Friday, June 25, 2010

A LOVE STORY, MORE OR LESS… a movie review

I would have to admit that the movie shown last night comes as a refreshing change after the heavy classic stuff which is the usual fare during Fridays. Aside from being relatively fresh (it was made to come out in theaters in time for Valentines Day this year), it contained some light moments conveniently placed in between lines which range from being cheesy and cliché to those which seem to contain much thought (the one at the cemetery was one of my favorites). The movie was quite ok for a Friday night, though I myself (and most of the reviews I’ve read about it would agree with me) would say that despite of its stellar cast, it lacked the luster one would expect from a movie well-stocked with those who belong to the Who’s who of Hollywood

The film reviewer of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), one of the resources which I always rely on whenever I choose something new to be projected in our film showings, actually classified it as being an O, pointing it out to be morally offensive, despite of the fact that the Motion Picture Society of America had given it a PG-13 rating. The film contains implicit approval of nonmarital sexual activity and homosexual acts, partial nudity, adultery and phone-sex themes, sexual references and jokes, brief irreverent humor and a half-dozen crude and some crass terms. We may ask then the question about the point of it being shown at all here on a Friday night. I may actually confess that I took a gamble (and the risk) in letting it be projected here (but then considering the quality of most of the films that we have nowadays, it always is).

The movie, with the classification given by the Film and Broadcasting Office of the USCCB, merely projects a reality taking place in a society such as ours. Not only does it present how many relationships go about nowadays, on what kind of relationships they are, but it also presents the mentality and perception upon which these relationships operate. From the onset of the film, as the story begins to unravel and the various characters begin to interact with each other (by the way, one of the things I liked best about the film was the way how the viewer was gradually made to see the interconnection of all the characters in it), one would get the easy impression that love really is based upon what you feel at the moment. Love is all about what you feel, it’s mushy and soft as the flowers and chocolates which take center stage every time Valentine’s Day comes along. And as the flowers and chocolates last merely a day or two, so do these relationships last. Here, love is mainly shown as a spur-of-the-moment thing, something that runs along mushy clichés (as in “When I was a kid, most of the advice that my dad gave me was crap. But there's one thing that he said that was pure genius... he said, if you're ever with a girl that's too good for you, marry her.”….), something that’s volatile, and lacking something that, where it really there, it would have made it truly lasting: a real sense of commitment.

With its presentation of various “relationship paradigm” (as in, two pairs of high school sweethearts, two men in a homosexual relationship, a couple ready to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary, etc), one could almost hear that slogan which many people tend to say ad nauseam without ever considering the implications of what they say: Love knows no boundaries. For one thing, that’s what certain people say when they defend homosexual unions. Yes, we know that love cannot be contained in itself due to its very nature, but then, love need to run according to its own coordinates; one doesn’t just love in any way that he wants to, and yet this seems to be precisely the thing which the movie seems to throw off, even when it seems to smile approvingly at the thought marital fidelity, portrayed by the Edgar and Estelle, the elderly couple. It seems to laugh at the fidelity expected in a loving relationship.

Furthermore, it is very evident that it detaches the practice of sexuality from the very context from which it must spring, which is precisely the committed love between man and woman expressed and protected in marriage. The decision of the characters played by the two Taylors (Lautner and Swift) to save it up for marriage, something to which the other high school couple (Grace and Alex) would follow suit later on, would seem to be laudable at first, but then their reasons for waiting until marriage would be for more superficial reasons, and not the fact that true love really waits. Sex is evidently trivialized and easily mistaken for love itself, and is not seen as its expression. One clear indicator of this is the DJ speaking at the close of the movie about the three words that all of us would like to hear at the close of the day. One would expect that they would be “I Love you” only to hear the DJ drone on saying “Let’s get naked”. The shock makes for a few surprised laughs but leaves one with a bitter aftertaste.

There are some rays of light though. The mother’s love presented in the story of the army captain played by Julia Roberts who braves a fourteen-hour flight just to spend the night with her son is heartwarming, and everybody could just wish for someone as cool, patient and thoughtful as a friend like Alfonso (Ashton Kutcher’s Latino friend in the movie).

One might say that it’s a love story, more or less, as the movies tagline would proclaim. But if one were to consider it a story about love, it would be less and lesser.

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