Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lessons from Movies on the Road

So the travel continues--and it is rapidly moving from the “getting old” category to the “something must change” as I really have had enough of being away from the family. This trip involved missing two baseball practices, a piano recital, and one reportedly hilarious afternoon of slip-and-slide on the hill in the backyard.

The only up side of this latest trip is that it has involved driving and trains rather than airplanes. Now you may have a variety of complaints about air travel including being nickel-and-dimed at every step of the process, having to basically disrobe to get through security (they will be charging for that soon), being crammed into a small-as–conceivable-space-as-possible to sit in for an extended period of time and on and on.

But I want to add another complaint: the airlines clearly have an agenda of making parents who travel feel as guilty as possible about their work travels with the movies that decide to show.

For instance, on a recent trip to California the movie was The Blind Side in which we see the happy family taking in the down-on-his-luck dude, making him feel a part of a family that will never abandon him. The family is tight and always there for this guy—their father would never leave them or miss a key game—no, no, he is always there as if he almost doesn’t have a job! Sure, I know, just a movie just showing the positive moments—not reality, blah, blah, blah. Try to talk that to me and the two businessmen sitting with me in my row who were all not so subtlety dabbing our eyes at the corners during the movie at every emotional moment.

It reminded me of an earlier trip where they showed The Rookie in which Dennis Quaid plays a baseball player in the minors trying to make it in the big leagues. You get all these scenes of him being away from his kids (he is of course a great dad) and is just about to throw it all in because he can’t stand it. C’mon, that just isn’t fair! And then when I talked to two of my colleagues who were also on that trip and saw the same movie on the plane (and who had young children as well), I learned that they too were a mess watching the film for all the same reasons.

But the film on the way home on my last trip really took the cake. It was Everybody’s Fine starring Robert De Niro and many others. It is a remake of remake of the Giuseppe Tornatore film Stanno Tutti Bene and if you haven’t seen it the basic plot goes likes this.

De Niro is retired and a recent widower who has four kids. He dreams of getting all the kids back together but they can no longer make it. So he decides to go out and visit them all, but discovers in doing so that he doesn’t know his children at all, they never told him anything although were all close with their mother, they feel he was hard on them when they were young and so were forever worrying about not meeting his expectations and before he discovers this all, one of his children has died. Man oh man—really?

Sure everything ends up great in the end—it is Hollywood after all, but it is hard to see the ending when you are in the midst of a plot that feels like it isn’t going in the direction you want. So, I guess it is either time to stop watching movies on planes or actually doing something to change things so I don’t have to count on a Hollywood ending.

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