Last weekend I had a bit of a movie kick. Really, it’s been all month-long. February tends to bring out the melancholy in me. I lost my dad over eight years ago, and the day of the year that I miss him the most is Valentine’s Day.
In my gloomy state I decided to rent a few of the movies that I couldn’t wait to watch on cable, and since I don’t have a Netflix account I hit up the Red Box. In the course of three nights I watched Crazy Stupid Love, 50/50, and Midnight in Paris. These movies have quite a bit in common, and perhaps even more that’s dissonant, but the overall theme that rang true for me, and which I was apparently looking for, was pure love.
Pure love is different from romantic love which was also present in all of these movies. Pure love, as I use the term, reflects the way we open our hearts to the people around us. It is my belief, and the way I live my life, that we are meant to open our hearts to each other. This may not be the first thing you think about when you think about the movie where Ryan Gosling’s abs look photo shopped, that cancer movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the one where Owen Wilson wanders his way into 1920s Paris. But it is what I think of when I reflect on them.
Crazy Stupid Love focuses on the unraveling life of Cal Weaver. The crux of this move is the love, perhaps the crazy, stupid love he feels for his family and the lengths he will go to in order to protect that family. The audience can also see the effects of his love in the actions undertaken by his children. Yes, there is a romantic love story here as well, several actually, but what stood out to me was the selflessness of the love Cal had for his family and the lengths he was willing to go for them. In 50/50 a similar dynamic is enacted, but in a very different arena.
When we meet Adam he is in a relationship that is already in decline, and by the end of the movie he is starting a new romantic relationship with Katherine, his former therapist-in-training. But the most important arc in the story of Adam’s battle against cancer is perhaps that of Adam and Kyle his best friend, played by Seth Rogan with the insight which only having lived through a similar situation can provide. Kyle is loyal to Adam in ways that not many friends would be given the situation, and even though he doesn’t always show it, he loves Adam as if he was himself, and does what he can to protect him and care for him through the course of the cancer treatment. This is what true friendship based on a pure love for another looks like, even when it doesn’t always look pretty.
So how does Midnight in Paris line up with these other two? Midnight in Paris is the story of an American writer, Gil, disillusioned by the formulaic writing he has been producing for the movie industry and wants to write a novel, to create true art. It is his love affair with Paris, especially in the rain, and the mystic journey he takes back in time to his idea of the best time inParis’ history, the 1920s, that the audience witnesses the pure love he has for the artists of the day and the inspiration he draws from the exchanges he is allowed each night. Again, there is a romantic love arc, where Owen Wilson’s Gil falls head over heels for Marion Cotillard’s Adriana, but her infatuation with the grand epoch shows Gil that his own fascination with the roaring twenties and the ex-pat community cannot last, and that he must return to his own life, and go back to loving these artists from afar.
So what does it all mean? I don’t know. I know that depictions of pure love: love of family, the love of true friends, the love of art and culture and the desire to create are all great things and their value should not be overlooked. Especially in a world which is overly focused on romantic love.