06 November 2008

God Grant Me the Serenity...


I like movies with recovery and self identified addicts and alcoholics in them. In some ways it's like having my own story told. Us 12 steppers are part of an extended family. Black, white, old, young, rich, poor we're all equal in our campaign to keep ourselves and one another clean. So seeing one of us on screen is akin to seeing someone from the neighborhood or a relative or old friend.

I saw Rachael Getting Married today. Anne Hathaway stars and despite my advanced age I have a huge crush on her (my wife understands). However as Kym the recovering addict she is beautiful but in a sort of oh-by-the-way manner. When a person is a self involved junkie trying to stay clean and dealing with myriad other attendant issues you have a hard time drooling over those gorgeous gams.

All this is to say that Hathaway is damn convincing. Her sister is about to get hitched but she makes herself the center of attention. For most drunks and users that's what its all about, even into sobriety. Look at me! (Syd's rambling all-about-me toast at the rehearsal dinner was excruciating to watch.)

Syd is on a pass out of rehab to attend her sister's wedding which will take place at the family's large Connecticut home. If you've ever wondered what diversity looks like check out this wedding. We've moved so far from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) America that the interracial wedding isn't even really a sidebar to the story. All these people of various backgrounds and colors are just different looking people. No big deal. Seeing this on the heels of Obama's election makes me think we're really making progress in this country (now if we can just stop trying to deny full legal rights to homosexuals we'll really be on to something).

The wedding and especially all the people involved and the build up to the big day are as much part of the story as Syd. In a sense she's just the most obvious character to focus on. After all given her horrific past and shaky present Syd is a real wild card. While the whole veneer is wonderful, you know there's always some ugliness lurking underneath. The character of Syd makes it as obvious as a slap in the face (my use of that phrase is relevant, as you'll see). How she sticks out and maybe more significantly, how she blends in is crucial to the story. All the other characters, are like Syd, fully drawn. Bill Irwin as the dad is especially good. Director Jonathan Demme did a wonderful job of moving the camera and allowing background characters and their reactions to register.

Syd manages to attend a few 12 step meetings and they have, I can vouch, an authentic feel to them. You should see the faces at an AA meeting. People sit there wearing their fear, anxiety, courage, serenity and whatever else is going on in their world. There's nothing to hide and no filters necessary, not if a person is sincere.

I won't tell you if Syd has a slip during the story but I'll tell you I was damn conflicted watching the story unfold. On the one hand Syd using again could be effective for dramatic proposes. On the other, you just hate to see it happen, especially if you've been there. Rooting one way or another is futile. Even in real life you've got to let go of a newcomer at some point.

Addiction is, as we say, cunning, baffling and powerful. You're in the check out line at the grocery star behind someone buying a six pack of beer and you think, "that's all? not much of a party." You watch people at a party nurse a drink and think, "finish the damn thing off already and get another." We just don't get this whole business about going out for a drink and actually just have ONE DRINK. How do you people do that? Recovery allows us to live life on life's term, that ultimate gift. Whatever comes our way, good or bad, we can experience it and deal with it. It's not an easy road, as Syd's story helps illustrate.

Rachael Getting Married was an endlessly fascinating movie -- until the last ten minutes or so. The story just petered out at the end. But maybe that's appropriate. After all, celebrations, weekends, vacations, they all end and usually not with a grand climax. More like the air slowly escaping from a balloon.

In some respects watching the movie was, for me, like going to a meeting. It got me in touch with the program, with another person's story (albeit fictional) and thus my own addiction. That's a pretty cool thing for a movie to do.

I can't say how the movie would play for "normal" people. But I'd recommend checking out Roger Ebert's review if you're at all curious about whether you'd like it or not. Here's a link.

And Anne, you were really, really good. I speak with some authority on this one.

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