a very short movie review: ordinary people (1980: oscar movie # 9)
my summary skills are spotty at best. it’s a particular skill, and a useful one at that. it’s why we love quotes, song lyrics, poetry, as it captures a world of meaning and poignancy in a form fit for your pocket, where you can take it with you every day. it’s something i ask students to do in classes, and it’s something i am asked to do often, but really…i’m not always the best at distilling the art of an entire work (book, film, the television series the bachelorette) into a bumper sticker synopsis. or, as the former boss of the wife of my former co-worker insisted on his employees admitting rather than blaming something else:
i just don’t make it my highest priority.
you know, in case you were wondering why my movie reviews are relayed in the post-movie conversations between the boy and i.
also? i like the conversations we have, and imagined parts of them. he’s a perfect straight man in our duo, in every sense of the word.
after this movie, however, we sat in silence for awhile. no conversation for a weighty movie, for a few minutes. our conversation after hopped many continents and universes, prompted by the emotions of the film, and with that i will refrain from boring you.
instead, you lucky reader, i give the bits of the movie that kept rattling around my head the next day. the ones that cause time to stand still just a minute as they clarify portions of your life. no context given; this is all i have for you. go with it:
Jeannine: Can you ever break the ball?
Conrad Jarrett: You can’t break the ball. Can’t break the floor. Can’t break anything in a bowling alley. And that’s what I like about bowling alleys. Can’t even break the record.
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*this exchange, by the way, could be a verbatim transcript of more conversations between the boy and i than you could imagine.
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Beth Jarrett: Calvin? Why are you crying? Can I, uh… can I get you something?
Calvin Jarrett: I don’t…
Beth Jarrett: What did you say? Calvin, what did you say? Tell me!
Calvin Jarrett: You are beautiful. And you are unpredictable. But you’re so cautious. You’re determined, Beth; but you know something? You’re not strong. And I don’t know if you’re really giving. Tell me something. Do you love me? You really love me?
Beth Jarrett: I feel the way I’ve always felt about you.
Calvin Jarrett: We would have been all right if there hadn’t been any mess. But you can’t handle mess. You need everything neat and easy. I don’t know. Maybe you can’t love anybody. It was so much Buck. When Buck died, it was like you buried all your love with him, and I don’t understand that, I just don’t know, I don’t… maybe it wasn’t even Buck; maybe it was just you. Maybe, finally, it was the best of you that you buried. But whatever it was… I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what we’ve been playing at. So I was crying. Because I don’t know if I love you any more. And I don’t know what I’m going to do without that.*
*this scene, this created a stillness in the room that was palpable, weighted with sadness. i love movies that can do that to you.
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so, what is this movie about? well…ordinary people. the best kind.