Monday, June 09, 2008


Many people have a little black dress or a dark business suit they can put on when they want to look polished and fit in with a more sophisticated crowd. But to go with that dress or suit, it’s good to have one item of high-brow conversation you can whip out when the occasion arises.

That’s why everyone needs one allegorical movie that they can discuss from a symbolic viewpoint. This is an often ignored social skill, much more important than knowing which fork to use with your salad.

So picture yourself standing in your little black dress or your dark business suit, struggling to think of a topic to discuss that doesn’t include the word “walleye” or “Jello shots” or “grandchildren.” If you’re not quite sure where to start to be prepared for that moment, go to your local video store and rent Wit, a movie that is loaded with depth, substance, and allegoric meaning.

Wit stars Emma Thompson, the talented British actress, who plays Dr. Vivian Bearing, a college literature professor specializing in the works of John Donne, a 17th century metaphysical poet.

Admit it—aren’t you intrigued? Can you see the whole family gathered around the TV set with a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s movie theater buttered microwave popcorn, listening with rapt attention to discussions on the figurative language in the poetry of John Donne? Just remember—this is research. You may want to take notes.

Wit’s plot is an in-depth examination of a woman who has been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.

Now you’re thinking, ‘The possibilities for mystery, comedy, drama, and intrigue are endless!’ aren’t you? Or maybe you’re thinking, ‘But where’s the chase scene? The George Lucas/Stephen Spielberg special effects?’

There is no chase scene. There are no special effects. The whole movie pretty much takes place within one hospital room. There is chemotherapy-induced throwing up for drama. There is baldness for special effects. There is a thin woman lying in a white-sheeted hospital bed in a rumpled hospital gown for intrigue.

And for good measure—and allegory—there is the irony of salvation anxiety as a woman who has spent her entire adult life studying and teaching the works of a poet who spent his entire adult life studying death . . . well, you just have to pay close attention to understand the irony of it all.

So watch the movie and take careful notes. Then when you’re standing there in your black dress or dark suit, you have a movie you can just drop casually into the conversation with a thoughtful reference to salvation anxiety and maybe sound a little smarter or a little deeper than you normally do.

Or just look for a guy in a plaid sports coat and gravy stains on his tie leaning up against the bar drinking a beer, who doesn’t care what an allegory is, and spend the night talking to him about why the Twins will probably blow it again this year. That works, too.

No comments: