Monday, March 8, 2010

I saw a great movie - Conversations with Other Women

The thing about a great movie is... it sneaks up on you. My husband was out of town on Friday night and the kids were asleep early, so I decided to check out Netflix's recommendations and "on-demand" movies. Normally, there are a few so-so ideas and old movies I missed at the theater, but on Friday night, in the first position was a movie I'd never even heard of, with a "4.1 star rating for Erin, based on previous recommendations" heading. It starred Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckert, looked like a rom-com set at a wedding and looked like it was sort of perfect for watching without a man around. So I plugged my headphones into my laptop and curled up to watch Conversations with Other Women.

Basically, it's the story of a man and woman meeting at a wedding reception, exchanging flirtatious banter in split screens. It's somewhat disorienting at first - you don't really know who these people are or why they're attracted to each other (until you realize that this is the first time they've seen each other since their divorce 9 years earlier), and their separateness is punctuated by their placement in split screens (which remain throughout the film). Occasionally, they walk in and out of each other's screens, or a new angle/perspective is shown, or a flashback... and it was somewhat dazzling, the ability to see beyond a single perspective in the present moment.

Naturally, they spend the night together, despite the fact that she's married and he's in a committed-enough relationship with a much-younger woman. There is a lot of dialogue and remorse and laughing and emotion and talking, talking, talking, but I think what I loved about the movie was utterly personal: the characters were my age. They were speaking my language. They were close to mid-life... and they weren't sure that they had "grown up" any more than I am.

As my previous post describes, I'm fully committed in my marriage, but I could relate to the question mark feelings that the characters still had for each other, despite the differences that had driven them apart in their marriage to each other. I remember seeing my high school boyfriend when I was in my mid-20s -- and this was a guy I was *in love* with during my senior year, with a pining-for-him love -- and there was still a sort of smolder there, even though nothing happened again. It was as though we'd been there before, had the entire dramatic relationship already, and it was enough to just be there, next to each other again at a small bar for a few hours.

Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was towards the end, when Helena's character is having post-coital regrets and Aaron has followed her up to the roof of the hotel. "You're 38," he says, "and you look it." She bristles, and then he continues with something like, "And then you'll be 39, then 40, and when your doctor decides he wants someone younger, call me so that I can love you in your golden years." Because he recognizes that her beauty is not in the whimsy of youthfulness but in the rich complexity of aging (not that 38 is "old," of course... my own age bias notwithstanding...).
Helena is beautiful in her real body - there are bright lights as she disrobes, saggy belly and all, but she is luminous. At the wedding reception, she is awkward in a peach bridesmaid's dress... because she is no longer a maid (she's too mature for that silly label). There's a scene where she and Aaron are going upstairs to her room; as they get into the elevator, a hot younger bridesmaid gets in with them -- in this moment, you can see Helena's confidence shrinking away, thinking that there's no way Aaron could find her attractive after that. But this is the part that made me stop and realize that I'd rather be Helena than the young woman now -- there is no way I'd trade the beauty and wisdom of maturity for the freshness of youth.
As for the title, the "other women" are just younger facets of Helena, the women that she once was and who Aaron soon realizes are now just figments of his own memory. This resonated with me, too, the idea of my previous selves roaming around in a distant past, continuing their madness and silly ways in someone else's memory.
Thank god for aging. Let the young waste their youth. I'll take the saggy belly and good conversation any day.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so mad at myself that you've had this space for a month now, and this is the first time I've visited!
    It was a few years ago that I saw this movie, so I don't remember a lot about it, but I remember really liking it.