She married her husband Max 18 years earlier because she was pregnant. For the next 18 years they raised their son together, and when he went off to college they began to realize they don’t like each other very much. Marsha projects all her insecurities about her own marriage onto Katy and Buzzy, trying to place the distrust she feels towards Max, in Katy’s mind.
When Linda hooks up with Katy’s ex-husband, and Marsha splits up with Max and decided to move in with Katy and Buzzy (and Linda), the question becomes, will Katy and Buzzy’s marriage survive their respective families?
My Thoughts: This film was shot over the course of twelve days on a $9000 budget. As a result it has a very “indie” feel. But also a very realistic one. This sense of realism is amplified by a faux documentary style. I wouldn’t call it a “mockumentary” though. It’s more that the characters occasionally address the camera as they give a bit of their character’s back story (how they met, how they proposed etc). It doesn’t take you out of the story at all.
In the first scene of this movie, Katy and Buzzy explain their plan for an “easy” marriage to Marsha and Max. They think that they’re being more realistic about their expectations this time around. But really they’re just as naive as they were during their first marriages, but perhaps in a different way. When you fall in love with someone and decide to spend your life with them, you don’t just take on them. You also take on their emotional baggage and family obligations. In a crisis (and a crisis is going to come sooner or later) you need to be there for their families just as much as they are, because it’s now your family too. Katy and Buzzy need to alter their expectations for their marriage and their lives together as they realize this important fact.
Movie: Endless Love (2014)
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson
Synopsis: David Elliott has been in love with Jade Butterfield all through high school. At first he was too shy to talk to her, But when her older brother died freshman year, Jade withdrew from everything, focusing on her schoolwork and her family to the exclusion of all else. Now, at her high school graduation, Jade feels like she’s missed out on something. She runs into David at graduation and he speaks to her for the first time. Then Jade’s family takes her out to lunch, at the same restaurant were David works as a valet. Jade’s parents offer to give her a graduation present. Jade asks for a party. She wants a chance to socialize with her peers.
However, her parents wealthy, middle aged friends are the only ones to show up to the party. Except for David, who makes a few phone calls and all their classmates show up at Jade’s house. Her father, Hugh, is not happy. He has big plans for Jade. She’s going to Brown University in the fall and will eventually follow in his footsteps and become a surgeon. David, who plans on working as a mechanic, doesn’t fit into the plan. The fact that Jade encourages him to apply to college (he has excellent grades and SAT scores and her mother, Anne is willing to write him a letter of recommendation) doesn’t help much.
Jade tells David that she’s got an internship that starts in two weeks. They resolve to enjoy the time they have together. Jade is really happy for the first time in a long time. She doesn’t want to give that up so fast. She’ll be leaving for college in the fall and that’s soon enough. Her decision to stay home doesn’t sit well with Hugh. The next morning he announces that they family is going to their lake house in an obvious bid to separate her and David. So when Jade announces that she’s invited David to stay with them, he’s angry. But Anne, seems fine with it.
When David, Jade, Jade’s brother and some friends sneak into a zoo one night and are caught, David allows himself to be arrested so that the others can get away. Jade begs her father to bail out David. Hugh finally relents if Jade promises to go for the internship. She agrees.
David tries to thank Hugh for bailing him out. But Hugh announces that he is ending David’s romance with Jade, He hurls personal insults at David, and brings up David’s troubled family history. David is finally provoked enough to punch Hugh. Hugh then goes home sporting a black eye and announces that David is out of control.
Jade believes that there’s more to the story then her father is saying, so she goes to David. A car accident while she and David are talking gives Hugh the ammunition that he needs to take out a restraining order against David. When Jade recovers from her minor injuries she goes to David’s house to talk to him. However David’s father won’t let her in knowing that his son will go to jail if he goes near Jade.
The summer ends and Jade goes off to college. But neither she nor David can move on from their romance. When Jade comes home for the holidays they must decide how far they are willing to go and what they’re willing to sacrifice for their love.
My Thoughts. This movies is a remake of the 1981 film, which was based on a novel by Scott Spencer. The 1981 film (which I reviewed here), deviated from the book significantly after a certain point and that film can be seen as a dark, rather unhealthy romance, while the book is much darker and ceases to be a romance, This film is lighter than the 1981 film, which was lighter than the novel. In fact, all it really has in common with the novel is the characters names! So I’m going to discuss this as completely independent from any other work.
This film establishes early on that David and Jade are both good kids. Jade is from a wealthy family whereas David has a blue collar background, but they care about the future and each other. It’s easy to understand why Hugh might be concerned if Jade was going to give up college for David, But that’s not even mentioned. David is very supportive of Jade’s plans and she encourages him to make plans as well. She gives up an internship, and while one can understand why Hugh would be angry about that, an internship before she begins undergraduate school would have no impact on Jade’s future career prospects. He blows it way out of proportion. Way out of proportion to the point where he’s willing to sabotage David’s entire life to get him away from Jade. Jade says that he’s tried to control everyone in the family ever since her brother’s death. But to me his reaction to Jade and David’s relationship was completely unwarranted (not the case in the novel or the original film, but that’s another story) and is never completely explained to my satisfaction.
The other thing I wished was explored a bit more was Hugh’s plans for Jade’s future. He’s got it all planned out. Does Jade really want to be a doctor? Or does she just want to please her father?
This isn’t a great movie. But it is a romantic one that kept me invested as I watched it. Since I featured the original film on here I figured I’d share this one too.
Movie: A Star is Born (1954)
Starring: Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford
Synopsis: Norman Maine is a movie star whose career is beginning to decline, due in part to his drinking problem. One day, on the run from the paparazzi, he bursts onto a stage in a club, where an orchestra is playing and a singer is performing. The singer, Ester Blodgett, pretends that he’s part of the act. Realizing that she saved him from embarrassment, he invites her to dinner and later watches her perform in another club. Realizing how talented she is, he encourages her to pursue a film career and tells her that he’ll meet her the next day. Unfortunately the hard drinking Norman can’t remember where he was supposed to meet her the next day. Ester, who abandoned the orchestra job for this opportunity, is forced to sing in TV commericals to make ends meet,
Luckily one day Norman sees a commercial and recognizes the voice. He contacts the TV station and eventually tracks her down and explains what happened. He introduces her to studio head, Oliver Niles, who thinks she’s just a passing fling for Norman but gives her a bit part in a film. However, when he hears her sing Oliver is impressed. He gives her the lead in a major musical film, and changes her name to Vicki Lester. When the film is released, VIcki is catapulted to stardom. She and Norman Maine, have fallen in love by now, and get married.
But as Vicki’s career grows Norman’s star continues to fall and his drinking problem gets worse and worse. The problem peaks when Vicki wins the Oscar and Norman’s drunken antics ruin the night for her. When he sobers up he realizes how serious his problem is, and with Vicki’s support he enters rehab.
Life is good when Norman is sober. However people comment on him being a has-been and living on Vicki’s earnings. Eventually this results in a drinking binge. Vicki realizes that Hollywood is slowly destroying both her marriage and her husband. If she wants either to have a chance they’ll both need to leave and start anew somewhere else. But is she willing to give up on her dream for Norman? And is he willing to let her?
My Thoughts: I chose to feature this movie today because it’s Judy Garland’s birthday, and I figured I’d pay tribute to her with one of my favorite romances that she starred in (for another fave, see The Clock). The film is a remake of a 1937 film of the same name. It was remade again 1976 with Barbra Streisand. I haven’t seen every version, but this one is great. It has a great soundtrack with songs by Howard Arlen and Ira Gershwin. At nearly 3 hours long (though it feels shorter) it really takes the time to make these charterers three dimensional people. As the audience we’re in Vicki’s position much of the time. Norman is a sympathetic character, and a decent person and we like him. But when he drinks he becomes someone else. Vicki understands (and he comes to agree) that the only solution is to stay sober. But that’s easier said than done. At one point Vicki confides to a friend that she loves Norman so much, but she is frustrated by his difficulty staying sober and even finds herself hating him at times. What seems such a simple thing to her is a constant struggle for Norman. She also hates herself for loving him in spite of it all.
Movie: Once (2006)
Starring: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova
Synopsis: A busker in Dublin, gets by day to day. His music lures a Czech immigrant who sells flowers, and they start to talk. When she learns that he also fixes vacuum cleaners, she asks him to fix hers. When he returns the vacuum the next day, she tells him that she is a musician as well. She plays piano in a nearby music shop. He brings her to his father’s shop, where he teaches her one of his songs. This begins a week long collaboration during which they write, rehearse and record songs together. The girl is married and her husband is still in the Czech Republic. She shares her small, Dublin apartment with her mother, and her toddler daughter. The guy is planning on moving to London and playing his demo for some record companies. Yet there is something undeniable between them.
My Thoughts: Almost everyone at least knows of this movie, because the song “Falling Slowly” won the 2007 Academy Award. Hansard and Irglova perform together on stage under the name “The Swell Season”. They wrote, played and performed all of the songs for this film. It was also made into hit a Broadway musical, a surprise since the film was very small and intimate. But the stage version managed to maintain that intimacy with the audience in a different way. But I’m just now realizing how many people are familiar with the music but haven’t seen the film.
It’s a lovely film. If you’re into something action packed or even romantic in a very obvious way, then this isn’t for you. There is one scene in the film where the guy asks the girl if she loves her husband. She answers him in Czech and refuses to translate it. Though there are no subtitles, the line in the film translates as Czech for “It’s you that I love” (onstage this moment does have a surtitle above the stage so that the audience understands what she said even though the guy doesn’t). That moment is the closest we get to a verbalization from either character as to what they feel for each other. For the most part, their feelings for each other are expressed in their shared creation: the music that they write together.
As I said earlier, this is a very intimate film. The characters are played by the musicians who wrote the songs (who were then not nearly as famous as they are now!) and so there isn’t an actory feeling. You don’t think you’re watching “Actor X playing an Irish busker”. You believe what you see is real because to an extent it is. In the movie two musicians collaborated on this work, which also happened in real life. These are definitely fictional characters, but there is a feeling of authenticity to the piece that you don’t usually get in a high gloss Hollywood movie.
Movie: Mrs. Winterbourne (1996)
Starring: Ricki Lake, Brendan Fraser, Shirley MacLaine
Synopsis: Connie Doyle never got along with her dad. So at 18, she left home and quickly moves in with a new boyfriend: Steve, a real class act who drinks booze and watched TV with his friends while Connie cleans up after him. When Connie gets pregnant he gets even classier, insisting it isn’t his and kicking her out. Connie spends most of her pregnancy homeless. When she is close to term she inadvertently gets caught up in a crowd and swept onto a train for which she has no ticket and no money to buy one. She’s rescued by Hugh Winterbourne who shows the conductor wife’s ticket and claims Connie is his wife. Then he brings Connie to his compartment where she can sit down and rest with his actual wife, Patricia, who is also heavily pregnant. She confides to Connie that she and Hugh are newlyweds. They met abroad, had a whirlwind romance, and when she Patricia got pregnant they married. Now she’s off to meet Hugh’s family for the first time. Their conversation is interrupted by a train crash. Hugh and Patricia are both killed in the crash. Connie safely delivered her baby somehow awakes in a hospital room surrounded by gifts. She has a beautiful son and a name tag identifying her as “Patricia Winterbourne”. Oops..
Initially Connie does try to correct the mistake. But then she meets Hugh’s mother Grace, a kind, wealthy woman, with a bad heart who falls in love at first sight with the baby she believes to be her grandchild. With nowhere else to go an a baby to care for Connie decides to keep up the act. Though she’s not as refined as they expected Connie wins over most of the family. Except for Bill, Hugh’s suspicious identical twin brother.
It takes a while for Bill to realize that Connie isn’t after the family fortune. But he still sense something “off”. But as he begins to fall in love with her, he finds he doesn’t care. Connie is falling for Bill too, but when he starts talking marriage she’s conflicted. Can she marry her pretend brother in law under a false name? Even after her reservations are temporarily put to rest, Connie’s new life is threatened by an unexpected source: her ex, Steve, has seen her in the society pages and is threatening to expose her unless she pays up. How far is she willing to go to keep her life with the family safe? How far will she go to avoid losing Bill?
My Thoughts: OK let’s just say straight out that this is a silly movie. But for some reason whenever it’s on TV I find myself watching it. I don’t know why but it makes me laugh. Every time. So I figured I’d feature it. I was surprised to learn that it was based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich called I Married A Dead Man, which was later made into a 1950 film called No Man of Her Own with Barbara Stanwyck. I’m not familiar with either, but my understanding is that they are noir thrillers, darker in tone than this movie[ which does deal with identity theft and blackmail, but in a comic way. The Connie/Bill romance becomes the focus of the second half with the blackmail treated merely as an obstacle, a potential threat to their happy ending. But it’s light enough so that we know it will all turn well- even if we have to suspend our sense of reality (several times) in order to believe it
Movie: Labor Day (2013)
Starring: Kate WInslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire
Synopsis: In 1987 Adele Wheeler is a clinically depressed single mother, who lives with her 13 year old son, Henry. She’s close to being a shut in, leaving the house only for occasional shopping trips. One day (just before Labor Day weekend) she and Henry go clothes shopping. Henry goes to get something in another aisle, where he runs into an injured, bloodied man, who asks Henry if his mother would give him a ride. Adele finds Henry and the man repeats his request,with a arm around Henry’s shoulder as if to imply he’s not really asking. A terrified Adele does what he tells her. When they get to her home, the man reveals himself to be Frank Chambers, a convict who escaped from jail. On TV we’re told that he was originally sentenced for murdering is wife. He tells Henry and Adele that there’s more to the story than meets the eye (and, as we later learn, there is). We also learn the roots of Adele’s depression. Over the three day weekend Adele and Henry cease to be hostages. Frank helps out around the house, Adele teaches him how to dance and bake and they fall in love. For a short time he imagines that he and Adele can be a family, along with Henry. However they are in a small town where there are eyes everywhere. There is also an active manhunt looking for Frank. Their only hope is a desperate shot at escape.
My Thoughts: A lot of people will judge Adele for her actions in bringing Frank home to begin with (after all he implied a threat to her son, he was bloody, and clearly had something he wanted to get away from). But I think Adele’s reasons for her behavior make sense from her point of view at the time: for one thing she’s panicky and not thinking clearly- this potentially dangerous man is holding onto her son, so she’ll do whatever he says and not take any chances. She’s also mentally unstable. As the film progresses we realize that Adele feels very isolated, very much a prisoner in her own home and her own mind (Frank is also a prisoner of the more literal kind, and both are prisoners of their pasts). With that isolated mentality it’s possible she might not even have thought that signaling for help or grabbing Henry and making a run for it while there were still witnesses, was possible. Also, since the film takes place in 1987 there’s a good chance Adele’s depression was untreated (use of anti depressants wasn’t nearly as common or accepted as it is today).
As we get to know Frank’s character better we realize pretty quickly that he never would have hurt Henry or Adele. He goes out of his way to make sure that if he’s caught, Adele isn’t charged with Aiding and Abetting a fugitive. All in all he’s a pretty decent guy. Who happens to be a convicted murderer! We do see, via flashback, what happened the night that Frank’s wife died. He’s not innocent. But he’s also not guilty of murder (in my legal opinion at least!). He bears some culpability but it seems like his initial sentencing was rather harsh.
Interestingly the film is presented from Henry’s point of view. Even from the beginning he sees his mother as someone he needs to protect rather than the other way around. He sees Frank as someone who could potentially help with that. He also admires Frank as a sort of folk hero/outlaw with a dash of father figure thrown in. That makes him very eager to accept Frank into his life in spite of any sacrifices he might have to make.
I can see where some people might say that the movie depicts Stockholm Syndrome (a hostage coming to sympathize/love her captor). However, for Stockholm Syndrome to happen you usually need a lot longer than three days. You also need a hostage who is completely dependent on the captor for everything and who “intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other” * None of that is happening here. There is a single implied threat that Frank makes toward Henry to get Adele to take him home with her. But it’s quickly made clear that it was an empty threat, and that Frank has no intention of causing any harm.
* Dutton, D.G and Painter, S.L. (1981) Traumatic Bonding: the development of emotional attachments in battered women and other relationships of intermittent abuse. Victimology: An International Journal, 1(4), pp. 139–155
Movie: Falling for Grace (2006)
Starring: Fay Ann Lee, Gale Harold, Stephanie March, Roger Rees, Margaret Cho, Christine Baranski, Ken Leung
Synopsis: Grace Tang is from a close knit Chinese American family. While her parents live and work in Chinatown, Grace is a Wall Street investment banker. Though she’s achieved professional and financial success, she often feels out of place amongst the Upper East Side elite that she often does business with. When she is invited to a fancy party she is mistaken for an heiress from Hong Kong, who also happens to have the same name as her. It takes a while for her to realize the mistake since they do have the same name; and when she’s introduced to the handsome, wealthy (and sweet) Andrew James Barrington, she’s tempted not to correct it so fast! Grace and Andrew’s paths seem to cross often by coincidence.
But seeing Andrew (who still thinks she’s an heiress) confuses Grace’s personal and professional life. Andrew’s father is a prominent lawyer with the District Attorney’s office. He is pursuing a case against a network of Chinatown sweatshops that use illegal labor practices. Grace’s mother works in one of these sweatshops and relies on what little money it provides. In order to help her mother out, Grace tells Andrew that her parents are an elderly couple that she visits as a volunteer, and explains the situation about people relying on that employment, without mentioning that her family is involved. Meanwhile at Grace’s bank, Andrew’s father is also buying out a fashion company- that secretly exploits sweatshop workers.
Grace is falling in love with Andrew and the feeling is mutual. But Andrew does’t know who she really is. An white lie of omission at a party has snowballed out of control for Grace. Now she’ll have to do some serious juggling (with some help from the family) if she is to get out of this mess with her dignity intact and Andrew by her side.
My Thoughts: There’s nothing brilliant about this movie. Let’s get that out of the way right now. It’s a fun, romantic Cinderella story. But Grace is, for the most part, her own fairy godmother. When the film begins she’s already a success- the child of immigrant parents, she made it to a high position in her chosen field because of her brains and skills. But she lacks confidence in who she is. She doesn’t feel like she belongs with other successful people. That’s partially what her journey is about. Her confidence comes from finding pride in her immigrant parents- who don’t speak English and refuse her efforts to help them financially. They are a part of who she is, as is her Chinese heritage. It’s only when she truly embraces that, and stops trying to be something/someone else that Grace can soar. The “prince” isn’t her prize so much as someone she can be with only by learning to be herself. The Grace he falls in love with isn’t the heiress at all- it’s a Chinese American woman who has become successful by her own talents, skills, and brains. That describes “our” Grace as much as it does an heiress.
Just to clear up some potential confusion, this film was released elsewhere under the titles East Broadway and Social Grace. Falling For Grace seems to be the most common title but if you can’t find it under that title, look for one of the others.