I really love good movies, and I hate bad ones. This, of course, creates a bit of a practical dilemma, since you can't really be sure ahead of time whether a movie will be good or bad.
Not long ago our family sat down sort of hopefully to Brave. After all, it was Pixar, and it had gotten pretty good reviews. Afterwards, we were appalled, including the nine year old—annoyed that we'd wasted an evening of family time; bitterly disappointed that Pixar could produce such inane, PC drivel; depressed about the state of our culture...
It's the sort of experience that puts you on guard. You think, "That's it. I am never watching a movie again unless the reviews from someone I trust are rock solid raves." And even then, it's a risk.
So, when a friend whose intelligence, good sense, and moral values I admire recommends an old movie I've never heard of—even calls it one of her all time favorites—I seize on it. This happened a couple of weeks ago, when Janet Smith mentioned A Period of Adjustment on facebook. When I saw that it was written by Tennesee Williams and starred Jane Fonda, I was even more hopeful.
Jules and I ordered it immediately and watched it together a few days later. I've been thinking about it since.
It's definitely a good movie. It's honest; it's thought-provoking; and it's touching and funny at moments. Jane Fonda is supberb. But, I can't say I loved it. I found it unsettling. Disturbing even.
A few reflections, in no particular order.
1) If that's what marriages were like a few decades back—if that's how men talked to and about their wives—then, for all its ills and evils, thank God for feminism. It was necessary. We needed it.
2) Like the other works of his I've read or watched, this one adds to painful the impression that Tennesse Williams must have had a horribly unhappy childhood. He must have witnessed a lot of terrible ugliness between people who were supposed to love each other.
3) I like very much the theme of "period of adjustment"—the keen, intelligent sense that the author has of the difficulty human beings have in understanding and communicating with one another. I like how he shows that often our worst characteristics (the rudeness of some men, the exaggerated sensitivity of some women) are a cover for secret pain or shame that needs compassion and tenderness more than indignation and rebuke, nevermind violence. I like the implied advice: be gentle and patient and humorous with each other, if you can. Get through the rough patches. Try to understand each other. If you do, you'll be okay.
4) But, even though I like that advice, I can't say the movie leaves me with much hope for the characters. They become more willing, over the course of the film, to adjust to each other. But, for what? It seems to me his highest aspirations for love and marriage and understanding between spouses are so low as to be hardly worth fighting for and hardly likely to survive anything worse than the strain of ordinary misunderstandings. And every marriage will have more than that to get through.
If that was ever thought to be "as good as it gets" in marriage, it's no wonder our divorce culture is out of control.