If you’re looking for a classic weepy movie this weekend, you cant do better than the Lifetime television movie version of Steel Magnolias airing this Sunday starring the People’s Choice Awards five time host Queen Latifah, its one of the few traditional chick flick movies that is able to tug at my heartstrings. I can safely say that you should stock up on your Puffs tissues because between the original source material and the tear inducing Pavlovian response one gets when simply hearing the words ‘Lifetime television movie’ this flick will undoubtedly make you cry. If Queen Latifah doesn’t get you with her version of the infamous “Open yours eyes, Shelby. Open…Open, your eyes!” hospital bedside plea, it’ll be M’Lynn’s grave site meltdown where she all but pulls the clothes from her body while ranting about the unfairness of life after (SPOILER ALERT!) her daughter dies.
The funny thing is that outside of Steel Magnolias, I’m not one for chick flicks. Definitely not one for the ‘Woman overcomes every betrayal under the sun to live another day’ Lifetime television movie. For me, watching a woman live out every possible nightmare (being raped, betrayed by a husband, abandoned, beaten, suffering the loss of a child, parent, or spouse under tragic circumstances) for hours on end is the exact opposite of my idea of an entertaining two hours. It was only when it was explained (by a television network executive that I was interning for at a female audience skewing network) that it’s the cathartic experience of seeing someone go through such turmoil only to survive and prosper in the end (at least according to their research) that makes these movies so popular with women that I could finally wrap my head around the psychology of it all. Why? Because while I couldn’t connect with the stereotypical “girl weepy”, there was a type of film that provided the same kind of emotional fulfillment for me as a Lifetime movie did for the rest of the normal female population that I like to call the “male weepy.”
Now, what I mean by the male weepy is not a man allowing a single tear to trickle down his cheek after avenging his dead wife and children by dispatching hundreds of gun toting baddies (although I do love my revenge films) or some emo angsting pretty boy contemplating the world around him as he ‘finds himself’ (which usually involves a free spirited girl along for the ride). I’m talking about the real stuff, adult stuff, sometimes epic in execution but very specific in examining the emotional and physical turmoil of a man facing insurmountable odds only to survive in the end but changed in very fundamental ways.
The movie that exemplifies this for me? Don’t laugh, but it is Cast Away. Yes, a bearded loin clothed Tom Hanks yelling at a volleyball is what gives me a nice emotional uplift. He goes from being on top of the world to sucking raw crabs out of the shell, knocking his own tooth out with an ice skating blade, contemplating suicide, and longing for Helen Hunt. Years later finally risks it all to take the chance to find civilization again ( while losing his only anchor of sanity when Wilson finally bails on him to go back to the island) is rescued to discover that Helen Hunt has gone on without him. In the end isn’t beaten by all the changes and disappointments in his life but is able to accept them because he recognizes that ‘the sun will rise again’. Tom Hanks learned that bad things happen and if they don’t kill you, they make you stronger; you survive and life goes on.
Another male weepy that I turn to when I want to cry is 127 Hours. Man vs. the elements, only it’s real – it actually happened in real life and the lead character lived to tell! Once again, you have a man who through some bad luck and bad decisions, is brought face-to-face with his own mortality when his arm is pinned under a boulder in a slot canyon in the middle of freakin’ nowhere. Those 127 hours you spend with James Franco’s Aron Ralston as he works himself up to the unthinkable – cutting off his own arm- are alternately funny, trippy, and grim. When he finally just stabs himself in the arm with his dull flimsy pocket knife and starts hacking away, you’re rooting for him all the way (‘Keep sawing! Break the bone! Just do it!’) The moment that the waterworks begin for me is when Ralston finally stumbles upon a family who try to give him aid and the man just takes their water and keeps powering on (He made it this far, he wasn’t going to quit now!). By the end of the movie, when Ralston has realized his hallucination/foreshadowing dream of having a wife and son, not letting the fact that he lost an arm deter him from continuing his adventurous lifestyle, I’m as weepy and emotionally fulfilled as any chick flick acolyte after viewing Terms of Endearment.
Why I couldn’t find this fulfillment from Tori Spelling or Valerie Bertinelli or any other Lifetime movie television queen, I don’t know. What I do know is that everyone has their version of the ‘I’m a survivor!’ chick flick that they find inspirational and one isn’t any better or worse than the other. They all provide a service of thoughtful emotional fulfillment that is cheaper than any hour you’d spend on a therapist’s couch.
August Boatwright (The Secret Life of Bees)
Georgia Byrd (The Last Holiday)
Penny Escher (Stranger Than Fiction)
Vi Rose Hill (Joyful Noise)