I do love this movie, I truly do. And if I'm being really honest, I love it because it starts with people greeting each other at the arrivals section at Heathrow. There are several arrivals areas at Heathrow, but I've been greeted with tears & kisses -- and love -- at the arrival area at Terminal 3 (normally a domestic terminal, but for some reason flights from Philadelphia land there). So all those nice, normal, non-movie star people being happy to see each other? Been there, felt that.
But my husband and I wouldn't watch it every holiday season just to see the nice normal people. We watch it because we're romantics and because it delivers the goods. For us.
I have to mention, at this point, that this blog post is inspired by the juxtaposition of reading this post on Jessica's blog and having in the diary to watch LA with Ross. Jessica has strong feelings about the morality and/or ethics (in case there's a subtle distinction) of Mark's (Andrew Lincoln's character) actions at Christmas time in the situation where he's in love with his best friend's bride. I disagree with Jessica's argument (pretty much all of it: her assumptions, her interpretations, and her conclusions -- otherwise, of course, she makes a point...), but as I wasn't around when she posted, and the comments are closed, and she's now in South Africa, I will gnaw my fingers to the bone and NOT write a defense of that particular scene.
However, in the comments to Jessica's post a lot of people claim to hate the film. Well, they must not have been Twittering last night because before we headed off to watch it, I asked who loved it, who hated it, and who thought "meh." I only got a few responses, but they were all in the "loved" column. Hardly scientific and it doesn't mean anything other than it's a film that seems either to do it for people or it really ticks them off.
What I enjoy every year is how the film depicts that sense that maybe it's not going to work out. Richard Curtis did a good job of getting the emotional anxiety right -- even for the couples who do work out in the end. I like crying during this movie. (Which is no defense, I admit. Just a preference.) Not everyone has a HEA, and not all the HEAs are hard-won, but the ones that are (Colin Firth's, for example, and Sam's, the motherless little drummer boy) seem sufficiently organic.
This year, though, I really noticed the music. It's got a great soundtrack, with the Beach Boys and The Pointer Sister's "Jump" as well as some holiday classics. Maybe not "The Big Chill" level, but it's good, and Curtis really makes each song work hard and in a good way. Which is something movies can do. Think about these movies:
Titanic-- they all had both specific pieces (or songs) and incidental music that became part of the movie itself. (By definition movie musicals are all in this category.)
2001: A Space Odyssey
Saturday Night Fever
The Big Chill
Books can't do this. (I supposed someday e-readers may come with speakers...) I love Julia Spencer-Fleming's Miller's Kill books with a white-hot passion, but even she disconcerted me by referencing specific songs in the middle of Russ & Clare's "we can't be together" misery. Yes, we listen to romantic ballads very differently when we're unhappy. I even have a "Tears & Tissues" playlist on my iPod for when I need a nice, cathartic cry. But unless the author is referencing a song so ubiquitous that everyone -- absolutely everyone! -- knows it, it can be a misstep to stick it in a book.
I'm currently reading Sea Swept, the first of the Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay series. (It was mentioned to me recently as a candidate for the 100 Romances We've All Read (or Should Have Read) list. Which I don't think exists. But it should.) The heroine, Anna, is tooling around in her convertible with Aretha Franklin singing "Respect." That song qualifies as ubiquitous enough, but then it's not really conveying much in the scene. It's a small play list of songs we all know, and all of us have songs that mean so much more than merely "ubiquitous." The difficulty is, the song I might think of as the perfect "I'm in love with a married man" song isn't the song the next person might pick.
We don't all like the same songs. When Ross and I were (no, really) just good friends, I would mail him CDs to try. At that point in time, he only knew classical music and opera, and was pretty esoteric even there. (For example, Brahms and Mozart were already passé; he'd moved on to Mahler and Wagner.) My first couple efforts failed; music I liked didn't interest him. Then I hit pay dirt with, of all things, Alison Krauss & the Union Station, a pick I'd gotten from their song, "New Favorite," which had been used as incidental music in an episode of the TV show, "Medium." (If you want to hear it, here's the music video.) Next thing I know, I'm getting an email from him telling me he was riding aroundon a bus in Oxford listening to that song and hitting replay over and over. But if I were reading that scene in a romance, I don't think I'd want the author to tell me which song the hero was listening to.
We expect TV and movies to have soundtracks. Do we want our books to come with sound? Do you want actually to hear what songs Clare and Russ can't stand to play in their vehicles because it reminds them too much of each other?
Is sound going to be part of the Brave New World of book publishing? And if it is (or isn't), should it?