There were long stretches in our 20’s and 30’s when Anthony and I watched at least 10 new-to-us movies a week, no exaggeration. We would probably still do it if we could, if jobs and children and living in Wisconsin didn’t intervene. We saw nearly every movie available in every theater in the Washington, D.C. area, including the art houses and foreign film venues. We rented movies with and without friends, drinking and ranting. We stayed up into the middle of the night watching oldies on rerun channels. We marathoned Bogart, noir, Kurosawa, Eastwood, rom-coms, Merchant Ivory, Bergman, trash action, Japanese anime. We didn’t worry about previews; we avoided them if possible. Even a bad movie is pretty good if you have no idea what it’s about before it starts.
I’ve searched my blog and it appears that, incredibly, I’ve never shared this story here: we watched The Matrix blind, having never seen a single trailer for it. I remember simply hearing that a new Keanu Reeves movie was out, called Matrix. Anthony rolled his eyes as I keened excitedly about Keanu, and then he grudgingly went to the theater with me. We had no idea what was going on plot-wise, and it was spectacular. (Anthony’s guilty pleasure is Point Break, and we both enjoy John Wick, so it looks like Keanu finally won him over.)
Oddly enough, my kids don’t seem to be very into cinema. They don’t even want to watch Christmas movies with us, which we’ve been doing relentlessly since Thanksgiving. I don’t get it. Movies offer so much escapism and imagination, and dramatized opportunities for cathartic release. Jesse and Nick don’t seem to want much to do with that scene.
But today Jesse came out of school, flopped into the car, and announced, “I wanna watch some Jim Carrey films.”
In parenthood, you learn to roll with the inexplicable punches.
She had seen a youtube vid during a break at school, showing Carrey’s best improv moments in films. I told her a bit about his weird sense of humor — I thought of Dumb and Dumber, The Truman Show, Liar Liar, In Living Color. I know he made some reasonably good films, and I used to be really entertained by him. But he’s a particular brand of strong cheese, like Will Ferrell or Eddie Murphy, and I eventually wearied of his style.
We got home and looked him up on IMDB. We settled on Ace Ventura Pet Detective, for a first watch. Anthony rented it on Amazon and… I couldn’t do it. I didn’t feel like watching that kind of stupid tonight. I hung out in the kitchen for a while and then went upstairs and lay in bed, playing stupid casual games on my phone.
But I couldn’t avoid the sounds. First there were the weird noises Jim Carrey himself makes, which, without visual inputs, are truly bizarre. And then… there was Jesse.
Just a couple hours earlier, she had told me she was sad for no reason. This is very common for her, a function perhaps of clinical depression, anxiety, the alienation and loneliness that accompany her mental health disabilities, being 15, the year 2020. When she says it – “Mom, I feel sad for no reason” – it doesn’t come across passionate or desperate. She seems more fatalistic, wistful even, and tired.
I should have grown used to her expressing this feeling by now, but it still kicks me in the gut every time. It feels like there’s nothing I can do for her. But I have a mantra, when she’ll listen. Go do something to distract yourself. Go outside. Look up. Read a book. Draw. Make music. Watch a movie. I love you.
Tonight, the movie magic happened. She wandered around the house in embarrassment during the most humiliating scenes. I lazed on the bed, listening to her giggle, comment, groan, squeal, and laugh. The sound of her light-hearted enjoyment landed on my ears like a soft snowfall that leaves me smiling, but with a small sense of awe – just a little bit bracing, peaceful, and very beautiful.