Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lady's choice: Gentleman's choice

In our third installment of our bi-weekly Tuesday movie-watching series called Lady's Choice, I finally got to make my first pick of the movie to watch.

But it almost didn't happen.

My wife had had a hard day, and I could tell when dinner time was approaching that she hadn't remembered about movie night. I thought it seemed almost mean to bring it up. We should just engage in a couple hours of clearing shows off the DVR and then go to bed.

But I couldn't help myself, and found myself sheepishly mentioning it.

I did clarify that it was okay if we didn't watch the movie I'd chosen, but I kind of feel like the purpose of a series like this is to push through come hell or high water. The very idea of the series is that once a month -- only 12 times a year -- each of us has to accept a movie chosen by the other person to watch, regardless of what it's about or whether they're in the mood for it. (The alternating 12 times, it's your choice so you should theoretically be psyched for it.) Trusting the other person's judgment is implicit, and veto power should be reserved only for extreme circumstances.

So that logic prompted me to bring it up. If she wanted to use her veto power, I wouldn't have held it against her.

But she didn't, so we started a nearly two-hour movie at 8:15 -- which in itself seemed ambitious with people who are tired and possibly cranky. You might say we were already running on empty when we started Running on Empty.

Running on Empty is a film I loved when I was about the age of the character River Phoenix plays in the movie. I don't think I related to his character, per se -- my family lived in the same house my entire childhood, and my parents were never on the run from the FBI. But there's no doubt that the emotions his character experiences, as he approaches adulthood and wrestles with whether he can permanently sever ties with his wanted parents in order to forge his own life, were something that struck me, and were key to my appreciation of Sidney Lumet's film. Phoenix was nominated for best supporting actor for his work, and Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch and Martha Plimpton also give really good performances. (One scene with Lahti and her own father, whom she never sees, just kills me.)

I knew the film would have extra interest for my wife because a) she loves Lumet's work, and b) we currently watch Plimpton on the Fox show Raising Hope (where she's great). It turns out there was one additional layer of interest I hadn't anticipated, in that Lahti's character's father is played by a guy named Steven Hill, who had a recurring part on Law & Order, which my wife used to watch. Hey, when springing a movie from 1988 on somebody without any idea whether it has aged well, it helps to be able to explain/defend your choice.

So did it age well, and did she like it?

Yes on both accounts. I don't know about aging "well" -- I must admit I was distracted several times by Lahti's 80s mom jeans, with the tall waistlines -- but the important part was that the drama felt as solid to me as ever. I was a bit puzzled by the arc of my wife's reaction to the movie, however. When we paused after about a half-hour, she volunteered that it was indeed quite good. By the end, though, I had to milk that same admission out of her -- she wasn't proactively forthcoming about it like I expected her to be. Expected her to be because I think of the film's final scene as a powerhouse that gets me every time. (And this time was no exception.)

Oh well, I'd say it was probably a good start for my half of the themed movie night. Especially considering the difficult circumstances of our viewing.

And at the very least, I scratched the itch of having wanted to revisit this movie myself for several years now.

I mean, as much as I want my choice to work for her, I'm at least guaranteed of knowing it'll work for me.


Travis McClain said...

Early on, when my wife and I were still just dating, I introduced her to Return to Oz. She never forgave me for that and every movie suggestion I made afterwards was suspect. I later endured the Twilight movies repeatedly on her behalf, so as far as I'm concerned, that score is long since settled.

Oh, and Steven Hill didn't just have "a recurring" role on Law & Order. He played District Attorney Adam Schiff, and was in the opening credits. In fact, he's one of the longest tenured cast members of the series, having outlasted most of the Law cast and nearly everyone on the Order side who wasn't Sam Waterston.

Vancetastic said...

I doubt I would forgive you for Return to Oz either. Though I've never watched it, the trailers brought only one word to mind: "garish."

But you're right that the Twilight movies undoubtedly settled the score. I heard the third one was actually okay. True?

Okay, props to Steven Hill. I thought "recurring" covered whatever his level of involvement was, since I didn't check too closely on it. But you're right that "recurring" in this context certainly means "not part of the regular cast."