The great thing about reading the Wikipedia plot summaries of movies is that it only takes a fraction of the time it would to watch the whole film. I consume practically all of my media this way, and it really frees up a lot of time that could be better used taking Instagram pictures of myself abalone diving, or updating my Tumblr page from Nepal. It’s especially useful when I want to see a particularly emotional movie, but don’t have the energy to sit through two hours of actors making sad faces. There is enough drama and whining on my real life Facebook feed, so I don’t need movies adding to it. Luckily for you, after this review you too will know which movies are wasting your feelings’ time.
For this review, I’m going to eschew The Double Thumb’s typical five star rating system in favor of a new one designed purely to gauge the emotional impact of a film. Thus, the following movies will be rated on a Five Tear Drop scale:
In short, the more a movie makes me cry, the more tears it gets.
“But Brandon,” I can hear you asking. “How is a movie supposed to make you cry if you only read its Wikipedia plot summary? How can a tragic scene convey its emotional depth if you don’t even watch it?”
Look here, hypothetical detractor, this isn’t amateur hour, all right? This is what I do. In fact, just asking those questions shows a serious lack of faith regarding my capacity for basic human empathy, and quite frankly, I find that insulting. Are you saying that I can’t extrapolate emotion from text on a page? What about books? Books can make you cry, can’t they? I’m not entirely asking that hypothetically; I don’t know, I don’t read books, but I’m assuming that they can make people cry. Well, reading a condensed plot summary should be no different.
Let’s get started.
Marley & Me
The dog dies. Of course the dog dies. I don’t even need to read the plot summary of this to know that. You know how I figured it out? Because it is a movie about a dog. They ALL die. Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, I Am Legend – they all die.
“Yeah, what about Homeward Bound?” you might be asking. “They all live in Homeward Bound!”
Nope. No they don’t. Their triumphant return at the end was all just Shadow’s dying fantasy as he lies in that muddy hole. Watch it again. It’s all there in the subtext.
Okay, hang on, let me actually read the plot summary for Marley & Me…
Yup. Dog totally dies. Way too obvious to be sad. I bet that even if I had actually watched the film I wouldn’t have cried at all.
Because I have talked to a woman or two in my lifetime, I more or less already know the gist of The Notebook. Beautiful boy meets beautiful girl, beautiful boy loses beautiful girl, beautiful boy and beautiful girl get back together. Tried and true.
For some reason though, this movie seems to tug at the heartstrings of women everywhere. I believe this is because it is impossible not to be moved to tears by the sheer splendor that is Ryan Gosling. However, since I am reviewing this movie by plot summary alone, I will not be swayed by his glistening abs.
Nope. You don’t even get a picture of him.
There isn’t a whole lot of gut wrenching sadness here, as it’s all pretty much seems like standard fare for a romance movie. The couple winds up together and lives into old age. Sure, the lovers die at the end, but they die in their sleep in each other’s arms. Neither of them has to live without the other. They go peacefully, together. Isn’t that the best possible scenario for any of us? We know we’re all going to die, so the most hopeful outcome we have is to do so wrapped in the embrace of someone we love.
I guess the only thing that breaks through my calloused exterior would be that the woman has dementia, so she can barely remember the dude she’s clinging to. Just the very prospect of dementia – losing all the memories and connections you have with the world – terrifies me, so I’m going to award The Notebook a couple extra tears for that aspect of it.
Stepmom tells the story of a divorced mother (Susan Sarandon) having to put up with her kids’ new stepmom (Julia Roberts). Naturally, the two women clash immediately, refusing to see eye to eye when it comes to raising the children or vying for the husband’s affections.
Keep in mind that the women are fighting over this premium fuck machine.
So why is this movie such a tearjerker? Well judging by the plot summary, it’s all a bunch of passive-aggressive bitchiness until Susan Sarandon gets diagnosed with cancer. Then it’s straight shot into cry-town!
All right, who’s gonna die first? Will Susan Sarandon succumb to her cancer? Will she use her last remaining bit of strength to murder Julia Roberts? Hell, maybe we’ll get hit with a curve ball and one of the kids will fall off a bridge or something!
Wait, no one dies?! Why is this thing supposed to be so damn sad then? Oh sure, it’s assumed that she’s going to die, but that just doesn’t have the same weight to it. They should have held Susan Sarandon down, pumped pentobarbital into her veins and watched the life bleed from her, Marley style. Now that would have made for a sad movie.
To be fair, this movie might not fit snugly into the category of this article, as it is billed as a “comedy-drama.” However, I have heard enough about the heart wrenching final act of this film to find it worthy of inclusion. The saddest scene, allegedly, is where Sally Field’s character is grieving over the death of her young daughter (Julia Roberts). Julia Roberts died from complications after childbirth, I think, and her mother loses it during her funeral.
I have heard a lot about the Sally Field’s heart-wrenching performance but I have to say that reading about it on Wikipedia, I really didn’t feel it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt Field’s talent. I thought she had an amazing role in the Wikipedia plot summary of Mrs. Doubtfire. But this scene just failed to capture the emotion I was expecting from it. The description of the scene is that Field’s character “breaks down in hysterics”, which really doesn’t do a lot to make me misty eyed. If this scene is so important and emotional then I’m pretty sure that Wikipedia would go into more detail about it than that.
The way I see it, this movie does not become a tragedy until the very end:
Holy shit, what?! They let a lady give birth again?! Are you crazy, that’s what killed Julia Roberts! Unlike with Stepmom, the implied death that is to come is far more visceral and apparent here. As Steel Magnolias ends, we see that the pattern of baby-borne destruction is unchanged. In a moral that echoes the events of the film, these women will swell with life and happiness, only to have it all cruelly snatched from them by the cold scythe of death. Soon, even Dolly Parton will fall, a grim casualty of the false allure of optimism.
At least that’s what I gathered from the plot synopsis.
In conclusion, I would like to state that it’s clear the movie industry does an incredibly poor job of relating depth of emotion onscreen. Either that or I’m a stoic badass who fails to be moved by petty things such as other people’s feelings and conflicts. Hollywood, you’re going to have to try harder than this to get me to cry over the plot summaries of your movies. Maybe kill a dog and somebody’s kid in one shot and then we’ll see if I get misty eyed.