by Anna Campbell
A couple of treks to RWA Nationals ago, I watched a film I really liked on the plane. This is rarer than it sounds - I find I'm always a bit on edge when I travel which means I don't settle down and immerse myself in the story. Not only that, but the sound quality is usually bad and you get lovely interruptions like your neighbor wanting to go to the toilet or the captain telling you the engines have failed (actually I'm joking about that - and I hope that continues to be a joke!).
Anyway, I recently got this particular movie out again to watch in more comfortable circumstances and I loved it.
MISS POTTER is the story of Beatrix Potter, the children's author, and the way her life took completely unexpected directions once she started to break free of the restrictions hedging a well brought-up, upper middle-class miss in Edwardian England.
It's a lovely film, if you haven't seen it! Renee Zellweger plays Beatrix and most of the story concentrates on a poignant and very sweet love affair with her publisher Norman Warne (played by the very yummy Ewan McGregor - wonder if he's related to the Mr. McGregor who had troubles with Peter Rabbit!).
Because the story was tied to what happened in Beatrix's life, there was necessarily a very sad conclusion to this romance. Although the story is one of triumph through tears when Beatrix ends up moving to the Lake District and saving vast swathes of beautiful countryside from the developers by buying up farmland and eventually donating it to the National Trust. The fact that now we can go to the Lake District and marvel at that gorgeous scenery is largely thanks to this visionary, remarkable woman. Oh, and she does find a new love too which is nice!
But after I'd blown my nose and wiped my eyes (seriously, it's a ten hanky movie, this one!), I thought about how rarely these days I see a film or read a book without the requisite happy ending.
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE happy endings! It's one of the reasons I (and about a billion other people) am addicted to romance novels! There's nothing better than going through all those trials and tribulations and learning experiences with the characters, then seeing them get their reward at the end.
But sometimes I think the emotionally satisfying ending isn't for the hero and heroine to ride off into the sunset together.
Yeah, you know where I'm going. To Casablanca! Well, the movie at least!
Would CASABLANCA still be considered a classic if Humph and Ingy had decided to let her marriage vows go hang? I actually don't think so - although I think much of the emotional power of the story has a lot to do with how much we want these two to be together.
Actually movies of the 40s seem to specialize in these stories where we want the protagonists to be together but unfortunately their moral compass, which is one of the things we admire about them, makes that impossible.
It's many years since I saw NOW, VOYAGER with Paul Henreid (at least he got the girl in CASABLANCA - not so much in NOW, VOYAGER!) and Bette Davis. Actually one of the things I remember about it (other than the famous line when Bette says, "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars. ") is the way Jerry (Paul H) and Charlotte (Bette) share cigarettes as a substitute for kissing - not sure it would work for me! But then I'm not a smoker. Paul puts two cigarettes between his lips, lights them both and passes one to his lady love with a VERY significant look!
Like MISS POTTER and CASABLANCA, NOW, VOYAGER is another triumph through tears story. Actually it's interesting that so many of these movies are either modern films set in historical times or older movies. The contemporary world doesn't seem to like the hero and heroine being in love but apart.
My last selection of a not so happily ever after is the famous one that people talk about whenever they're trying to define the romance genre. According to a lot of definitions, a romance HAS to have a happy ending which means GONE WITH THE WIND is not a romance.
Actually I think it is - they just don't end up together at the end!
I'm not sure whether it counts as triumph through tears either! It's not really my favorite movie although my mother absolutely loved it. I kinda think Scarlett deserves to be left at the end! I haven't read the book - never been able to get into it - but in the movie I was cheering for Rhett when he tells Scarlett he doesn't give a damn!
Anyway, I highly recommend MISS POTTER if you haven't seen it. And Beatrix Potter's life was amazing - click on the Wikipedia link on her name if you're curious to learn more about this extraordinary woman.
So do you occasionally enjoy a story that doesn't have a traditional happy ending? Do you have any favorites? Have you seen MISS POTTER? Oh, and does anyone have Ewan McGregor's phone number? I want to go down to the carrot patch with him and look for rabbits! Snork!