Why are movies important?
I have a friend who pooh-poohs movies. Sort of sets movies against books. Which got me to thinking about why I like movies, what they do for me, what they do for us as a culture. It’s a pretty broad topic with endless possibilities. For now, I’m thinking about the value of seeing a little piece of myself up on the screen.
For instance, what do I – a forty-something woman – have in common with any of the characters in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”?
I certainly don’t look like the beautiful Miss Watson, aka, Sam. All the characters are from a very solid, middle-class background. I grew up in apartments with 3 siblings and a single mom. I had a different kind of experience with friends in high school. Yet I did recognize and feel Charlie’s isolation and hope. I did resonate with Sam’s vulnerability when she reveals a past that she’s determined to escape being defined by. I could feel the 3 main characters’ resilience and determination to figure something out about who they are and are not. And the idea that we all “accept the love we think we deserve” is an arrow into the yearnings of the heart.
While I read the “Perks” book and felt the Charlie and the Sam and the Patrick in the pages long before the movie was made, there is something different about seeing the movie unfold in the theater.
The book is a solitary experience that we then, hopefully, share one-on-one or in small groups of friends and acquaintances. The movie and its characters, shared with friends and strangers alike, gives us a common point of reference as a community of consciousness. Of course, there won’t be complete agreement on everything seen or felt about the film and its characters. But I have a subtle hope that if other people can see and resonate with the people up there on the screen, then maybe – when the lights come up and we’re all shuffling towards the exit – we might look at each other with a little more empathy and kindness. Something I think we all deserve.
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