Ever watch a movie and as the end approaches or comes upon you, you think to yourself, “I really wish that there were a sequel to this?” That happened to me the other night while watching a movie called “What Maisie Knew.”
For all the movies that I watch, some of my favorite movies are the ones that I watch where I know nothing about them in advance, obscure films that somehow eluded me as they journeyed through the theaters. Of course, nowadays, that seems to be a much easier feat as the journey from screen to DVD or Blu-Ray is much faster than the days of waiting years for the VHS price of a movie to drop below $50. But I digress.
Without giving up too much of this film, it’s an adaptation of a book about a little girl whose parents are in the midst of a custody battle for her. Her mother, played by Julianne Moore, is a struggling rockstar, desperately insecure and aging in a business where the young thrive and the old just fade away. Her father, played by Steve Coogan, is an art dealer who is constantly traveling internationally. After their divorce, they both quickly find engage in new marriages of convenience to find someone who can watch Maisie, their six year old daughter.
The whole film is portrayed from the perspective of the little girl, which makes it that much more painful to endure. As you catch the one-sided phone conversations that she hears, the arguments that ensue within earshot, and the downright awkward moments when she finds herself somewhere, left for strangers to care for her, it makes your heart break for this little girl who is caught in the middle of two people who can’t seem to figure out that there are other people in the world besides themselves.
As I watched the movie, it reiterated the feelings that I have had in the past when I have wondered why there are certain people who so desperately want to have children who are unable to while others who seem to care little about their own flesh and blood children seem to conceive if you look at them funny. It’s hard to find justice in that and I’ve had many a conversation with God over instances such as these in light of close friends who have been on the receiving end of this injustice.
One of my all time favorite films is Ron Howard’s “Parenthood.” While it probably did fairly well at the box office, I’m not sure that it ever got the recognition that it deserved, although it did recently spin off a television sitcom which probably has little resemblance to the film. Many actors and actresses star in the film and many newcomers seem to have propelled their careers along. A very young Joaquin Phoenix can be seen (going by the name Leaf Phoenix) as well as a young and goofy Keanu Reeves.
In the film, Keanu Reeves’ character, Tod, has struggled to find his place and his family life is far from functional. His girlfriend’s mother wants to find out what’s going on in the life of her son, who desperately needs a father figure in his life. Tod describes his own experience with a father to her and says, “You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car – hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming a_____e be a father.” It’s a line that has stuck with me since the first time I saw the movie and resonates with every additional viewing.
But as I watched “What Maisie Knew,” I wondered how it would turn out for this little girl. How would her character be impacted by the turmoil that she was experiencing at such a young age? How would this divorce and custody battle between two selfish people play out in her self-image? What would she look like years after the events in this film?
We live in a transient society, things are constantly changing, people are constantly moving, tastes and styles are always changing. We hear of celebrity couples who, if they made the jump to even get married to begin with, come to the end of their relationship and call it “conscious uncoupling” rather than what it really is: divorce. Why can’t we call it what it is?
I’m not trying to come across as perfect, I fall far from that qualification, but watching films like this and wondering how stories like this play out in real life certainly makes me think through the impact that my own decisions have on those around me. Despite popular belief, the decisions that I make and the impacts of them are not limited to me. How will the good or bad decisions that I make have an impact not only in the here and now but in the future as well?
I love films that make me think, I love films that evoke some strong emotion from me. While mindless action or comedies might have their place, I would much rather watch a film that causes me to think, that stretches my thinking, and that makes me ask questions of myself and others. I would much rather watch a movie that begs for a sequel so that I can find out how it all turns out in the end. How about you?