Closing pitcher Huston Street has a habit of keeping the final out ball when he converts a save. Seth Smith was unaware of this as he haphazardly tossed a ball to some fans. Street was downtrodden, but with the aid of technology and social networking a call when out in hopes of retrieving the ball. The fans came forth and were more than willing to give Street the ball. This act of selflessness apparently got to Street as he didn’t take the ball, but rather autographed it and gave to the fans.
I like to think most of us felt some happiness when we hear a story like that. The idea of someone doing something that benefits another more than it benefits themselves is an idea that keeps the world from feeling like a cold heartless place. At least that’s how I feel.
However, if this is true then why does a film like Love Actually, which glorifies selfish behavior and shows the selfless being shit on, tend to make me happy?
Maybe you’re asking what kind of selfish behavior Love Actually is promoting. Well, let’s start with Colin Firth. Sure he learns Portuguese to win the heart of some dame, but that was just as much for him as it was for her. The real evidence is when he shows up at his family’s flat for Christmas and just decides he has to leave. Based on the cries of, “I hate uncle Jamie,” pouring out of the mouths of his nieces and nephews, it seems as though his presence at this holiday celebration was important, at least to these children. And he just doesn’t give a shit.
So what happens when he disregards the feelings of his family? He gets engaged to a beautiful woman. The lesson here is ditch your family on holidays for a chance, not even a sure thing, with the opposite sex.
This lesson is also emphasized by Hugh Grant when he doesn’t attend the Christmas play to see his sister’s kids, but to make out with the chick he fired. He even put off Prime Minister duties in order to pursue this chick. Though in all fairness she is really adorable.
Then there’s “Colin: God of Sex.” This guy breaks all ties he has. Basically flipping the bird to anyone who gives a shit about him and heads to America on a hunch that his accent will get him laid.
How’s he rewarded? With sex that not even a pornographer would believe.
What have we learned so far? Be selfish and you can bang hot ladies. It’s not just the sheer amount of selfish acts and their amazing pay offs. But there are those who act selflessly and thusly get shit.
Emma Thompson does nothing but give and give for her family and in return her husband gets her a Joni Mitchell CD while his secretary receives a very lovely necklace. Then she doesn’t even make a scene. She calmly broaches the issue with him in a way that makes her seem kind of like a badass. Despite the badassery of it, it still sucks as she was genuinely in love her husband and got nothing for her work and torment.
Then there’s the guy who is in love with Keira Knightley who is marrying his best friend. He only wants happiness for his best friend and the woman he’s in love with, which means he has to suffer silently. He’s left alone with a weird stalker-esq wedding video, knowing there will be social situations where he has no choice but to bottle his feelings, until eventually they are let out in a way reminiscent of some Bob Dylan video.
Speaking of which, what would he have done if it wasn’t Keira Knightley answering the door but rather his friend? Sure it seems like it would be normal for a buddy to stop by, but it would be awkward trying to explain those poster boards and CD player. I suppose he could just chalk it up to being some art project he’s working on, but it would have been a weird interaction. He really lucked out that Keira Knightley answered. Although that got him a kiss, or luscious reminder of what will never be.
Our saddest sack here though is Laura Linney. Every aspect of her life is controlled, and ruined by her selfless act of caring for her brother. From the moment we meet this character we learn she is in love with the guy with the hair and glasses. It seems to be all she wants, and when she finally gets the opportunity it quickly deteriorates as she gives in to the onus that is caring for brother and answering all his phone calls. This is the part of the movie that makes me the saddest. I ache for her.
When you look at this movie in the way I have just broken it down, it sounds like a real asshole of a movie. Yet when that final scene rolls, when that Beach Boys song swells there is a giant smile that takes over. This seems counter-intuitive to what I said in the opening about finding joy in hearing about people being selfless. So why then would such an asshole of a movie give me such happiness?
Well, it’s because it is not about the selfishness or the selflessness, those are just by-products of the story. What makes me happy about the movie is it showcases people taking control of their lives, or failing to take control. Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, and “Colin: God of Sex,” all essentially say, “Fuck this. This isn’t working. Ima make it work.” Emma Thompson and Laura Linney make no effort to improve their situation and they get fucked.
The more I think about Laura Linney’s situation, they less I feel sorry for her. In his last post Dagger mentioned not being a fatalist. I agree with this and even take a step further. I believe that we are all mostly in control about how we experience each situation. If you’re not enjoying yourself during some situation, then it’s your own damn fault (short of something completely out of your control fucking shit up). So Laura Linney’s failure with hair and glasses guy is not her brother’s fault but rather her own. I don’t fault her for taking care of her brother, that is a good thing. But she has set no ground rules or anything. He knows that she will be at his every beck and call and that is her fault. She needed to instill the idea that she can’t answer every phone call, or that he can’t call at certain times. Even if he has a mental condition that makes him hard to understand this, there are ways to condition and essentially train him to these notions. If Laura Linney wants a life other than caretaker, then she has to take control.
The whole point here is the world is what you make of it, and change happens by action. These are concepts I have often told myself but ones that were harder for me to put into play. I think this is part of the reason I worked in retail for 9 god damned years. But right now, more than any other point in my life, I am more equipped with the tools, skills, and knowledge to mold my world into what I want. It’s the actions in Love Actually that help remind me that what I want is there for the taking, and that it is not only ok, but also necessary at times to be selfish.
Now it’s all up to me. I have to figure out what I want to do, where I want to go, and what I need to do to get there. And then fucking doing it.
In the end, it’s all a question of Hart.
09 Feb 2012 Lee S. Hart