Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Movies, Addiction, Dementia, Control?

Rachel Getting MarriedImage via Wikipedia

If you drop by occasionally, you may have seen my post about the movie "Slumdog Millionaire." I had some question in that post about whether viewing movies of poverty, torture, real life, fantasy, etc. is entertainment or not. I received some great comments both pro and con on the issue. Since that post, I've had the opportunity to view two more movies - "Rachel Getting Married" and "The Savages."

From the outset, "Rachel" did not qualify as a movie that I felt would be light entertainment. I ordered it from Netflix as I had read of the outstanding performance of Anne Hathaway in the role of a recovering addict. I've enjoyed her roles in other movies and wanted to see her perform in something other than a pretty fairytale movie. Well, she did act her role both well and convincingly as an addicted family member, the struggles she had in addiction recovery, the struggle for her family, and for her friends in relation to her addiction. Having some years of personal experience with addicts I suppose I thought I would just steel myself against the story of how sad and overwhelming an addicted person's struggle is in life and how a family can never "cure" the addict but often unknowingly contributes to the addict's angst during the addiction and recovery periods. It was tougher to watch than I suspected and found myself fast forwarding some of the scenes. I wondered why I had chosen to place myself in such a familiar sad story.

But wait a minute, the next movie I watched was so poignantly close to home that I could have almost written the script - albeit, there would have been two sisters and a brother in the sibling roles and the father would have been a mother, etc. That movie was "The Savages." I had seen a clip of it and I rented this one out of, I expect, morbid curiosity about the story line. I had lived the story of searching for that "perfect, idyllic setting" in which to place one's parent for keeping - feeding, cleaning, manicuring, diapering, if necessary. This movie was played out in my family approximately 8 years ago when my brother, sister, and I had to make the decision to move our Mother out of the care of her husband into a professional "assisted living" facility. We were extremely fortunate that our step parent had taken such excellent care of the woman he and we loved and kept her living at home as long as he possibly could. There was no other choice left for us as his health and ability to continue her care had become inadequate, threatening his own well-being and the literal safety of their home.

At any rate, here I was watching yet another movie that was definitely NOT entertainment for me. Yet, I was mesmerized at the authenticity of the movie sibs' discovering their father's dementia, their individual acceptance and denial of the issue, their search for the RIGHT place in the midst of their own tumultuous and unsettled lives. I cried when they cried, I felt their pain as I had experienced their pain, their guilt.

NOW, I ask you readers, why was it - in your humble opinions - that I was able to watch this true to life portrayal of a very sad situation - no fast forwarding, a great deal of inner turmoil, a lingering feeling of relating to the fictional characters? Where was the line that I drew that enabled me to watch a scene so familiar, though painful to relive? I've asked for your answers but I find I have developed an answer of my own even as I compose this post.

I believe for me it's possibly all about control. On the wide screen (or my little Netflix production) when millions suffer, when injustice and cruelty is the overarching theme before me, when the evil overwhelmingly crushes the innocent, I feel helpless and not up to the test of abolishing that portrayal of darkness. Helpless and fearful knowing that evil is so convincingly portrayed as imagined and witnessed in this world. "The Savages" story line was familiar and even though I knew the ultimate end of my Mother's placement, our decision, she would most likely be in a nursing home with none of us with her at the moment of death, I had some control over manipulating the circumstances that would keep her safe and comfortable until that time. I could relate to the movie because the brother and sister came to grips with the fact that their control of their parent's life was the only control they had. They could NOT prevent the death nor the dementia - they could only manipulate the care and comfort of their charge.

So yes, I think I've discovered my issue with movies and those I will select and enjoy, those I will fast forward, and those that I won't bother to hit anything but the delete key! But still, do you think it's about control?

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  1. Yes, I do think it's about control. In the case of one individual (the parent with dementia), we can at least have some control over the care of the individual if not of the outcome. However, with issues like poverty, especially of the scope I presume is portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire, there seem to be far fewer ways to control any aspect of it. That quickly becomes overwhelming to me. I feel incapable of dealing with it, so I don't want to be drawn into emotionally, even if it's "only a movie." That said, sometimes movies/books like that end up being food for thought, not necessarily a bad thing!

  2. Hey MS, thanks for the comment. Yeah, the more I thought about it, the more I realized the control issue is what's at play for me. And, yes even the worst books or movies generally still give one a lot to consider and learn by.

    I enjoyed the book you guys recommended "same kind of different as me" - a lot to learn in that one!

    Thanks again for the comments!


  3. LL - yikes - ain't it the truth?! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. You? control? is there a question in there somewhere? ;-) i have not yet seen "rachel", but am pretty sure it's on my netflix short list. i really did not enjoy "the savages" at all and believe i recall mentioning that to my sister awhile back...just more proof that we all must make our own decisions. xoxo

  5. Hi Lucy,

    Control? Well some things do seem common to one's genes. I think there must be persons in this world who do NOT actually seek control, I just don't "bump" up against them as much:) that's logical isn't it - I mean the definite bumping against others seeking control of our same situations!

    The movies - good luck with Rachel - and yes, I was surprised that I lasted well with "The Savages". Maybe because I've made peace with the decisions that were made w/my own mother. I think you must have that same peace w/decisions and actions regarding your mother too so the movie just grated on you or made you sad or just wasn't necessary to relive?

  6. All I can say is hmmmm........