Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love vs. Career?

Today I did manage to change my routine, sort of. I ran errands before and after physical therapy, so I didn't get to the computer until almost noon. Now I'm doing all my usual morning work stuff in the afternoon. I really will break with routine tomorrow because I'm going to visit my parents.

I saw another chick flick yesterday, not one I usually would have chosen, but it was on one of the HBO channels, and I was working on the kind of project that seems to go better for me when I do it with the TV on as background noise. The movie was called Life or Something Like It. It was about a Seattle TV reporter (Angelina Jolie in a horrendous Marilyn Monroe style wig, or else a dye job worthy of a lawsuit, plus makeup in all the wrong shades for her coloring) who interviews a wacky, surprisingly accurate street prophet for a human interest feature story and then is shocked when he tells her she's going to die within a week. She tries to brush it off, but then his other predictions come true, and that has her re-evaluating what she thought was a perfect life, with a job that makes her a local celebrity, a shot at anchoring a network morning show, and her hot major-league baseball player fiance (Christian Kane. As I said, hot.). The only person who seems to understand her existential crisis is the grungy news photographer (Ed Burns. Grungy.) she hates working with and who she suspects put the street prophet up to saying something that would wig her out.

I kind of like the concept behind this story, the idea of how you'd evaluate your life and what you'd change if you knew you'd die soon. But the execution of this was a mess, and I won't even go into the way I had to completely forget everything I knew from working in TV news in order to have this on as background noise while I did other stuff. For one thing, I think it had to take place in another universe if we were supposed to find Ed Burns more appealing than Christian Kane (even playing someone who's supposed to be an egocentric jerk, Christian Kane was a lot more charming and interesting). My main issue, though, was that it set up what I consider to be a false dilemma, and it's one we see way too often in romantic stories, the idea that a woman can either have her dream career or true love, but not both, and if she wants to have true love (and be a worthwhile human being) she has to be willing to sacrifice her dream career. Now, I understand that a romantic story has to involve some sort of sacrifice, that winning true love means being willing to give up something else, and that often the thing being given up wasn't what the person really needed. It was a false desire, and finding love ended up filling the true need that the false desire was supposed to fill. But it way too often does come down to love or career, and I do like it better when both people have to give something up. It's not just one person having to make a huge sacrifice while the other person changes nothing about his life. And if the character is expected to give up a lifelong dream for love, then I want the love to mean something. It shouldn't just be someone she hated one day before. One day going to a carnival isn't exactly the foundation for giving up a lifelong dream. The dilemma felt false to me because she could still have a worthwhile life while doing what she wanted to do, she could still find love, and I didn't feel like this particular love was something so special she'd never find its equal anywhere else.

I think they were kind of trying to show that the dream career was a false desire meant to fill some deep, inner need, based on the fact that she'd been an ugly duckling as a kid and felt overshadowed by her cheerleader sister. I'm not going to say that I can't believe someone who looks like Angelina Jolie was ever unattractive because she actually has some unusual features of the sort you have to grow into. She could have been a funny-looking kid before maturing into her features and becoming striking. But the kid they showed in flashbacks looked nothing like Angelina Jolie. No, she was horribly unattractive because she wore glasses (horrors!!!!) and was "pudgy." Mind you, she didn't actually look all that heavy to me. I think we were just supposed to assume she was horribly fat because they showed her baking cookies (clearly a sign of deep issues. I mean, who does that?) and she wore tent-like clothes. I guess they couldn't find an overweight teen actress and just had to stick a skinny one in oversized clothes.

I've actually had a character lurking in my brain who knows she's dying and realizes she's never really lived, but I haven't found quite the right story for her, and then there's the issue of whether to cop out and have her live after all or go for the downer ending where she really does die (maybe in a noble sacrifice). So I like this theme. This movie, though, wasn't a particularly interesting exploration of it. And Angelina Jolie should never, ever try to do romantic comedy. Some people just aren't funny, and I don't think it was all the script's fault.


Chicory said...

Hmmm... that got me thinking about what people give up for love. Seems to me it'd be more likely to be a place. Like, if you want to be with your true love, you'll have to move halfway across the country, because that's where he is. That's rarely the sacrifice in movies, though. Maybe because there are so many sit-coms and movies where someone almost moves, then changes their mind and realizes that home is what's important that people don't think of home as a false desire.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Chicory. That's what I usually see on the movies or tv sit-coms.

Home is where the heart is and if you're with someone you love then you would always feel that you're at home. No matter where it is as long as you guys are together. It sounds like a mouthful! lol

I gave up everything for love and I didn't regret it since my husband is one of a kind. He was also responsible that I found a new career path and skills that I didn't know exist in me.

Btw, I hope you got my email.

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting point that Chicory made, because that's exactly what I had to do. I got married, and then after we'd been married for about 4 years my husband joined the military. It was a decision we made together, obviously, although that doesn't negate the fact that ultimately I'm a homebody and would rather have stayed in the state where I'd grown up and where both of our much-beloved families live.

In the two years since then, we've lived in two new states, three houses, and we've spent months in hotel rooms with two kids. It's been rough. And in a few months we'll be finding a new house and moving in with a newborn. But you suck it up and make it work.

I think part of the reason that books/movies don't really have this sacrifice of "place" anymore is that we're so used to moving around the country that so many people would have a hard time seeing how you could love a locale so much that giving it up for your love would be a sacrifice. And even when fiction tries to portray love of a place, it's rarely the home locale of the watcher/reader, so they sort of naturally have a distance from it. Maybe?

I think another good choice is recognizing real love, and making choices between men... perhaps one who offers greater security and closer ideals to yours, and the other for whom you feel a dramatic (perhaps more sexual) love for, but who offers a lifestyle more extremely different from your own, maybe less secure. Movies love to show a person giving up the picket fence banker who is kind and generous for the motorcycle-riding dude who is just so much more attractive, but that's not always the right choice for every woman. And people confuse true love with lust all the time. And then there's always the sacrifice of love for honor, as in the case where somebody is already married.