Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie Review: Marty


Marty (vintage poster above available here) came to my attention through another movie called "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With", an enjoyable re-imagining of Marty starring Sarah Silverman and Jeff Garlin. This is an embarrassing admission, since Marty is one of those Classic Films that Everyone Should Know. As we watched I discovered snippets had somehow seeped into my consciousness despite my never having seen it. (Just like you don't have to actually read 1984 to understand references to Big Brother.)

Within the first five minutes, Eric and I looked at each other and nodded as if to say "We're in for a special treat tonight, aren't we?" This movie was just about perfect.

Marty is a kindly, but unattractive single butcher. His family, friends and customers constantly tease him about his single status, and though he is lonely, he is tired of working up the nerve to ask someone out only to get shot down. His ego is bruised and tattered, he feels old and resigned to being alone for the rest of his life. This doesn't stop his mother and best friend from nagging him to go out on Saturday nights. He goes reluctantly, more to get them off his back than with real hopes of meeting the right little lady.

The dance hall that Saturday night is the usual nightmare- he stands on the sidelines while everyone else is twirling around merrily. He gets up the courage to ask a gal to dance, she takes one look at him and says coolly "I don't feel like dancing just yet." "Sure." he says and takes his wounded pride back to the other side of the room to stare morosely at the pretty people.

Just then, a parallel scene opens right behind him. Two couples arrive; one an established couple and the other two friends they are trying to fix up. She is trying her best to be friendly, but the gentlemen is being decidedly ungentlemanly- scoping out another girl and not so subtly making plans to meet up with her later. As he makes his hasty retreat, she realizes what is happening and crestfallen, heads to the rooftop to cry it out.

Marty watches the whole scene unfold and his heart goes out to her. After all, he knows rejection when he sees it. He timidly goes out to comfort her and before long the two of them are locked in conversation.

It's as if everything that he's never been able to tell anyone comes pouring out of him in a great torrent. She listens with big wide eyes and soft spoken replies. It's clear that it's been a long time since she's been out this late on a Saturday night. She's the great cliché of a spinster school teacher, but somehow she hasn't turned bitter and angry. She just seems tired. But Marty's great outpouring of confidences winds her up- her eyes begin to shine and she laughs loud and long for the first time in ages.

The next morning, Marty is a changed man. He's singing and full of verve. But now, circumstances have caused his friends and family to re-think their positions on Marty's single status. His mother has realized it might be nice have a bachelor son to take care of her in her old age. And his best friend has realized it's nice to have his old buddy Marty to fall back on when none of the girls succumb to his leering looks. His cousin is in the midst of a giant battle with his new wife and mother- so the quiet, easy life of a confirmed old bachelor is looking like the greenest grass on the planet.

No one seems pleased as Marty talks dreamily about his wonderful date last night. Suddenly they are all thinking of reasons why he shouldn't like this girl- she's too old, too smart, not Italian and actually, really quite ugly come to think of it.

I found tears streaming down my face as I watched the climactic final scene (which I won't spoil for you- promise you'll watch it!) I kept thinking, "Yes. Isn't that just how life is sometimes?"

We love each other, but we are selfish too. Oftentimes we want our friends to be what is best for us rather than what is best for them. Not out of malice, but from an inability to step outside our own perspective and see through the eyes of another. This is why I believe so deeply in "to thine own self be true." No one else can make the big decisions for you- "Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and hope that the people you love catch up with you."

1 comment:

Nicholas Prigge said...

Yeah, this movie is fairly awesome, although I remain convinced Hollywood will eventually remake it with Kevin James and Reese Witherspoon (in horn-rimmed glasses) and that Marty would accept the $5 that guy offers to pose as his old army buddy to take Clara off his hands which would lead to "wacky" misunderstandings.

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