Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Movies To Cry For

My friend Cristina told me she had caught The Bridges of Madison County on cable last week. She'd seen it before, she said, but this time it really hit her. She started crying about halfway through and couldn't stop.

I had to confess that I'd seen the first ten minutes and couldn't take any more. Not that I found it sad; I found it dead boring. I didn't want to insult her--I know many people who loved the book and the movie and found them both overwhelmingly moving. I couldn't finish the book and disliked the movie even more. But I didn't want to sound like a heartless ice queen type; I can hardly watch any movie without a tear or two rolling down one cheek or the other--even a comedy.

I tried to think of a movie that did me in as that one did Cristina. I lay awake that night and couldn't think of one. I dug down deep into my childhood (we all cried when Beth died in Little Women, in the book too). As a teenager I wept at the field of dying soldiers in Gone With the Wind, was wiped out by the innocent naif Leslie Caron in Lili (I was an innocent naif too). I cried when it looked as if Doris Day had married the wrong man (Frank Sinatra) in Young at Heart while smoothie Gig Young still loved her. As a young bride I was inconsolable when Richard Baseheart died in La Strada ("The fool is dead, Zampano! The fool won't laugh any more!"), and cried inspired tears when Charlie Chaplin taught Claire Bloom to walk in Limelight. I made the decision in that darkened theater to audition for Actors' Studio, which I did within months.

Other "weeper" movies did nothing for me. I couldn't tolerate the characters in Love Story, and didn't buy that love means never having to say you're sorry. I missed Somewhere in Time, but have seen bits of it on television. I love The Sound of Music, but mostly for that Austrian folk dance and the song "I Must Have Done Something Right." I'm a bit of a sucker for Christopher Plummer. I know he hated working on the movie and called it "The Sound of Mucous," but it didn't make me cry.

I lost it at Beaches. At the time I saw it my flamboyant lifelong best friend had mysterious symptoms and was seeing a doctor--the movie was a glimpse of the future for me and it was cathartic to have my worst fears played out before they came true.

Why The Bridges of Madison County didn't work for me I'm not sure. I really kind of like being manipulated by clever authors even when I know they are doing it, but this seemed formulaic and predictable to me. The characters didn't seem real in the book and less so as impersonated by Clint Eastwood (too old) and Meryl Streep (not sexy enough). Don't get me wrong, I admire both actors, but they didn't suit their roles--maybe it's because I know them too well. Had the film starred two unknowns I might have been able to suspend disbelief.

Reading this, you will think of movies that made you wish for a whole box of Kleenex instead of the one ragged one you'd been keeping in your purse for months. Maybe there are men who cry at movies too. Let me know which ones did it for you.


Steve said...

The movie "Iris", I saw it Sunday Night on PBS I think... Judi Dench played the life of Iris Murdoch, the most accurate portrayal.

Anonymous said...

When I was a teenager I saw the movie "Back Street" with Susan Hayward and I think John Gavin. I cried so hard.

Mary Lois said...

Oh, yeah, all those 1950's Lana Turner tearjerkers like Imitation of Life!

I never saw them. Maybe that's why I didn't respond to The Bridges of Madison County. I probably cried at Tammy and the Bachelor.

Steve said...

Old Yeller was quite the tear-jerker as well.

ItalianConnie said...

My all-time fav is "An Affair to Remember". I, too, saw "Back Street" and shed many tears. The strange thing is that we belong to Netflix and I asked for "Back Street" and they do not have it. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

On Golden Pond was quite sad, in my opinion.

Mary Lois said...

"Iris" I know is sad, because of the subject matter--and I've avoided it. "On Golden Pond" was as sad for the underlay of the Fondas trying to deal with each other at last as it was for its own sake. I found it sad too, but not bawling-out-loud sad.

There's a beautiful movie in which Julie Christie is put in an assisted living facility as she's developing Alzheimer's--I think it's called "Away from Her," but it's not so much sad as touching, very very touching.

Anonymous said...

"It takes a big man to cry, but it takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man" -Doug Campbell

...and I suppose it takes a very small man to post surly but anonymous commentary.

jaques mullet said...

Sure, I do. But not because of empathy with characters. Rather, it is due to the person's efforts at playing a character. Stories of success and tragedy are all around unceasingly, but personal
interacton, with those who actually go beyond reality in character, causes an empathic response from me in their success of it. When realizing that effort has caused me to 'believe' or suspend my disbelief, tears roll. I have difficulty controlling my voice. I find the effect annoying since I have to do oral critiques, ya know. Movie crying is more for the story and no so much for the actual people/actors.
I remember that our efforts in "Dancing at Lughnasa" drew many tears in the tiny, awkward 3/4 stage space of Theatre 98. I remeber ML saying that Merril S. was in the movie.
My response was......for you.

Mary Lois said...

Don't make me cry, Jacques Mullet. It was in another country and in another time. But most people find it much more difficult to cry at a stage play than at a movie. So, thank you for that!

littlebug-peg said...

I love movies that make me laugh and cry at the same time. When my daughter and I saw "Joy Luck Club" in '94, we could hardly walk out of the theater. We weren't the only ones, either. I found the book equally moving.

As for "Bridges..." I, too, have seen it recently (again). It always makes me cry; I guess I must love the experience because I'm often surprised at what I'll cry at.