Until last week, I didn’t notice the listening

One of the things that I regret about my looming deadline is that I keep noticing new stuff about the movies I’m writing about. It makes me wonder if waiting another six months would have allowed me to uncover some other amazing insight — but I don’t have six months, so it’s a moot point.

It was while writing about Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) that something new struck me. The core relationship in the film is between Matthew (Donald Sutherland) and Elizabeth (Brooke Adams). Unlike Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter in the original film, they’re not lovers but best friends. The movie does show they have romantic feelings for each other at the end, which annoys me — I’m not a big fan of friends-to-lovers tropes and their friendship makes the film enough of a tragedy.

What I noticed is that Matthew listens to Elizabeth. When she tells him that her boyfriend has been replaced by a stranger he doesn’t believe her, but he doesn’t laugh or tell her she’s imagining things. He suggests she’s picking up on something she can’t define — Geoffrey’s having an affair, say — and suggests she meet Matt’s psychiatrist friend Kibner  (Leonard Nimoy) who can help her dig into it.

Kibner does not, as it turns out, help her. When she tells him her problems, he talks over her and hands out a canned solution, the same one he applied to another woman having the same fears about her husband. People are just getting into marriage too fast, without really knowing what they want, then they rationalize an excuse for leaving. Matthew tries to make him listen to Elizabeth but Kibner talks over him too. While they don’t emphasize the contrast, I think it’s noteworthy.

Then there’s the love thing. Much as I dislike it, they do it well. There’s never any indication Matthew feels he’s been friend-zoned or that he resents being Elizabeth’s friend instead of her lover. She’s made her choice, he’s not it; he may regret that but he accepts it. Their friendship is real, not some strategy to eventually win her away from Geoffrey.

That’s pretty cool.

#SFWapro. All rights to image remain with current holder.


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