Elizabeth: Discovering Movies

moviepopcornOther than a foray out to see Frozen last year, I can’t remember the last time I was in a movie theatre. I don’t generally watch a lot of movies, possibly due to a short attention span and/or a long to-do list, even when they’re right there on the television screen.

This past weekend, with its inclement weather, seemed a good time to remedy that. A scan through the hundreds of cable TV channels that too often have nothing to catch my interest resulted in a trio of movies to keep me entertained while I worked my way through household cleaning, laundry, and random goofing off.

First up was Valentine’s Day, a 2010 romantic comedy with an all-star ensemble cast that included Patrick Dempsey, Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher, and Julia Roberts. Referred to by some bloggers as “an American copycat version of Love Actually,” the story followed a number of characters as they struggled with love on, you guessed it, Valentine’s Day.   Though a few reviews claimed the movie suffered from an abundance of romantic clichés and squandered its all-star cast, I found it entertaining and a delightful distraction from an afternoon of housework. It was sweet without being cloying and the characters were endearing (though part of that may be attributable to the actors, rather than the characters themselves). Honesty compels me to mention that I may have missed small bits of the movie here and there due to my multi-tasking ways. Pretty sure I got the general idea though. 🙂

Next up, as I waded through the stack of paperwork that congregated on my desk while my back was turned, was You Again, a comedy from 2010 (I’m sensing a trend here). I might not have given this one a view, if not for the fact that Kristen Bell and Betty White were among the cast members. The movie was the story of a successful young woman who went home to celebrate the upcoming marriage of her brother, only to find out he was marrying her high-school arch nemesis. She set out to expose the fiancées true colours and, as one would expect, trouble ensued. As coincidence would have it (*cough, cough* plot device), both the mother-of-the-groom/aunt-of-the-bride and the two grandmothers (played by Betty White and Cloris Leachman) also were also rival pairs. The movie had a little more slapstick, cat-fighting, and silly situations than I generally prefer, but it ended in typical happily-ever-after fashion, and included a performance by Hall and Oates as the credits rolled on the wedding reception. I may have missed a few bits of this movie as well, more out of embarrassment for the characters than due to wandering attention.

Last up, and the only movie I actually sat down and watched without doing anything else (well, okay, maybe I did some web surfing), was Pitch Perfect, a musical comedy from 2012 with an ensemble cast that included Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow.   The main character was a detached college freshman, more interested in a career making music than schoolwork. Her father made a deal with her: join a school club and stick with it for a year and I’ll let you leave school and pursue a music career, if that’s what you still want.   So, she joined the school’s all-girls a cappella group and singing, conflict, and plot devices ensued. The most appealing part of the movie for me (and the reason I sat down to watch it) was the singing. A close second though, were the characters. They were a charming combination of strong, grounded, funny, empathetic, awkward, crazy, and sympathetic. Though I’m pretty sure I’m not the target audience for this movie, I really liked it and would watch it again.

Purely by accident I managed to select three different types of comedies for my movie marathon. All, however, were strong character driven stories with engaging, interesting characters. While I was watching them for entertainment, I spent some time analyzing as I watched to figure out what did and didn’t work for me in each of the stories. My main takeaway is that great characters can make even weak stories appealing.

Although I may have been goofing-off by watching movies instead of spending time writing, I like to think I picked up some additional knowledge that will help me in my own story-telling. Plus, I heard some really good songs. Definitely a win.

So, seen any interesting movies lately?

13 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Discovering Movies

  1. After Michaeline’s post last Saturday, I finally watched Groundhog Day. I was expecting to like it, but I didn’t. Partly it was the unlikable protagonist thing – Bill Murray’s character, Phil, was a real asshat at the beginning – but mostly it was because I didn’t like Phil’s turnaround. He went from being a bad guy to a guy who did good things, but I didn’t think he became a good or likable character, it was still all about him and his colossal ego – he just discovered that he got more attention and ego-stroking from behaving like a hero. And Andie McDowell’s character had no…character. Like everyone else in the movie, she was a plot device for Phil.

    • Jilly, that’s too bad. It’s disappointing when you expect to like something and it just doesn’t live up. Note to self: make sure my secondary characters cannot be described as “plot devices” for my hero 🙂

    • (-: Bill Murray is not to everyone’s taste, and I think he struggles against that asshat streak/reputation in later movies. But I always see something a little charming and wounded in him — not when he’s actively being obnoxious, but when he’s confronted by problems.

      In Ghostbusters, I should hate him. He’s horrible, he doesn’t take his job seriously, and he takes chasing girls all too seriously. But he’s very kind to Sigourney Weaver when she’s possessed, and I like to think that’s what he’d be like when he doesn’t haul the ego around.

      In GHD, I “read” his character being completely destroyed, and he’s no longer acting out of ego, but out of some bedrock need to love and be loved, not just by a girl, but by all of humanity.

      (-: But it would be a boring world if we all got the same things out of a movie or a story. Better luck next time.

      I do agree that it isn’t really a romance; it’s totally Phil’s story, and things do tend to be plot devices for his growth.

  2. I think the last rom-com I saw was Her, which I only call a rom-com because Billy Merrit talked about it on his LIving the Romantic Comedy blog. I liked it a lot, but more surprising was the fact that my husband, who’s generally not an experimental movie kind of guy, did too.

        • (-: I read that a couple of days ago when Jeanne linked to it. I like how Billy Mernit found the hidden heroine to be someone totally outside of the movie! All writers need heroes and heroines like that in our lives.

    • Her sounds interesting. I’ll have to add it to the queue. Nice that it appealed to both you and your husband – that doesn’t always happen with romantic comedies.

  3. My daughter and I were just talking about watching Pitch Perfect. We’re suckers for those “self-actualization through (usually rock) stardom” movies. With the second one coming out, it has moved up the queue. The last movie I saw at the theater was Annie, because, once again, my daughter and I are Annie junkies. I found it a little bi-polar. Some scenes were extremely clever (stomp version of Maybe, reflections in the glass during Tomorrow were inspired), but Jamie Foxx? Cameron Diaz? (worst Mrs. Hannigan ever). Overall – no need to even rent it on Netflix. See the songs on YouTube if you happen to be an Annie aficionado, too. Annie isn’t a romantic movie, but it is the most recent one I’ve seen. Next up at the theater is McFarland, USA – my son is a high school cross country runner and I don’t think there has ever been a movie about that sport at that level.

    • Michille – I haven’t seen any Annie movies in years and it doesn’t sound like I need to rush out and remedy that. Hope McFarland, USA turns out to be a winner. I’ll probably wait on Pitch Perfect 2 until after it’s been out for a while. I’m always leery of sequels when I’ve enjoyed the first movie – it can be hard to meet expectations.

  4. I finally saw Frozen several months after Justine blogged about it. It’s a movie that I want to see again, and think more about. It really turns the romance trope of a Handsome Prince on its head.

    I haven’t been watching anything particularly inspiring. I saw a couple of productions of Terry Pratchett novels — Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters. Made me want to re-read the books. They were perfectly servicable, but I was distracted by the animation. It was a bit more wrinkly than what I’m used to.

  5. Pingback: Michille: Romantic Movies | Eight Ladies Writing

  6. Funny you should ask… I went to the SF Noir film festival this year, where I was once again reminded of how many noir films there are out there that I’ve never even heard of, let alone seen. I can recommend both “Woman on the Run” and “Born to be Bad” to anyone wanting some insight into what 1950s Hollywood thought was how people spoke/dressed/acted and (maybe especially) drank. My god, there’s a lot of drinking in old films.

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