When I met my stepson twenty years ago we started watching movies whenever he came to stay with us. He has Down syndrome and movies became the place where he and I could meet, and see into each other a little more. We all did. His sister was a little younger and Dad was busy on the phone with India or Egypt, so I got to pick out the films.
I was the new stepmom then, and we had to find films for everyone or people would wander away. You know how it is.
Over the years we’ve all become good pals, and we still enjoy watching movies together. We have some family favorites, like “Beetlejuice” and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Pure silliness. But Taylor and I have some favorites, too.
We used to like Spongebob, but then there was a time when it couldn’t be too “childish” either, because Taylor was adulting, and didn’t want anyone to think he was a child. .so I had to find movies that would satisfy the four of us: Dad, son, daughter (usually in sulking tween/teen/gothic/blackphases LOL – she’s a sweet mother herself now) and me, the movie chooser. Because we actually rented movies. Remember that?! Not online rentals. Actual discs. In plastic cases, which you had to return.
One of the movies that checked all the boxes was SECOND HAND LIONS. All the boxes. If you haven’t run across it, find it on your ROKU now and watch it later.
Michael Caine and Robert Duvall are crusty old adventurers who have come to west Texas to get older and die. Rumor has it they robbed banks and have a fortune stashed away. Haley Joel Osment — probably 14? — plays his age, and is dumped on them by his wacky mother, Kyra Sedgwick, with the mission to “find the money.” It’s probably late 50s, mid 60s?
The movie is the kid and the two old guys and a gang of very agreeable dogs. The story is told like a 50s Saturday afternoon serial. Robert Duval’s character, Hub, walks in his sleep, and the kid, Walter, asks Uncle Garth (Caine) who Hub talks to, and who he swordfights. So Garth tells Walter all about their wild and adventurous life in the French Foreign Legion, all over Africa — in episodes, when the two of them are alone. We watch the three of them — as the modern observer would say — “unpack” each other. But Walter is never sure just how much of the stories are truth and how much embellishment. The way the flashbacks unfold are the movie-within-the-movie.
It’s very funny and occasionally sad and funny again, and –except for their insistence on mispronouncing “sheik” – it’s one of my favorite movies of all time.
Our surprise film was a recent recommendation because of my husband’s now 36 year old son –THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON.
It’s also a coming-of-age story, and also an oddball trio: a Down syndrome young man who escapes from the convalescent home, the only facility available to him in his area, but which is very inappropriate; the pleasant young woman who “lost” him and is tasked with rounding him up, and the angry young man they end up with on a raft.
Yes, it sounds like it wouldn’t work, and we were doubly skeptical because of Dakota Johnson and Shia Leboeuf. But it was written for Zak (so he’s perfect for the role!), and it unfolds in the endless salt marshes of the Lowcountry, filmed all around us and Savannah (though the story is set in the Outer and Inner Banks of NC, go figure), so we loved that. (It’s our favorite scenery – go figure!) What happens is that you relax, just like you would on a raft in the Lowcountry….
And the story works.
A lot of Down people develop passions like teenagers, that may or may not go away, and Zak’s character is obsessed with a small time wrestler, who’s career may only exist any more on community cable. But that’s Zak’s destination and all three of them end up on the quest. Thomas Hayden Church plays The Saltwater Redneck just right, and the ending is a satisfying surprise.
It’s always a pleasure to be surprised by a film. We’re more accustomed to having expectations and being disappointed. But to have no expectations and fall in love with a story is such a treat.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was like that. I’d given up on really enjoying any more Woody Allen movies. I’d loved them early on, in the 70s, but then they had evolved into whiney intellectual rants. But I love a good time-travel story well told, and who’d have thought Woody Allen would do it, with Owen Wilson, no less? But Owen Wilson is perfect. He shambles perfectly through every era, so no one really questions why he’s there, or everyone does. Just a lovely little fantasy about choices.
It’s a very rainy Saturday….perhaps I’ll go to Paris…..
SECONDHAND LIONS info
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON info
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS info