Saturday, May 28, 2011


How Do You Know? (2010)
by James L. Brooks

So ... I have kept this for a long time as proof that
we're all just one small adjustment away from
making our lives work.

Tonight, I was devastated by a can of Play-Doh.

Perhaps I should explain a little more ...

I will quietly and cautiously admit that I am easily suckered in by manipulative romantic comedies (you'll keep this between us, won't you?).  They don't even have to be particularly good ... this evening's offering was How Do You Know? by the wonderful screenwriter James L. Brooks.  Standard rom-com storyline ... Pretty Girl is dating famous but insensitive and neglectful Schmuck, while ignoring the shy, sensitive, bumbling Everyman who is carrying a serious torch.  But don't worry, everything works out all right at the end, as it always does, and those that deserve to live "happily ever after" do (even if there's no particular chemistry between the two ;-)

At the end of this particular movie, Paul Rudd (the aforementioned Everyman) visits the shared apartment of Reese Witherspoon (the aforementioned Pretty Girl) and Owen Wilson (the aforementioned Schmuck).  Just before his arrival, Schmuck gives Pretty Girl a diamond-studded watch as a sign that they are "engaged to be engaged."  Everyman arrives with new-found determination to let Pretty Girl know his true feelings and pulls her out on the balcony so that they can "talk."  There he gives her his birthday present.  She unwraps it, and it's a ...

Can of Play-Doh.  "Huh?" says the look on Pretty Girl's face.

But wait ... Everyman takes the container in his hand and tells the story of how the inventor created the original goo to clean soot from wallpaper.  When it looked like the inventor would lose his shirt after the advent of electric and gas heat, a schoolteacher friend suggested he add color to the compound a make a new kind of modeling material that didn't dry like clay.  So ... Everyman hands Pretty Girl the plastic can and says ... well, you can read the line above.

I'm not sure how to explain this, and frankly I'm not even sure I want to get this personal, but ... I broke down in tears.  And I'm not talking about the smiling, tears-rolling-down-the-face-happy-ending tears.  These were painful, sobbing tears.  Sure, I get misty in almost all romantic comedies, but I don't remember ever having this kind of a reaction.  There was something deeply personal for me in this simple but beautifully-written line. 

As some of my friends know, particularly those with whom I've recently shared lunches and dinners, I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately about where I am in my life.  What things do I value?  What things are not giving me the satisfaction they once did?  What might I be willing to do to change things?  What are those things that I could easily do without?  Why do I not find value in those things from which I find the most success?  What are the things that I still feel are missing?  What, when it comes right down to it, is the "small adjustment" that I can't seem to find to make my life "work"?  What am I afraid of?  As you might imagine, this simple movie line was profound for me and it frankly took a bit of time for me to even recover.

This wasn't my original plan for today's blog post, but I felt it was important enough to write about since it had such an effect on me.  I hope someday that my writing can elicit the kind of emotion that this simple scene and line did for me ... thanks, Mr. Brooks ...

1 comment:

  1. I am writing that on a can of play dough and putting in my bathroom so every morning I can see it. I have a wonderful life but I often feel there is something I am one step away from.....