As the Takeaway comes to an end, we get one last set of movie prescriptions from Kristen Meinzer, a culture critic and host of the podcast "By The Book" and Rafer Guzman, a film critic for Newsday, and they bring us movie prescriptions about embracing change and fresh starts.
Together Kristen and Rafer are the co-hosts of the podcast, Movie Therapy.
Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar, 2021
When middle aged best friends Barb and Star lose their jobs, they decide that a restorative vacation in Vista Del Mar is just what they need to help them ease into the next chapter. But things don't go quite as planned - with mysterious men, villains, and more throwing monkey wrenches into their getaway. Fortunately their friendship, optimism, and sense of humor keeps them strong and ready for anything that's thrown their way. The movie stars Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo.
The lesson: Things in life don't always go as planned. Sometimes we lose a job, and then things get worse from there. But leaning on our friends, and laughing at the absurdity of life can make it all more manageable.
Sister Act, 1992
Whoopie Goldberg stars as a nightclub singer who's forced to go into witness protection in a convent after witnessing a mob hit. While there, she struggles with the regimented life of the nuns. But thanks to her outstanding musical talents and charisma, she's able to turn the convent choir into a soulful chorus complete with a Motown repertoire.
The lesson: Sometimes we're thrown into situations that feel wildly out of our purview. But that doesn't mean we can't handle them. In fact, those situations combined with our unique skills mean that we might excel in new ways.
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, 2010
This documentary follows one year in the life of Joan Rivers. It was filmed when Rivers was 75, and coming out of what she considered a down year...after 40+ years of ups and downs as an actor, writer, and comedian. Along the way, she reveals some of her darker moments, biggest struggles, and incredible work ethic...along with lots of her biting wit.
The lesson: Even a legend like Joan Rivers has had lots of down years...times that could have broken her...but she chose to keep working, evolving, and trying new things. I'll also add that this film has a special place in my heart because when she was on her press tour for it, Rafer and I got to interview her...and she ended up being our first celebrity interview for the Movie Date podcast.
Harold and Maude, 1971
This is kind of the original cult movie, from 1971 -- before Rocky Horror, before Pink Flamingos, there was Harold and Maude. It’s the story of Harold, played by Bud Cort, and he’s a very rich, very mobrid young man who spends most of his time staging fake suicides to upset his mother. He hangs himself, cuts his throat, immolates himself and so on. For fun he attends random funerals, and that’s where he meets an 80-year-old woman named Maude, played by the great Ruth Gordon. And Maude is a rebel, even kind of an outlaw -- she's kind of a hippie, she poses nude for artists and for some reason she love to steal cars. She just loves to live. And these two start a friendship and despite their vast age difference, they fall in love.
There was a time when you could see this movie at an art-house theater just about once a week, and I pretty much did, but I think it got oversaturated and it’s really fallen off the radar these days. But I think it’s worth revisiting. I like this movie because it seems morbid and perverse, and the humor is very dark. But as it goes on, it gets more and more tender and sincere, and these two characters start to feel very real. And in the end, Maude changes Harold, she gives him a new way of looking at life, she gives him a new spirit and she gives him a new way of expressing himself. She teaches him to play the banjo (and like Steve Martin always said, it’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you play a banjo.) And the final scene in the movie, which involves that banjo, it's a really hopeful, happy scene that tell us Harold is about to embark on a whole new life.
Probably most adult humans have seen Castaway but just to refresh you: Tom Hanks plays a guy named Chuck Noland. Happy, likeable guy, works for Fed Ex, he has a girlfriend, played by Helen Hunt, they’re both deeply in love. He’s really got it all. And then he’s in a plane crash. He wakes up on a tiny island, somewhere in Pacific Ocean, surrounded by junk and debris from the plane, completely alone. And he’s stuck there for FOUR YEARS. And of course, the most famous thing about this film is probably Wilson, a soccer ball that becomes Chuck’s best friend as Chuck starts to go a little crazy.
The scenes that always get me are in the second half of the film. Spoiler alert, Chuck gets rescued. And now he’s facing a world that moved on without him. His girlfriend is married! She thought he was dead, so she he had to move on. (What a scene that is -- I can’t believe Hunt didn’t get an Oscar nomination for that.) Anyway, in these scenes, Chuck actually starts to miss his life on the island. He misses sleeping on the hard ground, he misses the act of trying to spear a fish for food. And that really struck me as true. The thing about people is, they can adapt to anything. And once they do, they love it. But then things change and you have to adapt again. So I guess the lesson of this film is that no matter where you are, you aren’t at the end, you’re always in the middle. You’re always between the past and the future. But if you want to keep living, you’ve got to get to that next future.
Inside Out, 2015
I loved this movie so much back in 2015 that I just fell all over myself praising it. I’m pretty sure it was number one on my top ten that year. It’s the story of two emotions, one named Joy, with the voice of Amy Poehler, and one named Sadness, voiced by Phyllis Smith. And this is your classic Pixar buddy comedy, with two opposing personalities, and it all takes place in these imaginary realms of your brain and your personality, like the Train of Thought and Friendship Island and Dream Productions, which is basically a movie studio in the mind. And it does a great job of bringing abstract concepts to life in these really, clever funny ways.
But the reason I picked this movie is because Joy and Sadness live in the brain of a pre-teen girl named Riley. Her family has just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco when her father gets a new job. It’s a huge change, Riley doesn’t want to leave her old life, and she’s afraid of what her new life might be. So what we’re seeing as Joy and Sadness go on their adventure, is what’s happening in the mind of Riley as she grapples with change. And I really like how this movie shows that Sadness is important -- you have to feel it, you have to express it, and you can’t just bury it or shut it off, if you’re going to move forward on to the next thing.