Finished “The Man Who Fell to Earth” this morning. A little depressing. It’s heralded as one of the few “realistic” attempts to write about what it might be like to be an alien from outer space living on this planet. The alien comes here intending to build a ship to help the few survivors on his home planet come to Earth, but after five years actually living on Earth, he decides it’s better if all his friends and relatives back home die off and he himself becomes a pathetic drunk.
I’m sure there’s lots of themey goodness here about alienation, loneliness, the wretchedness of human nature and blah blah blibbitey blah, but I don’t get this whole it’s-only-realistic-if-it’s-depressing-and-pessimistic thing. Honestly, the human race has survived for milennia, and sometimes we’ve even had fun!
Which brings me to “Tuck Everlasting”. This was a little nugget. A tightly-plotted fantasy gem with uplifting themes like embracing life and the joy of family and you know, the kind of movie where the greedy snively little guy bites it at the end. Plus gorgeous forest scenery and wonderful prose that is probably from some original book it was based on.
I watch movies like this and after I’m done being misty-eyed at the end, think, “Why can’t I plot my stories like this?” It has the pensive, beautiful introduction to the main character and her basic conflict, the build up of tension with the whole we-might-be-discovered story line, the lazy, happy middle with the romance between Jesse and Winifred, and then the climax as the forces building up throughout the movie all come together–the greedy guy hunting down the Tucks, Winifred’s father actually suceeding in finding his lost daughter, the arrest of the Tucks and Winifred helping to free them. And in the process of knowing them, freeing herself. Well, freeing herself as much as an early-20th century woman could ever be free.
I think the climax in my own story happens in the middle of the novel and then things just sort of slide to a finish for the second half of the book. Hmmm. Hard to say with as many story lines as I’ve got.
The other movie I rented was a film-festival debut called “Under One Roof” about a gay man who rents an apartment in the home of a Chinese-American family in San Francisco. Of course, the Chinese son is gay himself, but living a closeted life with his mother and grandmother, who are trying to marry him off. This movie had some awkward production values and some mediocre acting, but it was very, very, sweet. The film-maker was obviously a professional, but on a very slim budget. It seemed as if he just got his neighborhood buddies together and said, “help me make a movie”.
But that was part of the appeal. You definitely felt like you’d stepped into somebody’s house and were just watching them live their lives. Had almost a “reality tv” feel for it, except with an actual plot and a homey warmth and genuineness to it you don’t get in those exhibitionist reality shows.
Give you hope that just showing people struggling to make things work–and succeeding for the most part–will still sell tickets. Or books.