Richard Roeper Blog

The movie of life.

Letter from a reader:

I hope I don’t sound nuts, but I sometimes get these crazy premonitions… My hubby was out of town last week and I was gonna watch “Love, Actually”–my fav movie ever and I know you were a huge fan…
Then I thought, I can’t watch Liam Neeson carrying that casket and crying. I swear, that scene is seared on my hard drive. I could not stop thinking about it and it haunted me all night. I swear to you.
Weird. My husband is an ICU doc and I’m an old nurse (!) and we’ve been going over the possibilities. What a loss. I saw brief footage of him from yesterday and what a haunted and vacant look in his “I’ve been at my dying wife’s bedside” clothes.
Bless him and those gorgeous kids and her poor mom.
You’re not nuts. As the tragic story of Natasha Richardson’s accident unfolded this week, I thought a lot about the fantasy world of movies, and the sometimes maddening dullness of everyday life. We live in a time of great crisis and unprecedented cynicism; a time when the young become jaded at an age when they should still be regarding the world with wonder.
We know all about the personal lives of the famous and the famous-for-being famous. When a troubled young woman treats motherhood like an attempt at a spot in the Guinness Book of Records, the homeward journey of two of her infants is treated like internationally important news. The press contingent surrounding her car looked larger than the press contingent that used to cover presidential motorcades.
And yet.
And yet we still buy into the fantasy world of movies. We still love watching Liam Neeson delivering that great monologue in “Taken,” in which he tells the scum that took his daughter exactly what he’s going to do: he’s going to kill everyone who tried to hurt his daughter, and then he’s going to save her. And then we sit back and revel in the rescue fantasy, as one lone dad systematically destroys an evil cabal.
In real life, however, Liam Neeson is a lot closer—-now tragically closer—-to the character he played in “Love, Actually.” A decent man who didn’t deserve to lose his wife, who can find no earthly or heavenly explanation for why he lost his wife. A father who must stay strong for his children.
There was a throwaway joke on a rerun of “Seinfeld” this evening. George Costanza, hoping to meet Jon Voight, suggests a “Jon Voight Day” at Yankee Stadium. His colleagues laugh it off. George says that if he had suggested Liam Neeson Day, then everyone would have loved it. You hear the joke last week or 10 years ago, it doesn’t register. Today, it just seemed weird. Real life getting in the way of a sitcom laugh.
So it goes now with “Love, Actually.” It’s every bit as good a film as it was on Monday—-but for a while, at least, I don’t think anybody wants to see Liam Neeson playing a widower, any more than we wanted to see Christopher Reeve flying as Superman just afte Mr. Reeve suffered his terrible accident, or Robert Downey Jr. playing a drug addict in “Less Than Zero” when his real-life misadventures seemed to be mirroring that early role from his career.
We go to the movies to reflect on life, but mostly to escape from the day to day grind of life. But sometimes life makes the movie too unbearable too watch, at least for a while.
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