Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two different movies: A Lot Like Love and The Visitor

I saw two movies this weekend: A Lot Like Love and The Visitor. Neither was terrible and neither was wonderful, but it was interesting to note the contrasts between them.

A Lot Like Love was the same as a thousand other movies. The characters were young, good-looking, confident, and articulate. Sure they didn't have their lives all together and had their awkward moments, but they acted like people in movies act, not like regular people. The awkward moments were not truly awkward but were perfectly performed comedic acting. The plot was exactly the same as any other romantic comedy: man and women meet, have some ups and downs, and the movie ends when they finally decide to be together. Such movies leave me feeling bad about myself for not having that instant chemistry with the guys I meet, and for not having any guys chasing me at all.

As formulaic as romantic comedies are, there are some that I've enjoyed to a certain extent. This one was nothing special for the most part, but there was one scene that resonated with me. The guy and girl were each feeling the pain of rejection from other relationships, and to escape it, they just got in a car and drove. At one point, they sang along to a song on the radio. It brought back to me the times I've been in that carefree mode, driving around with someone just for the sake of adventure and singing along to the radio. It brought me the joy of that experience mixed with the sadness that my life is not like that any more. The song they were singing along with was a song of heartbreak which I listened to a lot when I was younger. Again, that brought me a mix of the joy of hearing the song mixed with the sadness of the emotion conveyed in the song.

The Visitor was refreshingly not exactly like a thousand other movies. I was especially impressed with Danai Jekesai Gurira, who played Zaineb. Zaineb came across as a genuine person rather than as a movie star. The characters in The Visitor were not all young and good-looking. The main character was over 60. When people found themselves in an encounter with a stranger, they were awkward and had little to say. A wife's irritation with her husband wasn't a part of the big ups and downs you see in a typical romantic comedy, it was part of a stable relationship. A man and a woman met for the first time came in time to share some affection, but it wasn't instant chemistry leading to sex, and then the promise of happily ever after at the movie's conclusion. So many movies are about finding true love in a way that's about finding something to make you happy. This one was about coming to care about something larger than yourself. In particular, about the plight of illegal immigrants in the U.S. I liked the way they showed images such as the flag and the Statue of Liberty to make the contrast between the ideals we claim to embrace and the way people are actually treated. I liked it because they just let you see the contrast, they didn't spell everything out for you the way mainstream movies tend to.

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