In typical cinematic fashion, I had an epiphany yesterday—on the subway, while listening to my Broken Heart playlist. I was thinking about my broken heart, and trying to figure out why it’s taking so long to heal. As I was pondering all the greatest romances, the romances that influenced my definition of romance, I realized there wasn’t one real relationship among them—they all exist in a two-dimensional universe: film.
Thus, my epiphany: movies have ruined my life. Books have no doubt added to the damage— Jake and Brett, Catherine and Frederic, Lily and Selden, Catherine and Heathcliff and Romeo and Juliet break my heart every time I re-visit them—but my most vivid connections to fictional romance have been conveyed through film.
I can’t recall a time when I didn’t love movies. My father introduced me to classics like The Godfather, High Noon and Bridge on the River Kwai. My mother introduced me to slapstick comedy—she loves High Anxiety, Young Frankenstein and Airplane! Often it was her reaction—if you know my mom, you can picture her chuckling away—to broad comedies that amused me more than the actual movie. She also loves horror films; I love the fact that while most kids were shielded from scary movies, my mother actually called me into the room to watch Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street with her. If it was cheesy and scary, we watched it. One of her favorite horror films is a cheese-fest called Happy Birthday to Me; in it, there’s a scene in which the killer brutally and hilariously kills her lover by shoving a shish kebob down his throat. This scene cracks my mother up. Her deep appreciation for both smart humor and cheeky horror definitely added to my reverence of film.
However, at some point, my love affair with movies turned on me. I’m not satisfied—in fact, I’m disappointed with—the ordinary and uninspired aspects of everyday life, especially in regard to endings. I crave the drama of movie endings—the theatrics and suspense, the convergence of emotions, the tension of a compelling finale. I want the underdog to win, I want love to conquer all and I want everyone’s lives improved, even though I know life doesn’t function in this manner. I was devastated when the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. New York City had been torn asunder by 9/11, literally and figuratively—how could our home team, the celebrated New York Yankees, not win the World Series? It would have been a storybook ending—a movie ending—that my city deserved.
Thus my lifelong love for movies has become problematic. I always look for the dramatic ending, the grand gesture. I want a life-changing epiphany, a torrential rainstorm, a David vs. Goliath victory. I want star-crossed lovers to reunite. I cannot fathom why my Ex doesn’t show up on my doorstep to declare I am all that matters to her—she was put on this earth to love me—not because I think I’m so fabulous but because it would be so very romantic, like Fred and Holly Golightly in the pouring rain searching for Cat.
Reality is boring, and difficult, and more often than not, sad or disappointing, but not in a poignant, cinematic way. Is it so wrong to want life to be more vivid, more touching, more romantic? Is it too much to ask for a little more drama and a little less heartbreak? After all, in the end, Lassie does come home; Luke, Leia and Han Solo do defeat the Dark Side; Harry does love Sally; Willy is eventually free; Edward does climb up to Vivian; Maverick does prove his worth; Amanda Jones does stand on her own two feet; Diane does fall for Lloyd Dobler; the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal do become friends; the St. Elmo’s group does grow up; Dan and Debbie do get back together; Princess Buttercup and Wesley do live happily ever after; Thelma and Louise do find freedom; Red and Andy do reunite in Zihuatanejo; Erin Brockovich does defeat PG&E, Seabiscuit does win the race; and Ennis del Mar does love Jack Twist forever.