Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Julie & Julia & Goldwater

I am conservative in my tastes. Though fond of the Beats, it is from a distance of thirty years that I discovered them. Had I been alive in the 1950s, I don't know how attractive I would have found them. Though I was a punk, I was more the art school variety than an anarchist squatter. While I tend to be of a fairly liberal state of mind socially, my politics tend to run more conservative. I will come out and say that I am more Goldwater Republican than Great Society believer, for whatever that means. To me, it means that I am all for government spending on defense and other programs that benefit everyone in common and I am less inclined to support meddling in other people's personal affairs. "The government is best that governs least," and other bromides. I like to be left alone and I like to leave other people alone without judging their intentions. No political party captures my heart at the moment.

I am also a snob. I'm not ashamed to say it. I like what I like and I don't like what I don't. I'm happy to concede that other people can like what I don't and I don't begrudge them their enjoyment in wallowing in lowest common denominator entertainments. This statement sounds dismissive because it is, but these things aren't for me. So what? I am not refined so much as eccentric and whatever is happening in popular culture is usually outside the stream I am swimming in. I don't miss what I don't see. If I am highbrow, and I'm not certain I really am, it is because I tend to think too much. I think, therefor I am. I don't find any cause for shame in that.

This report is a movie review, however, though that hasn't been clear until now.

I haven't been to the Transformers movie that is very popular and I won't be sitting through the latest GI Joe screen gem. I did succumb to going to the latest Star Trek picture, but I left unsatisfied. Too modern, too much skittery camera work and violence and characterization shorthand, since we are all already familiar with the characters. Nothing new and little of interest.

Tonight we went to see Julie and Julia and if my description of my background hasn't turned you off, I would like to recommend it. It was an choice between an Errol Flynn flick at the Brattle or Julie & Julia at the Loews on the Common. I didn't think the lady of the house would enjoy swashbuckling (though I had never heard of the film playing at the Brattle tonight, had it been Robin Hood, I may have felt differently) so I pushed what I thought would be a chick flick at Loews. The lady of the house agreed without putting up a fight. I'm not macho by any stretch of the imagination, my admiration for John Wayne and my motorcycle notwithstanding, but sitting through film geared toward a distaff audience doesn't necessarily appeal to me. I had read a few reviews and thought I would be able to tolerate two hours. I not only tolerated the running time, I enjoyed it. Immensely.

It was a pretty full house for a 7:00 Wednesday showing and there were plenty of men in the audience without female companionship. They were young men and not all of them outwardly gay, though I don't really have a radar for these things. This film isn't camp and it isn't just for women. The men in this film are good men, as good as the women who are the main characters. This isn't a film about dysfunction, which is a kind of film for which I have little patience (Little Miss Sunshine, or Clerks, or any number of 'indie' pictures). This is a film about pursuing your goal honorably and succeeding. There's no shock value. It is wholesome while being adult. There is no nudity, no violence and little cussing. Yet it is adult. Imagine that.

There is little glamour. The characters are real people, likable people, people who overcome their foibles, or, rather, who make their foibles their strengths, the way real people do when they succeed. The two title characters have their counterparts in partners that love them for what they are. The men in this movie are not John Wayne, but in their own way they are: they have values, they love, they don't bend but they support. They are honorable.

I left this movie, not dizzy from consuming two hours of empty eye candy. Neither did I leave the movie with the message that "I'm a fuck-up and that's okay." I left thinking I would like to be a better partner for the woman in my life. I don't think I am a particularly bad partner and the lady of the house doesn't seem to think so either, but this isn't a bad impulse to take away from watching a film. $11.00 well spent. Nothing about this film left me feeling guilty or soiled or used or gulled into giving up eleven bucks. I left with inspiration.

This is where my conservative tastes come in. I want to see a film, or any artwork, that appeals to my better instincts. If I want to watch something base there is plenty of pornography and pseudo-porn available. If I want to confirm that my shortcomings are acceptable there are plenty of outlets that will comfort me, but being content with being small is a nutrient-deficient gruel. Witnessing an example of nourishing love and persistence and fortitude in the face of commonplace odds, not world-threatening ones but life-satisfying ones, gives me hope and food for thought. Character, not special effects or sound tracks, get us through to the end of our days and make us the best human beings we can be. A few more films like this probably won't be financial successes, but the bottom line isn't always measured in dollars and I thank whatever show biz deity is responsible for bringing them to the screen. This is the kind of entertainment I crave.

Two women wrote two books and a movie was made of them. Smart men loved them. Good women, good men, these things, and love make the world go round.


Anali said...

I saw it Wednesday too at Loews on the Common! I guess that was a big day for bloggers. Loved it and I'll be blogging about it soon. : )

Whalehead King said...

Hah! Too bad we didn't see each other. It was a great film and certainly fodder for conversation afterward.


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