It occurred to me tonight that I have an affinity for films involving a character who has hit rock bottom, demolishing their lives and then rebuilding everything. This occurred to me within the first few minutes of Burnt with Bradley Cooper. I quite like this film and I’m still watching it.
I think that I enjoy these films because I’ve never hit rock bottom, but I always feel like I’m on the verge of demolishing my life. Earlier tonight, I referred to my personal life as a dumpster fire. Probably a little dramatic, but not entirely inaccurate. Once upon a time, I had an aversion to relationships. I think that, to some degree, I was afraid of them. It was a long time before I was in a situation that could be considered dating. It just wasn’t a think that I did. I apologize right now for all of the false starts along the way. I had crushes and the thing with crushes is that they aren’t real; they are as real as a relationship in a Katherine Heigl romantic comedy. I came close a few times, but I couldn’t get out of my own way and let something develop. There were a few potential relationships that never got off the ground because of me and my stupidity. My senior year in college was the first time I had something that resembled a relationship and it was a disaster. It wasn’t right, but I wanted it to be really bad. After that, I stayed away all together. I had a lot of beautiful friendships that involved sex. The sex was good and the friendships consistent, but I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready until B. I remember, very clearly, sitting in the car with her one night and trying to explain why I don’t do relationships. She asked me why not (I think she might have been a little bit hurt at my refusal in the moment, it was when we were still hanging out, having our Saturday night adventures, before we became a thing). I didn’t have a reason anymore. I realized that something in me had changed. I was suddenly open to the idea. It wasn’t long after that that we were a couple.
It broke me a little when she left me a year ago. It would be silly for me to deny it and hollow if I didn’t admit it here.
That wasn’t rock bottom though. And before we jump to conclusions, I haven’t seen rock bottom and I’m really not planning on it.
I’ve been different since then. I opened myself up and I got hurt. I’m still a little hurt, but someday I’ll get better. But the key thing that happened was that I became open to the idea of a relationship. Once you open yourself up, you either close down again or you remain open. I worked hard to stay open, to not close myself down again. I recently had a brush with something. I don’t think I was clear at the time. We had a really great friendship, really strong. She quickly became one of my best friends. We were closer than either of us expected. This grew into other feelings. Sex was added to our friendship. And that was good. I wasn’t pushing for more, she wasn’t ready for more. But, I was open. She knew I was open. It progressed fast, probably faster than either of us were ready for. Definitely faster than she was. It ended hard and fast.
I’m going to start talking about favorite films on here. The first one, Elizabethtown. This is not a popular choice for favorite films. There are embarrassing moments in this movie (the ridiculous “suicide” attempt always knocks me out of the movie) and it is the movie for which the description “manic pixie dream girl” was coined (courtesy of Nathan Rabin). Thank you reviewer for that. But when I watch the movie, where Orlando Bloom’s character, Drew, hits an ultimate low (he spends all of his time designing a sneaker for a Nike-like company that flops so hugely that it sets the company back about 1 billion dollars-is that even possible- and almost immediately his girlfriend dumps him and as he is about to commit suicide via exercise bike he finds out that his father has died while visiting family in Kentucky and he has to deal with it). He is forcibly befriended by one of the flight attendants (manic pixie dream girl, Kirsten Dunst, Claire in the film–the connoisseur of “last looks”). He keeps talking about his dark destiny, but through this friendship he slowly rights himself and copes with his dad’s death. What we find in this film is that both Claire and Drew are lost and lonely. They find a connection with each other, but edge around it slowly and almost fuck it up. At one point, Dunst identifies them as “the substitute people” (a concept that I totally resemble). They are not the people meant to be the person for other people, they fill in-a placeholder, if you will-until the right person arrives (see also: Good Luck Chuck, a really shitty-but occasionally funny-Dane Cook/ Jessica Alba comedy). This is one of the standout scenes for me in this movie.
Another one is the epic, all night phone conversation that they have with each other the cumulates with them meeting to watch the sun rise (and admitting that they peaked on the phone). Claire is present with him as he is dealing with all of the arrangements for his father, these two people who won’t admit that they are lonely and falling for each other, leaning on each other.
The third memorable moment for me occurs shortly after Drew arrives in Elizabethtown and after the flurry of events that caused him to get there, suddenly, it is quiet and has left several messages and is trying to will the phone to cause people to call him back (as if casting a spell, he says, “Call me back” — which, I’ve had cause to do, though with messaging and not phone calls … I’m not much of a phone talker). After this lull, suddenly everything happens at once again, with all of the lines of call waiting taken up. One by one the lines are dropped and Claire is still there, on the line, leading into that epic all night conversation).
The last “moment” in this movie for me occurs after the funeral. Claire gives Drew a massive binder filled with directions for an epic road trip home (to fill in for the road trip he never took with his dad) complete with a soundtrack for every moment along the way. This movie is about opening yourself up to everything and, being a Cameron Crowe movie, it’s about music. I’m not going to detail how the road trip ends, for that, you have to watch the movie. I think, aside from a few rocky moments, it is a solid flick. And every time I watch it, it wins me over again. And the soundtrack is amazing (2 volumes of songs and one score).
I think, in the end, the reason that Cameron Crowe made that “suicide” attempt so ridiculous was that he skirts a lot of dark things in this movie. It’s about coming to terms with failure and with death and with missing out on life. It was personal for him in some ways and I wonder if he wasn’t trying to hide that a little. Because with all of the potential darkness, he worked his ass of to keep things light and positive. Drew doesn’t succumb to his “dark destiny” but instead takes his prescribed “moment to wallow” and then leaves it behind.
There is room for hope in this world and room to be hopeful. It looks like a shitshow out there, and I’m often let down by people I care about, but I work hard to try to stay optimistic. Even when I’m hurt again and again, I’m determined to stay open.
Post script: the movie has concluded (and I have finished a bottle of a pretty good Malbec). Burnt is a really good movie, I enjoyed it immensely.
More later …