Yesterday I watched Robert Redford die — slowly and tortuously — for two hours.
I was watching his new movie, All Is Lost, which is killing it on Rotten Tomatoes (currently rocking a 94% rating). I left the theater feeling heavy, sad, despondent. It was rough. I didn’t much care for it.
That’s not to say All Is Lost is a bad movie. It’s well-made, and Robert Redford is a solid actor.
But Jesus! what a draining way to spend an afternoon.
My Nineteen-Year-Old Self Is So Ashamed Right Now
Now, I’m saying all this as Present Tense Jason, who is very different from Jason of Yore; in fact, the latter would spit right in my face for what I’m about to say.
As I’ve gotten (somewhat) older and seen (a bit) more of the world, I’ve lost interest in the movies that used to top my list. Gone are the days of repeated viewings of A Clockwork Orange; no longer do I want to sit down and really experience a film like Requiem for a Dream.
I still think they’re good movies — great ones, even — but goddamn are they depressing.
When I was a kid it was important to me that my movie choices felt authentic, and didn’t cloud the story with fluffy Hollywood nonsense. I wanted heroes who could die, and stories that twisted and turned and gave you hope before killing the main character — y’know, because life is like that sometimes.
Art Imitating Life
Every year I read about some movie that raises the bar for authenticity. Some movie about Osama Bin Laden put all the actors through real military training, or some French filmmaker had his actors actually have sex during the love scenes. Even the superhero movies are coming up with as-plausible-as-you-can-make-a-superhero-backstory origin stories — apparently so we can all avoid the burden of suspending our disbelief for 105 minutes.
It’s all pushing toward a true-to-life experience. And a good portion of it is terribly hard to watch because it’s so depressing.
Make ‘Em Laugh
You can take away my cinephile card if you want, but these days, I just want to be entertained, not bashed in the skull repeatedly with an emotional sledgehammer. I’m sick of feeling bad when the credits start rolling, or after finishing a book.
I want to hear a great story about characters that make me want to be better, filled with heroes who win by being smarter and more determined than the villains; about couples who believe so deeply in true love that even insurmountable obstacles can be surmounted; about wizened old mentors who teach just the right lesson at just the right moment.
I want things to work out in the end.
I know life is hard, and that not everything ends well. There are little reminders of life’s hardships and inconveniences all over the place.
Why, then, would I want additional reminders while I’m trying to relax and take my mind off the world’s ills?
Just Be Awesome
It’s not that I want nothing but romantic comedies. I just want more stories involving people being awesome, and that leave me feeling better than when I started.
What are your favorite feel-good movies and books? Let me know in the Facebook discussion!
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