Road to Perdition

Road_to_Perdition_Film_PosterBack in the early 2000s, Bill and I went to see the film Road to Perdition at the movie theater. Very uncharacteristically, neither one of us knew the plot of the movie, knowing only that it starred one of our favorite film actors, Tom Hanks. We had seen him in many movies of course. In fact, we had seen him a couple of years before in Castaway. Though Bill probably wouldn’t admit it, we both liked him in Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. (Bill was a big fan of Meg Ryan before she got so much plastic surgery that she looks more like Bozo the Clown than Meg Ryan. He always used to say she reminded him of me. I cling to that very thought. And at least most of my face isn’t tucked behind my ears.) Hanks had been the voice for Woody in Toy Story, for heavens’ sake. We seriously anticipated a lighthearted film, in fact had not a single notion that it would be anything but a sweet movie.

The film, of course, is the story of a mob enforcer and his young son who are out to avenge the murder of the rest of their family. It is horrifically violent, concluding with Tom Hanks dying in the arms of his son after successfully shooting their enemy in the face. About three-quarteres of the way through the movie, Bill leaned over to me and deadpanned, “Well, this is about the worst comedy I have ever seen in my life.” I began giggling so hard I thought they would kick me out of the theater.

So, just as Road House has become synonymous in our eyes with bad movies, Road to Perdition has become the term we use when a comedy isn’t funny.

Yesterday afternoon, Bill took a rare afternoon off from yard work. It was kind of chilly and overcast, and he mentioned he was feeling caught up with outdoor chores. I suggested he sit down with me and we could watch a Netflix movie. Much to my surprise, he agreed. After perusing all of our choices, we selected Million Dollar Baby, a 2004 boxing movie starring Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Hilary Swank. It’s not easy to find a movie we can both agree on, but Bill likes the sport of boxing and I like Clint Eastwood.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Neither one of us was anticipating a comedy. The story line was about a grouchy boxing manager who was estranged from his daughter, and who agrees to train Swank’s character for the title fight. It was fairly graphic, and got me wondering why on earth anyone would ever CHOOSE to be a boxer.

But about halfway through the movie, I began getting a bad feeling. Things were just moving along too positively for an academy-award-winning movie. Hollywood doesn’t do cheerful.

I have mentioned before that I hate books where a character to whom you have gotten attached dies of cancer or anything else. It simply irks the living daylight out of me. It is for that reason alone that I refuse to watch Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment. I hated Love Story. As many times as I’ve read Little Women, after my first reading, I skip the chapter where Beth dies.

As my bad feeling continued to grow, I picked up my iPad and googled the movie. Here’s what I learned….

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

In the title fight, Swank’s character trips over the stool that had been placed in the wrong position in the ring and BREAKS HER NECK. She becomes a quadriplegic. After months in the hospital, she develops such severe bed sores that she has to have one of her legs amputated. Her family comes to visit her ONLY after visiting Disneyland first, and ONLY to have her sign a paper signing all of her money to them. She apparently spends the last part of the movie begging Clint Eastwood to kill her, which he eventually does. The end.

I say “apparently” because it was about that time that I told Bill I was going upstairs to work on my computer.

“Why?” he asked me.

“Do you really want me to tell you?” I responded. He assured me he did.

“Well, let me put it this way,” I said. “It makes Road to Perdition look like a comedy.

And that, my friends, was the end of that. Life’s too short to go through that kind of movie-watching misery, even if it’s an excellent and award-winning movie. Bill put on his jacket and went outside and found some yard work to do, and I wrote this crabby blog post.

I’ll take Doris Day and Rock Hudson any day of the week.

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Friday Book Whimsy: The Homesman

The HomesmanThe only thing I like more than reading a novel that takes place in the Old West is when that novel takes place in Nebraska. While no novel will compare with Willa Cather’s amazing My Antonia, I always enjoy reading about what my home state was like in the 1800s.

I so often have no recollection of how I come across certain books, and The Homesman, by Glendon Swarthout is no exception. I’m on lots of book email sites and there’s always good ol’ Amazon and/or Goodreads to make suggestions. Often the suggestions are eerily on target. This recommendation certainly was.

The driving character in The Homesman is Mary Bee Cuddy and she is a fictional character I won’t soon forget. Cuddy is a strong woman, unmarried, who single-handedly runs one of the most successful homesteads in the never-named small Nebraska community of Swarthout’s imagination.

An unbearable winter in this part of the pioneer west has left three hard-working women literally out of their minds. Their husbands are unable and unwilling to care for them. The area’s kind minister knows that the only thing to do is to get them back to the family they left back east to come to the untamed Nebraska territory with their husbands to find prosperity. He has a connection in Iowa who will make sure these women are reconnected with family. Unfortunately, he is unable to convince any of the husbands to accompany these women east to Iowa.

Mary Bee Cuddy offers to be the one to make sure these women are safely returned to their families. Despite the minister’s concern, he realizes no one else is stepping up and something must be done.

Circumstances bring Cuddy together with a scoundrel calling himself George Briggs. Cuddy saves his life in exchange for his promise to help her in her difficult journey.

Their journey is the crux of the story.

Swarthout’s two main characters are complex and remarkable. The story is heart-warming in parts and terribly, terribly sad in other parts. Cuddy and Briggs grudgingly become admirers of one another. And always, always in the background of the story are the three insane women. It’s a fascinating storyline.

The ending isn’t necessarily what I would have chosen, but on the other hand, the ending is what makes the novel believable and compellingly readable.

The book has been made into a movie starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank, which I promptly watched on Netflix. While the movie follows the book fairly reliably, Swarthout’s descriptions of the unimaginable winter and unthinkable circumstances which led to the women’s insanity was much more detailed and therefore more understandable.

I enjoyed The Homesman very much.

Here is a link to the book.

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