Written by: JackHork, Special to CC2K
March, 2009: The Second Annual April Fools week was fast approaching. Spring was in the air and Snowmageddon was just another wet-dream of Al Gore’s. Rob Van Winkle and I were sitting in his well-appointed den sitting in comfortable leather upholstered chairs, sipping thirty year old Scotch whiskey and discussing cars, football and breasts (not necessarily in that order) while the heads of large mammals stared down on us with glass eyes. I thought it was just going to be another typical Sunday afternoon at stately Van Winkle manor when Rob turned to me and said, “JackHork, old buddy, remember all those years ago when we were mercenaries together, slogging through the swamps of Cambodia and I saved your life from that insurgent uprising?.”
“Oh, I remember, Rob Van Winkle; I remember,” I replied. “I’d be little more than a grease stain on the side of the road if you hadn’t been there that day. That was the day we lost Pitt, ‘3-Squares’ Joey, Mr. Ripped and the Padre. I’m not likely to forget something like that.”
And we toasted those four brave and stalwart men and observed a moment of silence.
“Here’s the thing, old buddy, old friend,” he continued after pouring us another round of amber liquid dynamite, “one of the reviewers for this year’s April Fools week just can’t meet the deadline, and I need to call in a favor. I need you to watch a bad movie. I need you to write a review. And, I need it by Tuesday.”
“Dear God, man!” I exclaimed leaping from my generously cushioned easy chair. “It’s Sunday afternoon. How can one man do all that? What you ask is nigh impossible!”
“I know, friend, but this is one of those times when the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
“Don’t you quote Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan to ME, Rob Van Winkle! I was a fan of that movie before you were done suckling your mother’s teat!”
And then he looked at me with those great blue eyes of his. I could see the desperation. I could see the fear. I could see that just asking was killing him a little. This was the man who had risked all on that fateful day, and I was shamed for my outburst and my cowardice.
“All right, Rob Van Winkle, all right. I’ll do it, but not because you saved me in the jungle, not because you’re desperate, not even because I’m god-father to your twin daughters Jackie and Horktense. I’ll do it for Pitt, 3-Squares, Ripped and the Padre. Give me the disc.”
He did not speak then, but I could sense his gratitude. He handed over a thin black box, and I could tell that it was my turn to save him.
That movie was It’s Pat! The Movie and the horror of it would haunt me for the rest of my days.
I don’t see Rob Van Winkle so much these days. Something changed between us after that fateful March day back in 2009. Many times in therapy I felt close to shutting the door on the memory of that horrible, horrible movie and then something will bring it flooding back and for a moment, I wish that Rob Van Winkle hadn’t saved me all those years ago in a Cambodian swamp. Some things ARE worse than death.
March 2010: “JackHork,” read the email from Rob Van Winkle, “I need you to write another review for this years April Fools week.”
“What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles, and me?”
And thus begins my latest April Fools assignment: Love Story. Written by Erich Segal, directed by Arthur Hiller, Love Story was released on December 16th, 1970 and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score (Francis Lai) as well as receive nominations for Best Actor (Ryan O’Neal), Best Actress (Ali MacGraw), Best Director (Hiller), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Marley), Best Screenplay (Segal) and Best Picture. At the Golden Globes that year, MacGraw, Hiller, Lai and Segal won, and the film took ‘Best Motion Picture-Drama’ honors. The movie was an international hit and won top acting prizes for O’Neal and MacGraw in Italy as well as the Best Foreign Film Award from Germany. (All award statistics from www.imdb.com)
The story is simple and we probably all know it (or at least a derivative of it):
Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Tragedy strikes.
It’s Romeo and Juliet.
It’s Wuthering Heights.
It’s every heart-breaking romantic film for the past forty years.
This is not sitcom love where everything turns out all right in thirty minutes. This is not Hollywood RomCom love where the couple has to meet, break up, and then beg forgiveness in front of a crowd to win back the person they wronged. This is not bad teen-age angst filled love where every pretty girl likes the regular guy or every school jock falls for the shy artistic girl. This is real people finding each other and then having to deal with the twists of real life.
Yes, the characters are a little stilted and trite. He’s brilliant, athletic and from a rich family. She’s brilliant, talented and comes from working class roots. But, it doesn’t matter. There are enough facets in each of them so that we can all identify at least a little bit with them. I forgive them their stereotypes because the movie was made forty years ago and times have changed.
For those who haven’t seen the movie or heard of it or have not lived on planet Earth any time these past four decades, here’s a quick synopsis.
Spoilers ahead, proceed at your own peril!
Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) is a student at Harvard University who comes from a very rich family. He meets Jennifer Cavalleri (Ali MacGraw) at the Radcliffe library and they begin dating. When he introduces her to his parents, his father (Ray Milland) tells him that he will cut off all his money and support if he marries her. Since father and son already have a strained relationship, this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and Oliver marries Jenny. True love prevails, hurrah! Leap frog three years later and Oliver is graduating from Harvard Law School. The young couple moves to New York where he gets a job at a big time law firm. They talk about the future and, naturally, children. Oliver goes to their doctor to find out why they can’t seem to conceive whereupon he is horrified to discover that Jenny is the problem and it’s because she is terribly ill. She dies and the movie ends. (Incidentally, I am madly in love with Ali MacGraw now.)
End spoiler alert!
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why this movie was submitted to April Fools week. This is a legitimate hit, a classic. I was told that the submitter wanted a male point of view on the movie, and I suppose I was the guinea pig. But, I liked it just fine. Sure, I could gripe about the haircuts, clothes, cars and language of the period, but it’s New England during the 1970s for crying out loud; I’m not that shallow.
I suppose I could apologize for taking an April Fools submission and not going off on a rant about it thereby negating any chances of winning one of Rob’s horrible prizes, but then again, love means never having to say you're sorry.