We rented the movie "Little Children" last night--well, actually, we rented it three days ago and finally got around to it last night--and it was one of those movies that I enjoyed in the moment but resented later, upon reflection.
Damned reflection--always spoiling everything.
Not that it wasn't literate and well written, because it clearly was. And not that it wasn't stylishly shot and directed, because it certainly was that, too. And not that I didn't appreciate Kate Winslet's breasts and all, because, hey, I'm no philistine. It's just...
It's just that I'm so tired of movies in which ALL married couples are miserable, and EVERYTHING about suburbia is stultifying, and ALL men are immature knuckleheads, and ALL women are pinched and shrewish--except for Our Heroine, who is educated and elevated enough to: A)not shave her eyebrows, and B)find her neighbors small-minded and petty, and C)find her life--including her children--shallow and unrewarding, and D)read poetry--for pleasure! And use a dried rose as a bookmark! All of which, I realize, is obviously intended to make her as much of a knucklehead, in her own way, as the men in the movie--just in her own, educated and elevated way.
I know it's just a movie, and not intended to show the entire Broad Canvas of Life. But "American Beauty" was just the same. Suburbia = Spiritual Death. Marriage = Sexual and Emotional Death. Employment = Every Other Kind of Death. There's no real cause to any of this--nothing psychological or autobiographical or economic or political or religious or cultural. It's just Death.
And, as such, it's the attitude of an adolescent. Which is not surprising, given who makes our movies--a small group of people living in an amazingly rarified and isolated environment, with no real understanding of how anyone outside of that environment lives...except for their parents, who they probably resent and despise for being small-minded middle-Americans and thank GOD we escaped from that and made it to LA, right?
It's the same attitude I encountered in grad school, when I was in LA, twenty years ago. The style that everyone--EVERYONE--tried to emulate, in plays and films, was a kind of Less-Than-Zero-ish hip nihilism. And just as in "Less Than Zero," it was a nihilism practiced by people who knew nothing, who had been nowhere, who had experienced nothing. The coolest writers in the theatre department wanted to out-Beckett Beckett--but you know what? Beckett wrote "Waiting for Godot" in his fifties, after half a life of real engagement with the world. I mean, he worked for the French Resistance in World War II. So if he wanted to express a sense that underlying the Everything was Nothing, well, he had earned the right. Nineteen year olds whose only exhaustion was that they had run through all the recreational drugs available to them...not so much.
And they all grow up (more or less) and make movies for us. And in those movies, they tell us that they think we're all fools. And we pay ten dollars a ticket for the experience.
Quick--name a happily married couple portrayed in a movie or a TV series of the past decade. Can you? And I don't mean idyllic. Obviously drama requires conflict and all. I just mean happy, as in, this marriage is, on the whole, a pretty good thing. And our life together--here, in this house, with these people, in this community, is also a pretty good thing--worth working for, worth sacrificing for, worth holding together.
If you can think of one, let me know. I'm still working on it.