Dani’s MOTM (Movie of the Moment)

28 Jan

In addition to being one of my favorite movies of all time, Beautiful Girls (directed by Ted Demme) is my movie of the moment.  I got a chance to gush about it at work today when a colleague mentioned it, and nobody else knew about it.  Or, more likely, they just hadn’t seen the movie in its entirety, so never placed the quote from the Taking Back Sunday song, or recognized Knight’s Ridge when it showed up again in the short-lived series October Road.  

But I digress.  The movie follows Willie Conway (played by my celebrity-crush Timothy Hutton) as he returns from NYC to small-town Knight’s Ridge for a high school reunion.  He finds everything as he left it, and spends cold nights in warm pubs shooting the shit and making “a decision about life.  A life decision if you will.”  A gorgeous out-of-towner and a prepubescent neighbor both complicate and clarify matters for him.  [Warning: spoilers, and anything of substance actually worth reading, after the picture].

As the movie follows this group of guys so utterly preoccupied with physically flawless women–and one inappropriately preoccupied with a thirteen year old–the tension between idealism and realism shows itself in multiple ways.  Ten years out of high school, these guys cling to the memories of their proverbial glory days full of promise.

On the surface of things, this movie should infuriate me.  Why “Girls” and not “Women?”  And who are these schmoes to think that anything less than Uma-Thurman-hot is just a let-down?  And I do get mad watching it; I practically yell “sing it, sister!” as Gina rails against unrealistic images of beauty:

But it’s easy to see that the perky implants and shaved pubes of the PentHouse model are just a metaphor for all the other unrealistic expectations we hold in life.  As this group of friends enters their late twenties (ancient, I know!), they need to decide what they should hold on to, and what they need to let go of.  A life of working all day, drinking all night, and ogling models isn’t quite as fulfilling as sharing ice-cold martinis and Van Morrison with the love of your life.

There’s one scene in this movie that always depresses me.  When he, Paul, and Kev are sitting around rating women (ugh!), Willie rates his current flame Tracy as “a good…solid…seven and a half.”  The sigh in his voice always sounds to me more like resignation than contentment.  He realizes that it’s foolish to forgo his current, perfectly adequate situation in hopes of something more promising down the road.  On the plus side, Willie’s decision to commit to Tracy represents his willingness to start living life instead of waiting for life to happen to him.  He sees his friends stagnate as they wait for “tens,” and consciously decides to move forward.

That sigh, though, gets me every time.  Where’s the line between getting your head out of the clouds (or, in the case of this particular group of guys, getting your head out of your ass), and just giving up?  How do you know if you’re accepting reality or just settling?

If promise is truly “the single greatest commodity known to man,” when is the right time to stop hoarding it, and finally trade it in?


4 Responses to “Dani’s MOTM (Movie of the Moment)”

  1. shendi January 31, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    i have…. never heard of this. let’s watch it together when you get LESS BUSY!!!!! ;D

  2. Daniel March 2, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    Insightful analysis. I like your question at the end, it really gets to the heart of the film.

    “But it’s easy to see that the perky implants and shaved pubes of the PentHouse model are just a metaphor for all the other unrealistic expectations we hold in life.”

    Don’t you find the use of women as a metaphor for men’s expectations a bit belittling, though?

    • thoroughly modern milli vanilli March 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

      In theory, I do find it a bit belitting.
      But in this movie I think it’s used in a realistic way. As in, the guys’ obsession with women’s bodies is very much mixed in with their search for promise in their own, confused heads. And I think it ultimately shows that using superficial beauty as a salve for dissatisfaction in other facets of life is untenable. No?


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