Your Mileage May Vary

A couple of weeks, I stumbled across this post on Mighty God King. The topic is movie geek Harry Knowles’ review of Toy Story 3 and the fact Knowles isn’t happy with the ending. While Knowles understands the point of Woody, Buzz & Co. passing to a new owner, he just can’t get past the fact that Andy is giving away his favorite toys. Whatever the emotional or plot logic in the story, that’s so antithetical to Knowles he just can’t accept it.
The post mocks him. I find myself a little more sympathetic. I know I react to certain movie elements in ways the creators didn’t intend, just because of who I am. I’m not talking about triggering events where something comes too close to personal trauma, or about the generic “personal taste” but about stuff that falls in-between them.
Case in point: Making Mr. Right (1987). In this film, frustrated career woman Ann Magnuson falls for John Malkovich’s lookalike android, which is intended to fly a deep-space probe. The android, untouched by the world, is the sweet living innocent Magnuson wants for a lover, so the happy ending is for Malkovich, who wants nothing more than to be left alone, to swap places with his android. The android gets Magnuson, Malkovich gets total isolation.
I doubt I’d have cared much for the move in any case (among other things, I think the sweetness of the android is a child’s innocence——he simply hasn’t had time to learn to be anything else——and that’s not a good basis for an adult relationship) but I really, really hated the ending. I’ve had long periods in my life where I was kind of lonely and the idea of choosing isolation when you have alternatives is anathema to me. I had the same reaction when I read a Trek fanfic with a similar theme in college, and to the antisocial protagonist of the movie Pi. In real life, I can accept that people feel differently from me; in fiction, I cannot get over my gut-reaction of My God, Are You Insane? (If Malkovich’s drive had been to go out in space personally while everyone in NASA insisted he stay in the lab, I’d have had no problem).
The flip side of this, for those of us who write as well as read/watch, is that it can be a mistake to assume readers/viewers will share our gut reactions. If Knowles had written the movie to have Andy not give up the toys but stuff them in the attic instead, he’d probably feel better, but I don’t think it would have worked half so well.
Or consider a writer who believes that the man should be the breadwinner in the family, and that it’s perfectly natural and fair to resent a wife who makes more money. And that the happy ending is the wife realizing she’s castrating her husband and taking a lower-paying job.
It’s true issues such as these do crop up in families, but I think a lot of readers would feel decidedly unsatisfied at an ending like that. Doubly so if the writer doesn’t make any effort to show why the characters feel like this: If he just assumes everyone will get it, it’s going to be a lot harder to swallow.

3 Comments

Filed under Movies, Personal, Writing

3 responses to “Your Mileage May Vary

  1. Pingback: Love is a many splendored thing « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: If you like the movie « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: This time it’s personal (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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