Motifs in Cinema Project: Love (and/or Marriage)

I was recently asked by Andrew Kendall at Encore Entertainment to contribute a post for the Motifs in Cinema blogging project. 2012, a multi-site themed blogging projects of 11 writers looking at 11 motifs from films last year. When Andrew emailed me the topics for the Motifs in Cinema Project, for some reason I gravitated towards the Love and/or Marriage theme. Perhaps because it so happens that 2013 falls on my 10-year wedding anniversary. So for this purpose, I’m going to focus more specifically on marriage on films and how filmmakers have used that theme in 2012.

This is the intro for the project:

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across 22 film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how the use of a common theme across various films changes when utilised by different artists.

Love (and/or Marriage) in Cinema

By the time this project rolls around, I still have not seen two major Oscar contenders Amour and Anna Karenina in which the theme of love and marriage runs deep. But these eight films happen to explore marriage in varying degree, and each offers us something different when it comes to love and marriage.

[Naturally with this kind of post, I’ll be talking about some major plot points, so consider this a SPOILER ALERT!]

A Late Quartet

One of my favorite films of 2012 that’s probably get lost in the shuffle. Two members of the renowned quartet Fugue are married couple Robert and Juliette (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Katherine Keener). Even though they work together, their marriage is on the brink of doom, seemingly held together by their love for their only daughter, who later on ends up wrecking havoc in the already fragile musical group.

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Jealousy, lust and disillusionment threatened to break their marriage forever and I thought it’d be the case when Robert gave in to the seduction of his beautiful jogging partner. Neither Robert nor Juliette seems invested in their marriage as much as they are in their music, and therein lies the problem. Having been married for nearly a decade now, I realize how crucial it is to never take our spouse for granted, and this film is a reminder of that.

Brave

Just because it’s an animated film, it doesn’t mean that it can’t have a poignant message. As Pixar has done a few years ago with UP, that opening montage alone speaks volumes as one of the best portrayal of marriage on film. Unlike other less-fortunate Disney princesses, Merida grew up in a loving home with her dad Lord Fergus and Queen Eleanor. The queen is the one who ‘wears the pants’ in the family, so to speak, though it seems unrealistic perhaps in the Medieval era, so it’s perhaps more wishful thinking than anything. That said, it’s wonderful to see such a healthy relationship between the two, the scene where Eleanor vents to Fergus about Merida is both hilarious and moving.

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The film also challenges the notion of young and arranged marriage, with Merida protesting the whole betrothal process and refusing to give up her freedom. Marriage should always be a choice, first and foremost, and that ‘happily ever after’ might not always happen. It also shouldn’t be a ‘goal’ so much as a natural procession of life when things fall into place.

Hitchcock

I wasn’t wowed by this film overall but I did appreciate that I got a glimpse of the marriage life of one of the world’s most famous film directors. The saying of ‘Behind every great man there’s a great woman’ couldn’t be more true when it comes to Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), as not only Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) was supportive and willing to put up with his antics, including his juvenile crush with his leading ladies, she was crucial in his career, too.

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Alma wasn’t exactly a saint, either. Lacking the attention from her husband, Alma was drawn to screenwriter Whitfield Cook who’s flirtatious with her and plays upon her own writing career aspiration. No marriage is perfect surely, but what I do like about Alfred and Alma is that they are friends as well as lovers, they can relate to each other beyond just the romantic stuff. They seemed to enjoy each other’s company and have that shared creative passion. I think that’s partly why their marriage could last as long as it did despite a few bumps on the road. Dame Mirren is the star of the show for me, and I think I learn much more about Alma here than I did about her husband.
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Moonrise Kingdom

One of the most delightfully quirky films of 2012 center on two 12-year-olds running away from home to be together. They claim they are in love with each other and we think, ‘they don’t even know what love is!’ Be that as it may, does it make their feelings ‘less true?’

Neither Sam and Suzi come from a healthy family.  Suzi’s parents are on the brink of divorce as her mom is in love with the local Captain. Sam has been living in a ‘juvenile refuge’ as his foster parents no longer wants him living with them. But love is a universal desire even for those perhaps too young to understand, and the film offers an endearingly-naive look at marriage from fresh young eyes who aren’t yet cynical nor jaded by that concept.

Nobody Walks

I didn’t really care for this film, in fact, I listed it as one of the worst films I saw in 2012. The thing is, I’m not fond of films about infidelity, though at times there’s a teachable moment that I can appreciate. In this case, it comes from the supporting character Julie (played by the massively underrated Rosemarie DeWitt). Whilst her husband was hopelessly infatuated by a young, pretty house guest like a 12-year-old boy, temptation also came her way like a storm. She’s a therapist and the seducer is her patient who happens to be a handsome and successful actor. She could’ve given in and chalk it up to her husband being a douche bag and the fact that she had been a neglected wife, but in the end she did the right thing.

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This film paints a rather bleak portrait of marriage… where things seems quiet and peaceful for this well-to-do family but yet, even the slightest breeze threatens to blow everything apart as if it had no solid foundation at all. For the time being, their union seemingly survives the whole ordeal, but it made me think… for how much longer?? What would ensure them that it would not happen again?? The main character Martine (an attractive but impossible-to-root-for Olivia Thirlby) is even more tragic, not only did she has no complete regard for people’s relationships, she doesn’t seem to value herself nor her own feelings, either.

People Like Us

Despite its incredibly generic title, this movie ends up being a pretty good one. It doesn’t depict marriage between two characters in the film, instead it explores the consequences of a marital misstep, through the eyes of those who end up suffering from it. Sam and Frankie met as a result of their father’s infidelity – Sam is record producer Jerry Harper’s firstborn, and Frankie is the daughter of his mistress. Sam’s last wish before he died is to give a large sum of money to Frankie’s young son, which creates interesting circumstances for all three and their lives are never the same because of it.

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In my book, infidelity is NEVER a good thing. But sometimes good can come from something bad and in this case, it’s honesty and kindness ends up righting the wrong, even if the way to get there isn’t always smooth.

Robot & Frank

Now this one paints a very different view of marriage. In fact, it never quite enter the picture until the film almost ended. It’s marketed as an unlikely friendship between a robot butler and his master, Frank (Frank Langella), and indeed it is. But there’s also a relationship between a beautiful librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) whom he constantly flirts with. Set in a distant future where physical books are being replaced by digital copies, Frank is struggling to come to terms with the ever-changing world around him.

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It’s a film about Alzheimer that doesn’t hit us over the head with the harrowing subject matter, but instead it gives us a sweet – and at times hilarious – picture of family. In the end, it’s revealed that Jennifer is actually Frank’s wife, which I didn’t see coming. That revelation made me tear up as it’s just heartbreaking but also made your heart soar at the same time. Real love knows no bounds, the heart always remembers even when the mind lost its capacity to do so… and that is one of the most beautiful and uplifting picture of marriage I’ve seen in a long while.

Silver Linings Playbook

Marriage is the union of two people, but sometimes the breakdown of a marriage could actually brings people together. That’s what happens with Pat and Tiffany, the former lost his marriage to infidelity (and his uncontrollable rage) and the other to a tragic accident. Each of them deals with it in their own way. Tiffany tries to hide her pain by being promiscuous and Pat holds on to the hope that he could still get back together with his estranged wife Nikki.

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Though they didn’t exactly get off on the right foot, their relationship slowly became the very thing that help both of them heal… and learn to love again. Pat has always wanted that love to come from his wife, but instead, it comes from an unlikely person that comes to him unexpectedly. The moment Pat felt for Tiffany, it took him by surprise and he looked away, unable to comprehend the change in his heart. It wasn’t until the finale of the dance competition that he finally chose to acknowledge his feelings and decided he needed to do something about it. Director David O. Russell kept the ending open-ended in terms of how Pat ended things with Nikki. But by then it doesn’t really matter. What matters to Pat (and us the viewers) is that he’s finally found that silver linings.


Be sure to check out other entries of Motifs in Cinema on Encore Entertainment Blog!


Thoughts on any of these films? What other 2012 films would you have chosen in regards to marriage?