Sunday, September 05, 2004

 

Movies! Movies! Movies!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I see plenty of movies. Good, bad, in between-- if it's up on the big screen, I try to go see it.

Today's movie was "We Don't Live Here Anymore," starring Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause, and the future Mrs. Dave, Naomi Watts.

It had no explosions, or gunfights, or pool hall scenes. Surprisingly, as an R-rated "adult drama" filled with a number of sex scenes, it also had no breasts. Shocking when you realize that the only thing Ms. Watts seems to need in order to get naked on film is a free hand. But hey, that's one reason why I love her so.

I'd write more about the film if I felt strongly about it, but it's merely okay. It's based on a book by the late Andre Dubus, the writer of the far superior In The Bedroom. I've never read any of Dubus' work, but assuming that both Bedroom and Anymore are faithful adaptations, he obviously didn't enjoy laughter. Or, if he did, he enjoyed it so much he had to retreat into his writing in order to explore the demons he didn't have in real life.

Ruffalo is very good in it. Watts is also good, but the script fails her part. Peter Krause plays his role in the same "monotone slacker" style he brings to the overrated Six Feet Under. I was surprised at just how old Laura Dern is looking these days-- long gone are the days of Wild at Heart.

Anyways, just read Ebert's review if you care to know more detail. My only half-way formed observation about the story is this: We all seek structure in our lives. It's a Hobbesian instinct, a lifelong search for safety via our own personal social contract, founded on mutual trust, with the people that we love. However, the "grass is always greener" instinct endlessly competes with our need for structure. We constantly wonder whether we have established the safest, most beneficial structure for our lives. We also wonder whether structure itself is more desirable than being free to do whatever we want, whenever the urge strikes.

A lot of people argue that it's the height of bravery to loose these self-imposed shackles, and run free with the world, and "settling" represents nothing less than the death of the human soul. I would argue that it's equally as brave to surrender to our instinct towards structure, and allow ourselves to be consumed by the realities of family and professional life. I make no judgment on which path is "better," as I think that either has the potential to lead to happiness. I will say, however, that the poorest souls I've known are the ones who simply can't decide between structure with responsibilities, or freedom without. The happiest seem to be those with the courage to get off the fence.

The characters in We Don't Live Here Anymore live on the fence, and suffer terribly for it.

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