Monday, June 29, 2009

57 Months

We just saw the movie "Away We Go" and even though the relationship between the two main characters was very sweet and warm-hearted, the portrayals of all the other parents in the movie was simply a bunch of caricatures intent on making us laugh.

Here's how it works. You write a movie with likable leads with whom your audience can identify. In "Away We Go" the intended audience was hipster thirty-something gen-xers who are simply trying to believe that their lives have meaning. Then you surround those lead characters with a bunch of buffoons that we can all have a good laugh at because it helps make our lives feel so much more worthwhile in comparison. Presto! You have the makings of a great comedy. The problem that arises is when you venture outside your intended audience. When those people watch your movie they just think that your denigrating over-the-top portrayals are just asinine. At least that's what I think when I see it in other movies that I don't immediately identify with, so why would I think that it's okay or cool in this movie?

I don't. During the film I found myself laughing along with everyone else but as it continued on I suddenly realized the way that I was being manipulated.

That's me on the left and John Krasinski, the male lead of the film, on the right. Uh, yeah, I think I'm the intended audience. At this point I began to dislike the movie and found that I wasn't laughing so hard anymore, which kind-of fit with the tone of the film anyway since it began to quickly descend into a melancholy drama.

Here's the thing. This movie is also the perfect movie for me because I am a parent; a thirty-something hipster gen-xer who wasn't so sure that he wanted to have kids in the first place and who didn't have a clue about what to expect when my partner's belly began to swell. What I found out was that there isn't any one way to be a parent and there isn't any one book that's going to give you all the answers about parenting that are right for you specifically. Along the way you simply adopt the ones that make the most sense to you and slough off the preconceived notions that you might have had and the bad advice that sounded like good advice and even some of the expert opinions found on the non-fiction best-seller lists. Sometimes it works so brilliantly that you feel like the greatest parent alive and sometimes it seems like drudgery but it always is a wonderful and precious evolutionary process that resides in the murky soup that is your life.

So I looked at the movie and thought about all the crappy parenting that they showed in the least subtle way possible (i.e. cheapest). Yeah, I believe in the continuum concept. Yes, your children do want you to hold them. It's extremely important that your child have an intimate connection with you and just so you know, intimacy doesn't always have to mean sex. I know that's hard to understand in our culture sometimes. I am also very guilty of neglecting my child and saying ridiculous things about them and to them. Obviously I don't want to hate myself so much that my neglect puts my children in harm's way. None of the people in the film who neglected their children even wanted to give an ounce of effort to change that aspect of themselves, from the psychotic drunks in Phoenix to Krasinski's brother in Miami. It takes a huge amount of effort to raise children and even then we're going to make mistakes. Sometimes I also can find it hard to appreciate the beautiful life that I have, hoping for more and focusing on what I don't have. But I have to admit that doing that is just so damn difficult when you look at into your child's eyes. Every day I have a chance to share a genuine conversation with Lucas and he lets me in on so many wonders that I never knew existed. He has a precious light inside him and it's infectious when you see it.

Anyway, since I am a parent, I think that a movie like this doesn't need to bludgeon in order to get it's message across. There were some sweet beautiful moments and I truly wanted to believe in their quest. Finding purpose as a parent is one of the most divine paths that people weave. It's never perfect or easy or smooth but it is a blessing and it is wonderful and it is very very unique.

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