Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday Night At The Movies V



After some family discussion, it was determined we would break out an old family favorite last night for movie night.

Somehow the line: "Well, there was that one traveling salesman" came up in conversation, and we all recognized the movie, and we all realized it had to long since we had seen Second Hand Lions.

If you have never seen the movie, it is all about growing up, growing old and what exactly constitutes a family. And it has some great cars in the supporting cast.

And you can't beat the actors either. How Micheal Caine, as Great Uncle Garth, manages to pull off a Texas twang I'll never know. Robert Duvall, as Great Uncle Hub, does a great job, and Haley Joel Osment as their nephew Walter form a great trio. One review I read this morning:

(P)rais(ed) the performances of Caine, Duvall and Osment but said "Almost all the film's peripheral characters, from Walter's mother and her boyfriend to a family of grasping relatives, are clich├ęd in an overly broad, unfunny way that is unpleasant in itself and a marked contrast to the more nuanced performances of the trio of leads.

I think this reviewer missed the point entirely. The three main characters were real, and the rest of the world was a flat caricature compared to them, especially the two uncles. It's hard to say much, without giving away the film, but then, this isn't a crime drama who-dunnit.

Walter goes to live with his two great uncles when his dippy mother wants to go Las Vegas. No mention is made of his father, but vague references are made to Mae, Walter's mother, being a floozy, so we can leave his parentage to our own devices. Mae lies to Walter about where she will be, another in a series of lies, so Walter decides to make the best of his situation with the Uncles. The Uncles themselves are rather mysterious, having disappeared in Europe 40 years earlier at the height of World War I, and suddenly returning home with rumors of vast wealth floating around them.

It is their rumored wealth, and not themselves that has attracted not only Mae's interest, but that of the rest of Garth and Hub's extended family. Which I see as another key point of the movie. Walter enjoyed his great uncles as people; everybody else saw them as wealthy eccentrics, and they wanted at least a piece of the pie.

The movie centers around the stories of what Garth and Hub did for 40 years, as Garth tells these stories to Walter. As always with family lore, the veracity of these stories is called into question. Walter asks Hub at one point if the stories are true. Hub replies that their truth isn't the point; it's whether Walter believes them or not. Whether the stories are true or not is decided in the final scene of the movie.

As I said, the movie is about growing up, as Walter decides that he needs to take a position with regards to his mother, and makes her accept his will. He is only 14, but based on his life with his mother, he needs to become an adult so that their relationship has an adult in it, as his mother is emotionally a flighty child.

It is also about growing older, as Hub and Garth are aging, Garth because he believes he is supposed to, and Hub being dragged kicking and screaming into a land he has no interest in. Hub at one point talks about how for 40 years he had a use, and his biggest fear is being useless. Garth is more prosaic; taking up gardening, "because that's what retired people do".

But Garth does understand what aging is all about, as he says to Walter at one point:

Well, a man's body may grow old, but inside his spirit can still be as young and as restless as ever.

I think that line sums aging up very well. Us oldsters don't see ourselves as as old; we still see ourselves as 18, or 25, or maybe even 30; whatever age it was we felt on top of the world. We make concessions to our rapidly failing bodies, but unwillingly. We may look 52- or as in Hub's case, 72- on the outside, but inside we are still as young and capable as we were at 25.

Of course, Second Hand Lions fulfills my criteria for a good movie- good story, convincingly told. If you haven't seen it, you should. The critics hated it. In my opinion that alone is enough reason to take a couple of hours on a Friday night and slip into a world where fantasy may be truth, and reality exactly what you have made of it.

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