Thursday, June 3, 2010

Good juju Round II

So I have this co-worker who is reading Max and Menna. She is one of the people I have met in my life who I instantly and wholeheartedly liked. Why? Because she is a successful, approachable woman balancing work and motherhood and everything else that life throws at you… with a life-sized cut out of Robert Pattinson on the wall of her office. Since Robert Pattinson is high up on my “dreamy men” list, I do appreciate the occasional opportunity to duck in her office and stare at that smoldering face and escape the world.

Alas, I digress.

Wonderful Co-Worker said nice things to me this morning about the book. I needed that, since I have gotten mixed reactions elsewhere thus far. Which leaves me wondering—is the good juju working. (For those of you wondering, just as I requisitioned “feeling infinite” from a well-known young adult writer, “juju” is a phrase from the George of the Jungle movie, which I love, and not just because Brendan Frasier—another on the dreamy men list—looks phenomenal in it).
Thus, since the good juju does return, I shall continue giving kudos to another story that makes me feel infinite.

I have a special love for movies and books that make you feel sad and hopeful all at the same time. It’s a rare skill to close a book, or pop out a DVD, with tears streaming but somehow feel exhilarated at the same time. As a self-professed movie fanatic, I have a hard time picking one as my absolute favorite, but were I to do so, it would be The United States of Leland, which is the best example I have ever seen of making tragedy understandable and optimistic.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the movie has a phenomenal cast—Ryan Gosling, one of my absolute favorites (and another dreamy man who, ironically, is also the star of one of my least favorite movies, but this blog is about good juju), Don Cheadle, Lena Olin, Kevin Spacey, Chris Klein, Michelle Williams, and Jenna Malone to name a few.

The movie opens as Leland, our protagonist, is arrested for allegedly murdering the mentally retarded brother of his ex-girlfriend. What amazes me about this film is that, for all of the grisly implications of that sentence, Leland is very much our hero. The movie never ventures into the realm of gory or trite, but maintains a mission of convincing its audience how someone guilty of such a horrific crime could in fact be the tragic hero. The film in and of itself is quiet, understated, and focuses on the relationships we have—good or bad—and how one interaction can not only alter the course of our lives, but change the way we think about it.

In the movie, a character says something to Leland that sticks with me. Broken-hearted, this minor player says “You have to believe that life is more than the sum of its parts, kiddo.” And do we ever.

This sticks with me so much as I have helped with care for my mom since she got sick. Many, many nights spent in hospitals, or sleeping on the couch, listening to my mom try to sleep, or call for a nurse, or get sick, or pray when she doesn’t think I hear, this line rolls through my head. This has to mean something more than what it is, or what is the point?

If you’re ever feeling whimsical, or confused, or a little down and want to watch something that will both help you indulge your self-pity and help you snap out of it, this is a movie to watch. You will feel infinite.

So I leave you with another quote from the movie, which sums up my mood for the day: “This one is something a friend of mine said to me. "You have to believe that life is more than the sum of its parts, kiddo." I remember it right now to the "kiddo" part. But when I think about what she said, the same thing always comes into my head. What if you can't put the pieces together in the first place?”


  1. Why do the pieces have to come together? I know I'm an extreme, but consider this: I have spent most of my adult life on the move. New places, new people, new experiences, sometimes even new names. Some of those things have been better than others, but even the pieces that are great don't often fit together. I know you know how much I loved Prague or how great my friends in Texas were, but the likelihood that you will ever meet them is very, very slim. In the end, I don't think it's so important that the pieces fit together, it's important that you *have* them; they're the things that collectively shape the way you add the next piece.

  2. Ah, but my dear, the point is not for all the facets of your life to click. The point is to understand that reasons behind what happens, to fit that experience into the next part of your life...eventually. It rarely makes sense at the time. That is how you put the pieces together.

  3. If that is the impression you have of me, then I'm a better actress than I thought! Robert and I are always there for ya!