Four Films with Sage Wisdom; One, Well, Not So Sage
In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme.
1. Moonstruck (1987)
Director: Norman Jewison
Essential Characters: Loretta Castorini (Cher), Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage), Cosmo Castorini (Vincent Gardenia), Rose (Olympia Dukakis)
Circumstance: Married more than 40 years, Rose knows her husband, Cosmo, is having an ongoing affair and is troubled by the implication. On some level, she can’t understand it, but feels pretty sure that it’s a way men stave off their creeping mortality.
Advice Dispensed: Rose: “I just want you to know. No matter what you do. You are going to die, just like everyone else.”
Result: Eventually, in front of the rest of the family at breakfast, Rose tells Cosmo he must stop seeing the other woman. He rises up menacingly, slams his hand down on the table, then sits back down and says, matter-of-factly, “Okay.”
2. Wanderlust (2012)
Director: David Wain
Essential Characters: George Gergenblatt (Paul Rudd), Linda Gergenblatt, (Jennifer Anniston), Seth (Justin Theroux)
Circumstance: In the film’s final moment, George, an ex-New Yorker now happily ensconced with his wife Linda in an “intentional community” somewhere in Georgia, speaks to his newly hard-won philosophy in a TV interview with Katie Couric.
Advice Dispensed: “I say: If you know what you want in life, don’t wait another second to go get it.”
Result: George’s newfound joie de vivre comes as a result of finally purging himself of his Manhattan prejudices and embracing the simple, down-home honesty and care that was provided to him and Linda by a wayward group of weirdos, hippies and new-agers living out in the southern backwoods. After fighting off his own jealousy and sexual neurosis (NSFW!) — and the twisted Seth, who had serious designs on Linda — he finally comes into his own.
3. The Past (2013)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Essential Characters: Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), Lucie (Pauline Burlet), Marie (Bérénice Bejo)
Circumstance: Lucie, Marie’s teen daughter, is fearful that something she did vengefully helped cause another woman to try and commit suicide in front of her young son. Ahmad, her former stepfather, tries to get her to confess to her mother, who is frantically worried about her eldest daughter and doesn’t understand what’s bothering her.
Advice Dispensed: Ahmad: “You either keep this to yourself and suffer for the rest of your life, or you talk to your mom.”
Result: With Lucie’s consent, Ahmad does tell Marie, who absolutely flips out on her daughter, throwing her out of the house. Poor, miserable Lucie is then left to slink away, with a distraught Ahmad still trying to patch things up between them.
4. Breaking Away (1979)
Director: Peter Yates
Essential Characters: Dave Stohler (Dennis Christopher), Mr. Stohler (Paul Dooley)
Circumstance: Dave, like his father, a native of Bloomington, Indiana — locals derisively referred to by the snooty college kids as “cutters” — longs to be something different and special, so he’s been obsessed with bike racing. Especially Italian bike riders who he thinks do it better than anyone. Mr. Stohler sees that his son is still reluctant to let go of him and his high school friends, so he wants to impress the idea of doing something different with his life, something that pushes him out of the too-close confines of their too-small world.
Advice Dispensed: Mr. Stohler: “I was young, slim and strong and damn proud of my work and the buildings went up and when they were finished, the damndest thing happened. It was like the buildings were too good for us … I’d like to be able to stroll through the campus and look at the limestone but I feel out of place … So, all you get from my 20 years of work is the holes we left behind.”
Result: Dave takes his father’s point, wins a dramatic race against a bunch of college students, faces his fear of failure and enrolls in school himself, where he quickly falls for a French exchange student.
And the Antithesis:
5. Animal House (1978)
Director: John Landis
Essential Characters: John “Bluto” Blutarsky (John Belushi), Kent “Flounder” Dorfman (Stephen Furst), Daniel Simpson “D-Day” Day (Bruce McGill)
Circumstance: After a joyride from some of the frat brothers renders Flounder’s brother’s car virtually undrivable, Bluto attempts to cheer him up. Keep in mind, he’s pre-med.
Advice Dispensed: “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.”
Result: Ultimately, the broken-beyond-repair car is transformed by mechanic D-Day into the Deathmobile, a jet-black tank that the disgraced members of Delta House ultimately use to ram the colorfully festooned bleachers from which Dean Wormer and his wife watch the festivities before all hell breaks loose. Flounder, in a trenchcoat and dark glasses, seems much restored (“Oh, boy,” he says, “is this great!”).
“Mr. Blutarsky… zero… point… zero.”
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