Monday, November 16, 2009
As I write this, the end credits to Fred Claus are rolling across the television behind me. There could be no more of a typical Hollywood movie. It's the heartwarming tale of Santa's misunderstood older brother Fred, played by Vince Vaughn, who gets one, last chance to prove that he's as good a man as his famous brother.
So, there ya go.
There is a me who mocks movies like this, who laughs with his writing buddies over the by-the-numbers structure and the "uplifting" Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the "heartfelt" conclusion." I was not that me tonight.
Like all Hollywood movies, Fred Claus can be boiled down to a simple theme. It's about a guy who's been smacked down by life. He feel betrayed by the people he thought loved him. But in the end, he realizes that it's not the people around you who define you. Rather, it's your actions that do that defining.
It sounds sappy just writing it, but in truth, it's a fairly common theme. You'll find it in all kinds of arthouse and foreign films, the only difference being that in those movies, Fred Claus might need to be gunned down to learn that truth. Or maybe, in the final reel, he'll learn that's not the case and that he's actually just an awful person. Or, more often than not, he'll realize that life is a hideous cycle of pain with a complete lack of justice and therefore his actions are meaningless.
I didn't need that kind of ending tonight because, as I come up on the one year anniversary of being escorted out my my previous life, things are a little shaky. I question how the story will end every day. I did, however, need to be reminded of the importance of inner strength and the fact that, in spite of every unthinking punch or petty swipe that comes your way, you gotta keep standing.
So I surrendered to Fred Claus; I'm sure that very few people have emoted to a Vince Vaughn vehicle the way I just did. I sobbed, which is nothing new for me, but we're talking five hankies plus here. Then I laughed so loud I almost woke my daughter in the next room. Then I sobbed some more. And I did this knowing that the writers (Jessie Nelson and Dan Fogelman - that's right I'm giving props to the scribes, not the helmer) would not pull the rug out from under me, that everything was going to be okay when the credits rolled. To gain the wisdom, I needed that safety.
And when the movie was over, I felt better.
As much as I tear down some of these films, I sometimes thing people who continually mock Hollywood are more shallow than the films they trash. I'm dead certain I'm not the only person on earth who saw Fred Claus at just the right time and for whom an hour and fifty-five minutes of Vince Vaughn riffs proved just the right tonic for a broken... well, for whatever ailed them.
Sure, movies should make you think, but sometimes, if they help you heal, that's even better.