Some Thoughts Re: Love, Writing & "The Last Kiss"

18 Sep

I was listening to Z100 yesterday, the Top 40 countdown (as I’ve already established last week, I love pop music and I’m proud of it!), and there was an interview with Zach Braff so I listened harder. He was, of course, talking about his (great!) new movie “The Last Kiss.” I don’t want to totally misquote him or anything, so let me just toss out a disclaimer up front: what I am going to do is hugely paraphrase what he said, and then mostly extrapolate what I took it to mean.

He said that the institution of marriage is in trouble, and it is like this big pink elephant in the room that no one is talking about. And it just kinda seems like that is what everybody does – go down that Marriage/Baby Track on auto-pilot, without stopping to question some of the problems, or think about the 50% or whatever divorce rate. And he talked about how, in the movie, his character (Michael) says to Jacinda Barrett’s character (his pregnant girlfriend, Jenna) something to the effect of (to paraphrase): “I will marry you when you can tell me three couples you know whose relationship isn’t in trouble.” And then Zach went on to say that he actually tried to play this game with people who interviewed him, but using only Hollywood couples, and no one could ever come up with three, and the happy couples they could find were all on their second marriages…

Anyway, his overarching point was, or what I took it to be at least was, that this movie opens up a discussion about what nobody is discussing.

Ok, I know three couples who have great relationships! Actually, I know (at least) NINE couples who have great relationships, who are wonderful together, and happy. So if you see Zach, tell him I want to play that game with him and I will WIN IT times three (!), because I love competition, even when something (like, uh, this) is clearly non-competitive. But maybe this is just a statistical anomaly. Back to the movie (for now).

I loved it. So much. I want to marry it. I heard that it had gotten terrible reviews, so just to be journalistic-ish and try to see both sides, I looked up the review in The New York Times http://movies2.nytimes.com/2006/09/15/movies/15kiss.html. Which (paraphrase!), basically says that Zach/Michael is unsympathetic, and that Jacinda/Jenna has the potential to be a strong character, but isn’t fleshed out enough. However, this is what I loved about this movie: It is honest (this is something The Times review and I agree on). And the characters are so flawed, and so struggling, and so lost, and so scared, and making mistakes left-and-right, but for the most part, they are trying. They are doing the best they can, which often isn’t good enough (do you know that feeling?), but it is. What it is. An attempt. And a big ol’ mess. All at once.

And this is where I diverge from The Times and we go our separate ways, because I felt for Zach/Michael, in a sympathetic way. Which, I am totally not Pro-Cheating, and if you ask me to take a stance on cheating I will come out very strongly in favor of Anti-Cheating, in a No-Exceptions kind of way. But this movie does not make it so easy. It does not say: here is a Bad Person doing a Bad Thing – hate him!!! Instead it paints this murky picture of right and wrong, where things are not so clear-cut (um, like things are sometimes known to be in real life), and people make mistakes, and it is the opposite of easy to just dismiss them. It is rip-your-soul-apart-feel-the-consequences painful, confusing, and just plain old-fashioned sad. And by the way, ZB has one of the best, most agonizingly edge-of-your-seat human moments I have ever seen in a movie when he has to make a tough decision and it – his face, his decision, this moment – is so scarily real I could feel it from my seat (which I was at the edge of and) which was so very far away from him, across the country even, and to me, that’s a pretty good and rare movie to do that.

And as for the conversation that no one is having, I have often said that I feel like I was absent the day that Relationships were explained in grade school, and no one gave me the notes. What seems so obvious and easy for others has traditionally been confusing and difficult for me. I have felt like I am the only one who doesn’t get it. Like, why won’t anyone talk about the complexities and challenges of relationships? Not the (often self-created) “drama,” which people do talk about, myself included, but the nuts-and-bolts of how two individuals can become one loving, healthy, couple in a loving, healthy relationship that really works, that isn’t in trouble, that makes its participants more happy than sad. I know and believe it’s possible but. I have questions! I want answers!

Well, this movie will not give you any answers. What it does do is ask a shitload of questions. I hate rules, and if you ask me to take a stance, I will come out very strongly Anti-Rule, Anti-Grammar, Anti-Punctuation, Anti-Everything!, but what screenwriter Paul Haggis does in “The Last Kiss” is one of my favorite “rules” of writing: always. Always. ALWAYS. ASK MORE QUESTIONS THAN YOU ANSWER. This is why I aim to do this in my own writing: I don’t have all the answers (no one does!), and I could not even begin to think about pretending to. And also. What this does is: it starts a conversation. I hate. Hate. HATE to the point of RAGE (which is potentially my own, separate issue), when books/movies/plays/anything give me all the answers and then tie everything up with a cute little pink bow (even though I love the color pink). First of all, I feel like doing that assumes the far below-average intelligence of the reader/viewer/anything/me, and I hate being assumed to be below average; I find it offensive and, as previously stated, rage-inducing. And also: the neat little bow is a huge conversation-stopper. After you get the answers spoon-fed to you, who cares anymore? Unanswered questions and unwrapped bows leave something to wrap your brain around, something to haunt you, and most importantly, something to discuss. And maybe some clarity will emerge out of that discussion. Nothing will ever emerge out of the idiot-proof pink bow.

So, in conclusion, keep asking, keep talking, and if it is what you want to do in your life, KEEP WRITING! To quote Tom Wilkinson’s character (Jenna’s father, Stephen): “Do whatever it takes.” And maybe some clarity will emerge…

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxo

 

Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Garam.  All rights reserved.

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