Real life and comedies

If you want to see a film that has any relevance to real life, your best bet (in America) would be a comedy. For some reason, only comedies have any real interaction with the lives we live. I saw Extract last night (just OK, I’m sad to say) but it reminded me how heavy handed films that aren’t comedies are; not just Hollywood films, but indies too.

I’m thinking of some pretty good comedies, The Good Girl, Adventureland, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Old School.  I still remember that line in Old School where Will Farrell says he’s got a busy day tomorrow, you know, going to Home Depot.  That’s reality.  Or Superbad, where the plot was kids trying to get some booze for a party.   The characters in these films are all people I either know, or know of, and are mostly working and playing in environments that are pretty real to me.

Where’s the drama equivalent?  Recently, I can only think of Little Children, which was ok, but the actors get so breathy and serious.  I like a little style in films, and Little Children was trying, but it just didn’t strike a chord.  And it’s weird because that’s the life I lead in the same suburban, kid-raising world I know, but, after the first scene, it didn’t seem real.

Mostly dramas are so busy being serious and important that they sort of work on a different plane.  I know murder happens everyday, but I don’t really live with it.  A drama without a murder is a pretty rare thing in America.  Let’s just forget about the 95% of Hollywood films that are complete fantasies – the superheroes and the Harry Potter-esque stuff.  (At least we all know someone like Hermione, the know it all swat).

And then you get the indies, which are generally trying to be closer to slices of life, but the characters are always too quirky to be real, or the actors are too busy hyperventilating seriousness.  Realistic style, ie. the generic, no-style world of the indie, Sundance favorite (usually hand-held these days, does not make a film any more realistic.   I’m not talking about realism, which I generally don’t like, but relevance to real life.

I’m not sure Hollywood ever made the kinds of films I’m talking about, except for a brief time in the late 60’s/early 70’s.  France can’t get enough of them.  I always think of Naruse, the great Japanese director, who made films about real people just trying to get by, arguing about money, and managed to make it great.   Real people dealing with real problems.   If you can’t identify with any of the characters, who are these movies supposed to be for?

At least there are comedies, I guess, but it seems like there’s a whole world out there that’s just being ignored.


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