Happily Even After
Movie Gold: “Date Night” and “Away We Go”
by Josh and Stacey Noem
We love to watch movies of all kinds. We love them for the entertainment value and are pretty willing to suspend our sense of reality to take them for what they are.
We also enjoy discussing movies. Given our background, we’ll use a theological lens to see what else they might be saying about human nature or what insight they might bring to the human condition. UP! is a good example of a totally entertaining movie that has all kinds of interesting insights into the process of grieving. Or Inglorius Basterds, despite its overwhelming violence (Josh tells me when to cover my eyes and when all is clear), for its ability to hold a mirror up to our cinematic desensitization to crimes against human dignity.
I think somewhere along the line of movie viewing (no longer “movie-going” since we are mostly the living room video audience) we stopped expecting or even hoping for a movie that had much authenticity when it came to presenting an optimistic, life-giving view of family life or married couple relationships. All too often, marriage and family life serve as the butt of jokes.
For example, It’s Complicated was a real low point for us. Granted, we are products of a baby-boomer generation, not members of it, so our parents might feel differently, but we both found the characters in this film more laughable than the comedic elements. Alec Baldwin’s character, in particular, is frighteningly immature. He has no sense of himself whatsoever, and his search for himself wreaks havoc on both of his wives and all of his children.
Then we struck movie gold. Twice. In one weekend. Two movies in three days and both were entirely entertaining and both climaxed in moments of deep truth about the task faced by couples who parent and attempt to shape a family life.
First we saw Date Night, with Tina Fey (we have loved her since she first came on with Saturday Night Live) and Steve Carell. In a case of mistaken identities, these two set out for a date night dinner and end up with dirty cops, blackmail, kill shots, and a strip club.
At one point Tina Fey’s character is going off at her husband (Steve Carell) and Stacey was nodding along and giggling. Then he responds and Josh was nodding along and giggling. Which is fun and entertaining, but it is also insightful because the dynamics ring true.
The heart of that movie comes over pancakes in a diner—through all the difficulties, both mundane and extraordinary, both characters would make the choice to do it all again. “I choose you every time,” he says to her. This is the daily choice we make in marriage.
Then a couple nights later we saw Away We Go with another SNL lady, Maya Rudolph and another The Office guy, John Krasinski. The two are unmarried and unexpectedly pregnant. They set off to find a city and home to raise their family in.
It was a slow start, especially with an unconventional pregnancy-discovery scene. But this movie, too, has moments where relationship dynamics ring true. As they walk through an airport, he asks her again and again about the plan for their trip. As she is responding, she opens his jacket to reference the itinerary that she has stapled there for him.
Again, the writing rings true when it comes to how couples interact—and not just the main couple. In each city they visit, they spend time with a different couple and family. Through these visits, we get glimpses into different family systems. It was easy for us to identify with the main couple’s yearning for a balanced, healthy, authentic and fulfilling family life. Fundamentally, the spectrum of family systems raises the question: what is it that we are really hoping for in family life?
The heart of the movie comes in a dialogue between two couples, also over pancakes in a diner. The vision of family life in this scene rings true: family asks everything of us, one father says—especially patience. And it asks more than we thought we could give. A mother agrees: family life makes us so much better than we thought we could have been, she says. This is a view of family life that fits well with Christian hope: all-giving love for others leads to new and abundant life.
We both found ourselves with tears of laughter (Josh more than Stacey), but in the end, we went to bed with the warm feeling that we’re not alone in our optimism about marriage and family life. Neither movie presents marriage and family life as a sacramental reality (family life isn’t even a marital reality in Away We Go) but it was nice to see movies that affirm the choice for generous self-giving love, and proclaim it as something noble and worthy of sacrifice.
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