Saturday, January 29, 2011

Well That Was Far More Depressing Than I Expected...

***SPOILER ALERT! I divulge major plot points in most of the movies mentioned below, so if you don't want to know, don't venture into it.***

Have you ever gone into a movie, not knowing just how upset you were going to be by the end of it? Maybe it was something that you thought was going to be light and fun, but turned out to be serious. Or maybe it was something that you knew was a bit more serious, but you didn't realize just HOW depressing it was going to be.

I have been experiencing this a bit lately, and so decided to complie-- you guessed it-- a list of films that I ended up responding to a lot more emotionally than I originally anticipated.
And so, here are the "Movies that Were Far More Depressing than Expected":

I'm not going to lie, this is purely based on the newest adaptation of the film, featuring Jude Law as Alfie, though I have always wanted to see the original Michael Cane portrayal (What can I say? The man is a classy old fox!). Regardless, I went into seeing this movie under the impression that it was a fun, romantic romp, featuring a sly womanizer. Sure, it started out that way, but soon enough there were issues with the women, leading to emotional pains when he had to leave them. One in particular was Alfie's breakup with Julie, which of course happened due to her finding out about his womanizing ways, but it was kind of hard to see it happen, due to the fact that Alfie was so connected to her son, Max, and the thought that maybe Max really liked Alfie's involvement in his life as well. In addition, there was the moment that Alfie realized he was replaceable in people's lives after his tryst with Susan Sarandon's character Liz; this also made him see just how hurtful what he was been doing to all those women was. Finally, there is the glaring issue of Alfie unknowingly having a child with his best friend's girlfriend, destroying a meaningful friendship. I think the whole idea is summed up perfectly when his friend, Marlon, says something along the lines of "You don't ever mean to hurt anyone... but you do." (I don't know the exact quote, sadly).

(No, I haven't read the book by Ian McEwan, so no, I didn't know what was going to transpire in this film).
Alright, so this one could possibly be seen as depressing due to the plot that is given away in trailers for the film: that is, the two lovers Cecilia and Robbie (Keira Knightly and James McAvoy) are separated because of a devastating lie told by Cecilia's young sister, Briony (as played by Saoirse Ronan). Yet, despite this being laid out in front of you, there are all those clips in the advertisements featuring the couple embracing and being together and reunited on the beach... but where is that in the movie? Right at the end, in Briony's imagination. Not only are the couple stripped away after only having a few moments together knowing that the other was in love with them, but Robbie goes off to war and sees devastating hardships there. The couple is never fully reunited except for one afternoon, three years after Robbie is convicted, and never see each other again as they both die at a young age.
In addition to this major upset, however, is the fact of Briony and having to live with all the problems she has caused. At first, most of the audience just hates Briony for what she has done and the lies she tells out of jealousy, but once she grows old and realizes how awful of a mistake she has made, you can't help but feel sorry for her. I know I was incredibly upset at seeing an elderly Briony, still haunted by the fact that her actions as a young, foolish child led to a couple in love being torn apart from one another, as well as indirectly allowing a young girl to marry the man that raped her years earlier. Maybe some aren't so sympathetic to her, but we all make stupid choices as children, and this was one that Briony had to live with for her entire, long life, always wanting to be able to make it up to her sister and Robbie, but never being able to.

Boogie Nights
You hear that a movie is about the porn industry, and you think that maybe it will be a little humorous, as nobody in their right mind would make a serious film about porn, right? Well, apparently my naive little mind didn't realize that this is exactly what Boogie Nights is: a surprisingly serious look at the rise of a young 70s porn star, Dirk Diggler (Mark Walhberg). Don't get me wrong, I actually really enjoyed the movie! I just didn't realize what the mood was going to be like. Obviously the first thing that is kind of a downer in the film is the degradation of a young man, due to his involvement in the industry and the fame, drugs, and influences he becomes involved with because of it. Furthermore, Julianne Moore's character, Amber Waves, is a woman one can particularly feel sympathy for. Okay, so the charges against her about being involved in porn and drugs were correct, leading to her son being taken away, but Amber was just trying to provide a life for her son and didn't know any other way how. Not only that, but now she is so psychologically in need of being a mother, she forms bizarre, surrogate-mother type relationships with her costars, such as Dirk, with whom she frequently has sexual intercourse with on screen.
In addition, the rest of the cast of characters have their own issues. For example, "Roller Girl" (Heather Graham) leaves school and finally realizes that people don't respect her for being involved in porn, despite feeling like she was a star; that leads to her almost killing a man with her roller-skates in the heat of anger. Furthermore, "Little Bill" (William H. Macy) has a wife that engages in affairs in public. Nobody seems to see anything wrong with this, which eventually leads to Bill's suicide. And finally, the character of Buck (Don Cheadle) wants so badly to get out of the porn industry, as he only got into it as a way to earn a living. Now, however, he can't seem to catch a break from anyone, due to his past involvement in pornography.
I will admit, some of the characters acheive slightly happier endings in the end than during the course of the film, but the fact remains that every one of them has intense problems, whether self-inflicted or not. Oh, and of course there is the matter of Dirk returning to porn after it almost ruined his life, which I really can't accept as being a "good" choice.

Into The Wild
When I first saw this film, I wasn't ignorant to the real story of Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), so I DID know that he would meet his untimely end in the wild. What I didn't realize, however, was how emotional the whole thing would make me. It's not the part where Chris dies that I find upsetting, but the events leading up to it. Part of it has to do with the fact that prior to making his fatal mistake, Chris realizes that true happiness has to be shared by others that you love, and wants to go back to society, only to find that he has trapped himself across an unfrozen river, unable to journey back until winter.
Not only is Chris unable to share his happiness and life-changing notions from living in the wild, the people he meets before he gets to Alaska are all so touched by him, that it's hard not to feel sad whenever he says goodbye to someone new. For example, Chris made the "hippie couple" love each other again, and realize that despite the hardships they have faced, life is worth enjoying. Not only that, but it is truly heartbreaking to watch Chris leave Hal Holbrook's character, Ron. Ron was almost brought back to life by Chris, and wants him to be his new son, yet Chris is determined to go on his mission to Alaska. As Chris walks away from Ron, you know that he isn't coming back, and you can also tell that Ron is aware of this fact. It's just so hard to know that people are saying goodbye for the last time, and it makes for a incredibly emotional experience.

Revolutionary Road
Most of the promotional photos for Revolutionary Road featured Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) snuggling with one another (see the photo?) or in other sorts of embraces, such as dancing together. Advertisements for this film made it seem like it was based on a married couple going through some changes in their lives and possibly falling a little out of love. It's true, that is initially what the film is about, but once you really get into it, it is a lot harsher than what you expect it to be. There is literally no time of peace for this couple-- that is, besides the few moments that they are enraptured in the naive notions of moving to Paris, which the audience can tell is purely made of false hope.
I have honestly never felt such venom between a couple in a film before, as April was so full of pure resentment to Frank. It almost hurt to watch the couple fall apart like that, especially with the complications of their affairs and one-night-stands. The pain is especially seen in the ultimate conclusion of the film, which features April performing a haphazard, fatal, at-home abortion on herself. After that, all you can do is be upset for the completely broken man that is Frank, unable to be truly happy even around his children; it's kind of an image of how someone can still completely love another, even after so much pain and hatred, which for me is hard to see.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Arguably, this one could be kind of understandable, what with Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) having to take care of his mentally handicapped brother, Arnie (which, might I add, was incredibly portrayed by the young Leonardo DiCaprio), in addition to having a chronically obese mother to deal with, which eventually amounts to a lot of pity and ridicule from towns people. Despite the ending which is supposed to inspire some hope, however, as Gilbert and Arnie will stand by each other with love no matter what, I can't help but leave the movie being pretty upset. The burning down of their house was supposed to be some sort of catharsis for their mother, but really just showed the family's shame, and reduced the symbol of their childhood and growing up into nothing but estrangement.
In addition, I know Gilbert loves Arnie and always will, but a lot of the film was focused on him feeling weighed down by the responsibility of his brother, with little or no help from anyone else: and did anything change? No. A year later, he is still the one taking care of his brother, and sure they now have a new friend to look forward to seeing every year, but as they continue to grow older, Gilbert will continue to have to bear the responsibility of two people.

And now, of course, I leave it to you:
Are there any films that you have seen that were far more upsetting than you initially thought they were going to be?