Sunday, October 23, 2016

Taking a comedy break from the campaign mania

This has been an exhausting few weeks in politics.   The daily onslaught of new outrages, the hacked leaks of Clinton staff emails, the Donald Trump accusers, the polls, the debate, the Al Smith dinner.   And what ever happened to the scandals of last month and the one before?   The new norm seems to be:  bring on a new scandal (or make one up) to make us forget that last one.   And the one before that.

So I was ready for some diversion on Saturday afternoon.    And fortunately my friends Tom and Barbara had suggested we see the Swedish film, "A Man Called Ove."  

It turned out to be the perfect antidote -- in the words of one critic, a fusion of melodrama and dark comedy.   Ove is a 59 year old curmudgeon, whose grief over his wife's death has curdled into anger, expressed in his tyrannical efforts to enforce neighborhood rules that nobody observes or cares about.  He is alienated from his only friend, and he's been replaced at work by technology and younger minds.   He is at war with everyone, his only respite being daily visits to his wife's grave, where he tells her his woes and says that he will be joining her soon.

But his several suicide attempts are always interrupted by some neighborhood crisis that needs his attention.   And Ove's pride in being a reliable fixer is too great;  he has to respond.   So he undoes the noose around his neck and gets down from the stool he was about to kick over -- to see who is pounding on his door needing help.   One time it turns out to be the new neighbors moving in next door.   The wife is a young Iranian immigrant, mother of two and pregnant with another, and, in Ove's judgment, married to an idiot.   So naturally he is compelled to help. . . .  and again . . . and  . . .

I won't spoil the rest of the story but only say that there is a transformation and a heart-warming message about overcoming grief by opening up to people, about the value of friends and community, and about acceptance of others.

Hollywood would have turned this gentle tragicomedy into another chance for Robert DeNiro to play the vulgar curmudgeon with a heart of gold.   And, while he can be very good at it, the film would have lacked the subtlety that makes this film, Sweden's nominee for Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film. so charming.

I left the theater feeling refreshed, having been moved both to laughter and tears.  I highly recommend seeing "A Man Called Ove." In Atlanta, it's playing at Tara and LeFont Sandy Springs theaters.


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