Sunday, April 20, 2014

On My Mind: A Not Happy Enough Ending?

My wife and I have literally watched hundreds of movies together. After all this time, we still have completely divergent ideas on what makes one good or bad. One of the main areas where we most often disagree is on how a movie ends. She prefers that everyone live happily ever after. I'm okay when that happens, as long as it's not forced, but prefer more ambiguous or darker endings. However, that's not really my issue with her insistence on fairy tale finales. My thing is I'm occasionally baffled when she doesn't like a movie because the ending of the movie we just saw isn't happy enough.

I know. You're wondering what that even means.

To explain what's going on in my household, I'll use the movie that inspired this post, Gravity, to give you a window into our lives. Oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT! If you don't want the ending ruined for you, just stop reading now. Now that that's out the way, let's proceed.

Gravity is the harrowing tale of Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, on her first mission into space. Soon, she finds herself all alone facing her own mortality after the rest of her crew has been killed by debris from a nearby satellite that's been shot down. With the Space Shuttle they arrived in also destroyed, she has to somehow make her way to an unmanned Chinese space station and try to fly it back to Earth. That's simplifying it a bit, but you get the gist. At the end of this grand adventure, Stone manages to crash land in one of our planet's many bodies of water. After some more struggle, she makes it to the nearby shore and struggles to her feet and walks presumably toward civilization. Mission accomplished, right? Pure triumph of the human spirit, no? Yes, but that wasn't enough for Mrs. Dell on Movies.

So what's the problem?

The problem, in her eyes, is that the movie didn't go on long enough. For most of us, where the movie ends is perfect. It closes on an undeniable implication of her survival of an epic ordeal. My wife doesn't like implied endings. She has an incredibly strong desire to see it played out to the point where any shred of doubt has been completely removed. She didn't want to see Bullock just make it to Earth. She wanted to literally see our heroine walk through the forest at the edge of the beach, make it safely to some sort of civilization, notify them of her identity, be deposited back in America (if she isn't already there), and reunited with friends and family. Never mind that this could easily add another half-hour of less-than-thrilling cinema, that's what she wanted, dammit. Only then would she deem the movie complete.

I have a theory.

My theory is that her maternal instincts are so strong she practically adopts the protagonists of some movies as her own children. The idea that the movie ends with even the potential for them to be in danger is appalling to her. After all, there may be wild animals in those woods Bullock is staggering toward. She may be walking into some savage village where she'll be killed. She might get the point. There are potentially lots of obstacles between where the movie ends and that same character falling peacefully asleep in her own bed. Look at the pic above. In my wife's eyes, the movie may as well have ended right there.

That's my theory. It's possibly the sexist ramblings of a clueless man. Maybe it's just a frustrated husband grasping at straws. Still, numerous conversations with the woman in my life have made this more than plausible. It's downright probable.

It's also ridiculous.

At least that's what I say. When I see Bullock pull herself up on that beach and the word GRAVITY come across the screen, I take it as a clear indication that her journey is over. She made it. Years of studying English lit has taught me to just roll with whatever is suggested by the ending. I mean, that only makes sense, right? If the author, or auteur in this case, wanted us to think anything different he/she would have continued their story.

Then again, it's not so ridiculous. As much as I consider myself a movie buff, even a bit of an expert when being compared to friends and family, I still can't tell a person they have to like or dislike a movie and for the reasons I give them. Try as I might to make her understand that Gravity ended at the best possible moment, it's still only the best possible moment in my opinion. For her, she didn't see what she wanted to see. It didn't go far enough. I totally disagree, but we're talking about her feelings, not mine.


  1. "It's possibly the sexist ramblings of a clueless man. Maybe it's just a frustrated husband grasping at straws."

    So, if I could get this on a shirt, it would save me hours of explanation. I could just say the dumb shit that I say. Then, watch my wife's face explode in disgust. Then, simply point to the shirt.

    Anyway...I'm with you. Perfect spot to end the film. Absolutely.

    1. Love the shirt idea. Not sure if that would make things better or worse, but love it anyway.