Wednesday, August 1, 2012

So much for my happy ending

Since starting work this summer, I haven't had much time to catch up on movies or television like I usually do. Save for the Monday night Bachelorette viewings over the past few weeks (until last week, sigh), I rarely took part in entertainment viewing. I just didn't have the time.

On Monday, though, I took the day off. I'd worked at the CBS TCA Summer Press Tour all day Sunday and figured if I didn't want to fall asleep in the car on my way to work the next day, I'd better not go in at all.

In between long bouts of sleep, I decided to watch a movie on the new Roku my dad had purchased for my room. Excuses to be a couch potato are plentiful in my house, and having Netflix hooked up to my television is by far one of the best.

The movie I chose was The Decoy Bride. I wasn't exactly looking for intellectual stimulation, so I went for the next best thing - light laughs and rom-com mind goop.

The Decoy Bride stars David Tennant (The 10th Doctor from Doctor Who) and Kelly Macdonald (Merida from Brave), with supporting actors who I will refrain from mentioning because the main reason for my sharing this story at all is the romance that develops between these two characters. It's a movie about a female celebrity, Lara Tyler (Alice Eve), and her effort to wed James Arber (Tennant) without the interference of paparazzi at the ceremony. When she discovers that the paparazzi will literally follow her anywhere for a few shots, she drags Arber to the island of Hegg to get married in a private ceremony with only her publicists present.

While on Hegg, though, James meets a woman from the island, Katie NicAoidh (Macdonald) who he at first mistakes for a restroom attendant, and then becomes better acquainted with when she is enlisted by Lara's publicists to play decoy bride (alas, the title of the film) so that the paparazzi that have located the wedding location will miss the actual wedding, instead witnessing the faux version between Katie and James.

It's a confusing premise. At least my description is confusing.

But what isn't confusing is the ending of the movie.

Though we never see any particular tension between James and Lara, in the final scene James returns to Hegg after some time has passed. He reveals to Katie that his most recent book (Did I mention he was a writer who wrote a poorly research novel about Hegg? No? Oops) is about their adventures together and has been dedicated to her.

Up until this point in the film, it was reasonable to assume that the two main characters would not end up together in a sort of My Best Friend's Wedding inspired conclusion where the female protagonist goes on pining, but learns she must let go of the last man she could ever see herself being truly happy with.

Then David Tennant shows up on the screen again and I thought to myself "Oh, duh. How could I ever have thought otherwise?"

The thing about the happy ending that is ever-present in romantic comedies and films oriented toward the fairer sex is that they're practically indispensable. Aside from the rare occasion as with that 1997 Julia Roberts film that has become the quintessential romantic comedy, any and all films in this genre (or appealing to this audience) assume it necessary to conclude with the expected.

In general I might be the person to go against this concept. To adamantly fight for realism in film and proclaim the necessity of portrayals of real life situations, of events that can relate to our everyday lives.

But this is where I go rogue.

Films are well-served by reality, I will vouch for this theory every day for the rest of my life. And with a hopeful career critiquing films or theater (which follows virtually the same estimation of quality - at the very least in the realistic portrayal of characters, even in an avant-garde setting), I happily proclaim the greatness of realistic cinema. It's why I love independent cinema so much.

But realistic endings, unlike realistic films in general, are not necessary in my book.

A good film, aside from taking me out of my mind and into the screen for an hour and 45 minutes, is somehow also able to remind me of real life in some way. And though we may purport that a sad ending is more akin to reality - pessimists, all of us! - there are happy endings too.

Yet sometimes, because happy endings aren't exactly plentiful or necessarily going to happen, we have to embrace the frivolity of a happy ending. We might even complain or cry at one that isn't what we expected.

At the end of The Decoy Bride, I was ready to complain my head off were James to end up with his non-descript, uninteresting bride Lara over the intriguing, lovely Katie. By dragging me along at the end of the film - making me believe it would end with a My Best Friend's Wedding flourish and then transitioning to a more Made of Honor sort of conclusion - it made me realize that what I really want is a happy ending. Because, believe it or not, that's what I want in reality too. And is that so much to ask for?

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