by Judson Cade Pedigo
Whenever I think of end of the world movies, I don’t always go to alien invasions, zombie plagues, or sinister Halloween mask manufacturers with a penchant for catchy jingles. What end of the world means to me is finding out that Anthony Michael Hall has been showing your panties off to a bunch of geeks, or that the love of your life is dating a guy named Blane (that’s not a name, it’s a major appliance) or that feeling you get when you just wrecked your old man’s prized Ferrari. Now that’s some world-ending shit right there. I really doubt I’ll ever see an alien war ship blast anything near me but I have been broken up with and that really sucks. This is how the world ends, not with a bang but with me whimpering on the couch with a sixer of budget beer and a movie. Here are my top three picks for what I like to call, “I Just Got Dumped and My World is Falling Apart So I Just Want to Watch a Movie to Take My Mind off Things but Why Do I Keep Watching Movies about Relationships, This is Only Making It Worse.”
1) Happy Accidents: We all have our favorite crazy Vincent D’Onofrio characters (I’m not even going to bother listing them because we all know) but my favorite has got to be his part in Happy Accidents. He’s nice crazy, not scary crazy. It’s the kind of crazy you can take home to mom. Here he’s a guy who is (or isn’t) from the future with the mission to save Marissa Tomei from falling victim to some horrible mishap. Not all time travel movies have to involve killer robots or paradoxes, sometimes they can and should involve Vinnie D laying down some of his patented crazy charms on Missy T. Whether he is actually from the future or just another quirky dude from the Lower East Side is irrelevant. The real fun comes from watching the relationship grow between these two characters. At its heart it’s more of a romance picture than anything else but it’s a damn fine one. I almost hate to use the “C” word but I’d even go as far to say that it’s charming even. Hey, it charmed me. At the end of the day it’s nice to see ol’ Vinnie get the girl for once…you know, without kidnapping them like he did in that movie The Cell. What a creep.
2) All The Real Girls: This movie is without a doubt one of the best representations of the birth and death of a relationship that is out there. Okay, I’m just going to reach up on the shelf here and take down Annie Hall and put All The Real Girls right on up there, and done and done. (Let’s face it...Woody Allen was an old man even when he was a young man, and I’m tired of old people telling me how it is.) This movie perfectly captures that feeling of falling in love for the first time, it’s intimate and big and reckless and important and the ONLY thing that matters. This isn’t love like in some Sandra Bullock picture where people get loud and crazy but it really just comes off as embarrassing. No, this feels genuine. This is in large part to the direction of David Gordon Green who really builds the world of this small North Carolina town and the tight knit group of friends that inhabit it. You feel like you’re a part of the gang. You are there to witness the initial spark between Paul (Paul Schneider) and Noel (Zooey Deschanel), those first steps toward something great, those whirlwind days when it all comes together and the moment when it all falls apart. This gets the Oscar for best “Onscreen Romantic Depiction” from me each and every year. Yes, I award my own Oscars and yes, they are my old soccer trophies (Note to the editor: Jaime, you can take out these last two sentences because they are very silly. I just left them in to see if I could make you chuckle. I haven’t held my own private Oscar ceremony…yet.) [Editor’s note: I left these sentences in because you do in fact crack me up.] Things don’t always work out and sometimes it’s both everybody’s fault and nobody’s fault. In life there are no last minute declarations of love at an airport or bus station followed up by a slow clap from the crowd. Most of the time it just doesn’t work out and you have to move on. All The Real Girls is the best way to experience a relationship without actually having to be in one.
3) Love Liza: Love Liza will break your heart but in that good way that only movies can. It’s sad, a little depressing, but it is funny too. Billed as a comic tragedy, I can’t think of a better way to describe it. The entire set-up in itself is pretty heartbreaking. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Wilson, a man coping with the recent suicide of his wife by not coping. Who can blame him? That to me is completely world ending. When he finds a sealed letter he is then faced with the dilemma of reading it or not. Does he want to know what’s contained inside? How do we heal? How do we put together the pieces after a loss like that? The answers are never easy and the film doesn’t flinch when addressing the toll it can take on a person. Liza was his anchor and without her he is left to face the world and his grief alone. I hesitate to give away too much of the plot because his journey takes him down some unexpected and strange paths that ultimately lead him right back where he started, the letter. There is an undercurrent of sadness that runs through Hoffman’s performance (made even more melancholy after his recent passing) and the entire film that builds on itself to an eventual catharsis that, depending on where you are at in your life, can either be interpreted as being destroyed by the past or set free by it. This is easily one of my favorite Hoffman performances because even though the subject matter seems grim, he manages to add a humor and vulnerability to his character that makes us laugh (though uncomfortably) even when things are at their worst. Liza herself never appears in the film but she is very much alive, following Wilson every step on his long strange trip to recovery. This is a movie about grief and loss but ultimately about love.