Thursday, June 11, 2009


I watched two movies on my laptop last weekend, something that will be more common now. Don isn't into movies like I am, and the red Netflix envelopes have sat accusingly like overripe tomatoes, waiting for us to devour their contents while the $15.99/month fee for unlimited movies goes on getting billed. I finally relinquished the necessity of watching movies together, so he can do something he enjoys while I do what I enjoy and watch a movie in another room. I'm pretty sure Don was happier watching the Redwings play ice hockey in the Stanley Cup playoffs than he would have been watching those two movies with me. Duh.

And me? I really liked watching these two films on my own about women whose goal in life is to make people happy. Both of them came out in 2008. The first was "27 Dresses" about a woman who has been a bridesmaid in 27 weddings. It was a typical - and mediocre (though it had its moments) - Hollywood romantic comedy about a woman who spends too much time making everyone else happy and doesn't have a life, or love, of her own. The second was "Happy-Go-Lucky" - a Mike Leigh (thus British) film that still has me thankful I watched it. I hadn't seen one of his films since "Secrets & Lies" - which I loved thirteen years ago. No Hollywood gloss here - which I appreciate.

I won't spoil anything for you, but please watch "Happy-Go-Lucky" - about a woman named Poppy who first annoyed me, then made me laugh, then cry, then wish I were more like her. Poppy has actually shaped my behavior toward people this week, helping me stop and imagine not just how to make someone happy, but also what it's like to be in someone else's shoes. Don't let the title and the DVD photo below fool you. The movie is intense and moving.

There is a lot of blur around the ways women try to keep others happy. In general I believe there are innate traits in women to appease, to be in relationship, to communicate, to nurture, to self sacrifice - we can argue about whether conditioned or genetic (probably some of both). During the past five decades especially we have been working to balance that with ways to bust free from solely living in a nurturing role and do other things we love. Maybe in another few decades women won't be expected to sacrifice their desires to please others. Both these films in their own ways show the vulnerabilities of being a woman and how difficult it can be for us to do exactly what we want - with the kind of support and acknowledgment we deserve.

And a lot of the time - like Don and me watching movies together - it just takes a little breaking loose of expectations, for myself especially. It's really silly when you realize that what you thought you should do wasn't even making anyone happy!

"27 Dresses" - 40% Fresh at rottentomatoes
"Happy-Go-Lucky" - 92% Fresh at rottentomatoes

Next on my queue: "Visions of Light" about the art of cinematography in American movies.

"Visions of Light" synopsis from rottentomatoes: An exceptional documentary about the craft of cinematography, featuring behind the scenes looks at some of the greatest films down through the decades in Hollywood, with secrets and insight into the look of great films such as CITIZEN KANE, THE GODFATHER, film noir, and much more. The film received very high critical praise for its comprehensive look at the art of filmmaking and the unapologetic love of the form.



J.G. said...

Oh yes, I'm learning that the "shoulds" are usually a sure-fire way to get myself in trouble. Where do those sneaky little devils come from?

A lot of the time they aren't making anyone happy, even the person they are aimed at.

Susan said...

First, on the movies, I actually enjoyed "27 Dresses", mainly because I like Katherine Heigl and sometimes I just want a piece of fluff where I don't have to do a lot of heavy thinking. Yeah, it was predictable, but I thought Heigl gave it a little bit of something extra. "Happy-Go-Lucky" sounds really good. I may have to sign up for Netflix just so I can see it.

Secondly, on being that woman who wants to please...everyone. Been doing that all my life. Sometimes it has worked for me, sometimes not. In the last fifteen years or so, I've learned to let it go a little. I'm still a work in progress.

For the last 10 years, David and I have rarely watched TV together, because we definitely do not have the same taste in TV watching, although most of the time we agree on movies. However, for the last few months we've both been hooked on HGTV's House Hunters and Property Virgins. I know, it's stupid, but it kind of follows along with our urge to move every five years.

Geez, this could have been its own post! Sorry!

Annie said...

Happy-go-lucky was delightfully different but I have to say I found Poppy pretty annoying. Talking all the time and implying that her way was the right way. And the teaching episode annoyed me too because as a former teacher I know it's not that easy to solve serious problems like abuse. So, she annoyed me. ;-)

But Amelie was a bit similar and far better in my opinion. She was a bit pathetic but did have plenty of inner strength in the end. Personally I liked Amelie a lot more. :-)

Patricia said...

I had to laugh when I read your post today. My husband is the movie fiend in this family. I finally gave in to his NetFlix fix and just watch...I guess that he thinks that this is quality time! I do love movies but just not that often.
The other week we saw "Happy-Go-Lucky" and I loathed it! He argued afterward your point that she was giving, non-judgmental person...sorry...the thought of her makes my skin itch!

The Bug said...

We've lived in a small apartment so long that I don't know what it's like to have separate rooms to follow individual pursuits. We're moving to a three-bedroom house & I'm really excited about it! I personally could totally live without a tv - which has helped a lot in the last 12 years (my husband gets to watch what he wants - & mostly it's stuff I can either enjoy or ignore. He's a historian who loves baseball - neither of which intrudes too much). But now I'll have my OWN room & can listen to music or watch a chick flick if I so desire. Heaven!

CottageGirl said...

Yes, Ruth! Again you touch on a subject close to my heart!
I love to watch movies... somethines over and over and over again. My DH, on the other hand, (DH meaning "Dear Husband", not any other terms that our sons have thrown out there that also begin with the letters "D H" that may not be quite so appropriate!!!) is not that interested in movies. We frequently watch different things. Even though we are separated for a time, our conversation is usually well animated later as we discuss what we had seen.

I'll put your two movies on my list for this summer!

Kim said...

That's it Ruth! I'm signing up for Netflicks right now...Mi amor and I were just talking about it...and my local Blockbuster just closed it's doors...

I track with your comments on letting go of expectations...I am growing in that, when I let go of what others think or what I think they think, I can feel my wings, and the breeze, I can really let the wind carry me...and enjoy the weightlessness of it all...

shicat said...

Sister, you hit the nail on the head! What you thought you should do wasn't making anyone happy.Amen. Ain't that the truth. My friend and I are always having this conversation. She is an expert at "launching her children" and freeing herself. Yet she and I still have to negotiate the never ending barrage of assorted dirty details of life. She just left me a voicemail that addressed this very issue. It was about not trying to be healer,the nurturer,etc but rather doing what you LOVE.It's our time.

We could have a cup a tea or a glass of wine and discuss this topic.

I will be renting Happy-
Go -Lucky,can't wait. thanks Ruth

Peter said...

Today I live alone and don't have to "fight" about programs or films to watch... and finally I hardly touch my television, except sometimes late night when some good films are broadcast! Most channels nowadays also offer the possibility to watch the "original" version (or not), which I always do, even if it's in Chinese. Never yet watched a whole film on my PC even if I could. Some DVDs of course ... but the best is still the real cinema theatre!

I have no opinion on the films you watched - haven't seen - but would of course have a spontaneous preference for the Mike Leigh one!

Ruth said...

J.G., I think it's the stuff that got drilled into us growing up, and it's pretty hard to erase those tapes. I think women especially pick up the shoulds and feel guilty if they don't comply.

Ruth said...

Susie Q!

This was my first Heigl movie. I had seen her around on Huffington Post looking pretty, always wondered who she was. I don't know if you'll like "Happy-Go-Lucky" - now that I've seen that a couple of commenters hated it. Let me know.

As for being someone who wants to please, it sure is nice having you around! If it makes YOU happy, that's good. When it becomes a burden, or when I'm not being honest with myself, or whatever, I have to reassess. I'm a work in progress too, and how.

Hey, it's not stupid to watch those shows together. I think it's a lot of fun. Don and I watch old Andy Griffith shows and we just have the best time watching Barnie Fife and picking up Andy's wisdom - which sometimes is so 1960s "wisdom."

Ruth said...

Hi, Annie, yes, Poppy was very annoying. At some point - maybe 30 minutes in - I just submitted to her. By the end, I was so touched by her outlook and behavior, I just bawled. I think maybe I was touched more because she had struck me so annoyingly at first.

As for the teaching part, I didn't think the film showed any resolution about the problem of abuse, which was fine with me, because as you say, it's complex.

Yes, Amelie is adorable.

Ruth said...

Hi, Patricia! Maybe your husband is like me. I could watch two or three movies in a row sometimes.

Haha! I can totally understand Poppy driving you crazy and hating the film, even if I loved it. As I wrote above, about 30 minutes into it, I submitted to her and then she just pulled me in.

Ruth said...

Hi, Bug - I can feel your anticipation. I wonder what you will do first, what movie you will watch, what project you'll do, or what music you'll listen to. It's so important to have a room of one's own if at all possible.

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, I learned with my sister in Paris back in 1997 after the first week of doing everything together that we had very different ideas of how we wanted to spend our euros. I wanted to try French cuisine, and she didn't want to "waste" money on food. So the second week we went off and did our own thing then had tons of fun telling each other about our day.

On our recent trip to NYC, Don and I realized there were things I wanted to do that he didn't care about. Unfortunately we didn't figure that out until our last day, and it was too late for that trip. But next time, I will just go to the Met by myself and feel absolutely no compunction, and he won't feel bad about NOT going.


Ruth said...

Kim, your process has been so interesting, and I can relate to so much of it too. Letting go of being attached to outcomes is freeing. Freedom is what it's all about.

Netflix is awesome! I don't know how they do it. I mean I can request a very obscure film and it's in my mailbox within a couple days - from our little mailing center nearby. I think they must burn DVDs right there?

Ruth said...

Duh, Don just suggested that Netflix can see my queue, so they have some time to get the films I have queued, even if they are obscure.

He's so smart.

Ruth said...

There's no getting around it, Cathy, we are complicated beings, we women. And so is life, and sometimes we make it way too much so ourselves. I am going for simple and free these days. Sometimes I get sucked back in. It's GREAT to have a friend who helps me talk it through, which Inge does for me.

I would love to sit and talk with you while sipping pinot!

I hope you like the movie, but if you don't, it's ok. I doesn't reflect on me. :D See how good I am at letting go now!

Ruth said...

Peter, Paris is now famous for showing films in the cinema in their original language, which is very good. I hate dubbed movies! If you watch Happy-Go-Lucky, I would be interested in your opinion. It is quite mixed here!

Oliag said... happened again...yesterday I wrote a charming comment about how you made me chuckle with the comparison of the Netflix envelope and a ripe tomato...but who knows what I did to make it disappear...anyways it made me laugh. I finally downgraded my Netflix account so that I only had two ripe tomatoes to worry about at a time! I love movies but there just doesn't always seem to be enough time...Mr O and I enjoy the same thing on TV and movies so we have to coordinate our viewing time too...

That being said...Happy-Go-Lucky will go to the top of my Netflix list with your review...and don't you adore the rottentomato site?

Oliag said...

Love the new header! Are you growing that corn?

Loring Wirbel said...

Glad you liked HGL as much as I did. Don doesn't know what he's missing, not being a movie-holic.

Ruth said...

Oliag, as you now know from our emails, I had posted this twice, and your comment happened to be on the other one, which I deleted. Sally of Sally's World's comment got deleted there too!

I'm glad you like the header, thanks! It's not our corn (though Don did plant quite a few plants, I can't wait) - it's in one of the fields on my drive to work.

Ruth said...

Loring, I was trying to remember, even before your comment, if you had posted about this movie, and I couldn't.

shoreacres said...


So interesting that you mention "ways women try to keep others happy" and then move directly to "appease". You really describe two sets of realities in that single phrase. Appeasement and self-sacrifice often belong together, just as relationship, communication and nurture are related.

My own experience is that appeasement often is a form of avoidance. It has nothing to do with the other person, but is grounded in my own fear of conflict, or my reluctance to speak my own word and face disagreement, ridicule or rejection.

Ironically, blogging has helped free me of such tendencies. I struggle over each post, evaluating each by these criteria: what do I think about this? is this truly how I feel? am I speaking my word clearly? If I'm happy with all that, I post, and then move on to the next. If someone shows up to read - that's a plus!

And, despite the difficulties of caring for an aging parent, my relationship with my mother has helped to clarify the "happiness issue". There came a day when I looked at her and said: "You want me to make you happy. I can't do that. The decision for happiness or misery is yours."

The same is true for us. No other person can make us happy, just as "no thing" can bring peace and joy. It's why Flannery O'Connor's letters are collected as "The Habit of Being". We have to practice the qualities we want to mark our lives, including happiness.

Ruth said...

Linda - You show the richness and complexity of our situations. Each of us could add layer upon layer upon layer of the hows and whys we do what we do. I keep feeling ashamed that it's taken me so long to finally do what I do for reasons other than pleasing people.

For me and my sisters, our mom's model was immensely complicated and painful: She was a talented genius who sacrificed her own desires because of her understanding of biblical hierarchy. First we all to put God first (and His desires as we perceive them through the Church's teaching), and second we put our husbands/fathers above us as a symbol of Christ being head of the Church. We didn't understand the history of the Church and male dominance that suppressed scriptural texts as well as entire aspects of the Christian story.

Wish we could sit and chat.

Relyn said...

I found my way to you via Dutchbaby. I completely agreed with you about 27 Dresses. And, after such a thoughtful review of Happy-Go-Lucky, I'm headed off to my Netflix queue right now. So nice to meet you.

Ruth said...

Hi and welcome, Relyn. I've seen your comments, yes, both at Dutchbaby's and at Christina's. It's nice to meet you too.

I hope it's still nice when you've seen the movie - hope you like it. (Though of course I will not be responsible if you don't.)

mystic rose said...

Film making is such an intricate and absorbingly creative process, one can only imagine people involved in it WOULD have to love it.
I will watch Happy Go Lucky. And I wanted to tell you about another movie, Children of HUang Shi. Its one of the best movies I have seen recently.
I watched Slumdog Millionaire which I didn't like at all. It was too ordinary. There are some really brilliant and well done movies about and from India, both the good and bad aspects of it.

Bob Johnson said...

I love watching movies more then Cathy my wife, actually I think it might be the type of movies I like that she doesn't. I like things that blow up or have zombies and aliens in them,lol.

California Girl said...

I just put Happy Go Lucky on our Netflix list. I thought 27 Dresses was stupid and I told myself not to rent it but did it anyway. I'm always disappointed when I do that.

On the other hand, we just saw "Slumdog Millionaire" and it was so much more than I expected. It was joyous, sad, awful and wonderful. I really loved it. Also watched "Frost Nixon" which we loved, despite having lived through it. Also watched "Quantum of Solace" which I expected to like so-so but really liked.

Next stop for us, "The Wrestler" and "Milk".

Ginnie said...

I definitely know what you mean here, Ruth! I'm getting better at not expecting or NEEDING others to like what I like...or feeling guilty on the other side of NOT liking what they like. Our differences make the world go 'round, of course. The main thing in a relationship is to have enough bridges you DO cross. The rest is what makes us who we are.

That reminds me of the movie you want me to see! Please tell me the name again. Astrid showed me a British movie this past week I had never heard of, starring Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas: "Keeping Mum." Have you ever heard of it? It's fabulous (comedy).

dutchbaby said...

Love the image of "Netflix envelopes sitting accusingly like overripe tomatoes"! I have those here too!

I saw "27 Dresses" on the airplane and then again with my daughter. Does that make it "54 Dresses"?

Christina said...

i know that feeling. i just put my nexflix movies on hold for 2 months. spring has a lot going on.
; )

Ruth said...

Mystic Rose, thank you for that recommendation. I have added it to my queue. I hope you like Happy-Go-Lucky.

I really liked the other film you recommended: "Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na."

Ruth said...

Ha, Bob! I do like watching movies like that with Don and Peter. And we all like watching Harry Potter, Lesley too, I don't know yet about Brian. But I usually wouldn't watch any of those movies by myself. :)

Ruth said...

CG, I enjoyed Slumdog in a moderate sort of way. I liked the cinematography, although some criticized that for making hardships look too much like fantasy.

I haven't seen "Frost Nixon" or "Solace" yet - I've heard the first is excellent, and I heard the second was BAD! Sometimes that kind of setup - thinking a movie will be bad - means I might enjoy it, you know, low expectations.

Ruth said...

Boots, finally I don't feel responsible for whether someone likes a movie! I like how you put that about bridges in a relationship.

The movie you have to see is "Snow Cake." And thanks for the rec of the Smith Thomas movie. I love both of them, so it sounds fun.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby - wow, yes, I would say at least 54.

Ruth said...

Christina, it's good to have a life outside of movies.

Arti said...

Hi Ruth,

I watched Happy-Go-Lucky in the theater first, and I'm afraid to say, I didn't like it that much mainly because of the character. I know it comes with high acclaims but I just don't fall for the kind of personality SH has portrayed there. Upon reading your post, I rented the DVD and watched it again, thinking maybe I missed something at first viewing. But my opinion did not change much. However, I do enjoy the special features where Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan (Scott the driving instructor) elaborate and offer their interpretation of their character.

Another award winning indie film that carries a similar theme, but with a much more somber and poignant take is "Wendy and Lucy". Have you seen it? I highly recommend it. Michelle Williams' performance is heart-breaking and deeply moving.

Thanks for writing about movies!

Be one with the Fro said...

I watched 27 dresses recently and it was definitely a typical movie, but I actually liked it. Maybe it was the fashions that Katheryn Heigel {however you spell her name} was wearng.

Ruth said...

Arti, thank you so much for coming back and leaving your thoughtful comment. And to watch it again - give it another chance!

I do understand the annoyance from her character, wow. But it is maybe because of that I was drawn in, sort of against my will - which for me makes the "seduction" more delicious.

Thank you for the rec for Wendy and Lucy - I've added it to my queue. I look forward to it.

Ruth said...

Oh I'm with you, Tiffany! Not on this movie, but there are several that are pretty mediocre and people even hate them, that I find enjoyable - like You've Got Mail.

Moi said...

U know our situation is very similar.......both my husband and I are totally into movies.....but our choices of movies doesn't always match (no one said it has to.....but wouldn't it be oh so convenient if it did)so often times we end up having Netflix DVDs with us for more than three weeks, becoz we have this unspoken pact between us that we wont watch movies without each we have come up with a solution.....even if one of us does not like the choice of movie by the other, we "lie down" together to watch it and don't get offended when the other one dozes off to sleep and make no attempt to wake up the person thro' the movie.......that's how I have enjoyed most of Christopher Nolan's and Guy Ritchie's fare since my husband is no fan of seemingly-disconnected-stories-finally-coming-together kinda movies...... :)

I am gonna look out for happy-go-lucky ..thanks for the recomm.!