I have developed a bad habit about movie-watching. For quite some time now, I have been unable to tolerate physical violence--I think it stems from going to see "Fargo" after being told repeatedly that it was a comedy, and being completely unprepared for the murder in the parking ramp, or the wood-chipper scene. I remember leaving the theater shaken and appalled, and furious that people had told me it was a hilarious movie and had not mentioned the brutal gory violence.
It didn't help that I've been in that particular parking ramp a zillion times myself.
Anyway, that might have been when I started realizing I just couldn't take any physical violence in films. And over time, that has slowly evolved to include just about any kind of tension at all. Part of the problem, of course, is modern movies--you never know when the violence is suddenly going to erupt. It can be a perfectly fine movie and then suddenly there's a homicidal maniac leaping out of the closet, or a terrible car crash, or the adorable little kid falls off a cliff. Or the quiet sexy man decides to chop off the finger of the piano-playing woman. Or whatever. You know.
So we search for more and more benign movies on Netflix. I still want good writing; I still want good characters and an interesting storyline. (But you can't watch Jane Austen all the time.) We will get halfway or three-quarters of the way into a movie and suddenly I'll start feeling uneasy. I'll tell Doug to pause the movie. I'll go over to the computer, hit Google, and find out what's going to happen.
"Take it out," I'll say, closing the laptop. "This isn't going to end well." And Doug will give me a patient, sideways look, and then he'll press STOP and OPEN and slide the DVD back into the Netflix envelope and seal it shut and we'll mail it back. Two-thirds watched.
I have done this more times than I can count.
I did it over the weekend, with a movie that we were enjoying--"The Girl in the Cafe," about a buttoned-down civil servant and an enigmatic young woman. As the movie progressed, it became clear that she was going to say inopportune things (as she had been doing throughout the film) and get him fired from his job, which was his life. I paused the movie, Googled, found out that the film ends with him sobbing at the airport, and just the thought of that was too much for me. "Take it out," I said. "This isn't going to end well."
And we mailed the movie back.
I did it again tonight, with "Little Voice," another movie we were enjoying. But Google says that the Michael Caine character turns mean, the mother gets hysterical, the house burns down, and all of Little Voice's beloved records are destroyed. I prefer to leave her where we left her last night--on stage, singing her heart out to an enthralled audience.
So back it goes, two-thirds watched.
Is it a flaw in my character, some kind of weakness, that causes me to become so emotional about movies--even mediocre movies--that I can't watch them unless they have a happy ending? Am I doomed to a world of light comedies and witty French farces? Are tragedies--or even just ordinary sadness--beyond my capabilities? (And to think I once watched "A Clockwork Orange" with no problem whatsoever. Oh callow youth.)
Perhaps not forever. But right now, during all this dire stuff--from Haiti to health care to my cousin to my job--I do not want, do not need, can not handle any additional stress. Right now, The Teletubbies is about as stressful as I can handle.