Getting Emotional with Movies, Part 8: Regret
Before dwelling on what could’ve been with Regret, give yourself a thrill with Exhilaration.
When I think of movies that make me feel regretful, it’s usually the ones where the characters make bad choices that lead to an unfortunate outcome. Or when bad things happen to decent folks, despite their best efforts. For some reason, the scene in Smokin’ Aces when Buddy tells Sir Ivy that he sold him out puts me in that sort of mood:
Actually, the whole movie is kind of like that. Even that part when Sharice thinks Georgia is dead gets me to wishing things turned out differently… But that’s something I need to put more thought into, since I don’t know that I should feel mournful for professional killers.
But I know my feelings are justified when it comes to Au Hasard Balthazar. When that poor donkey finds a fulfilling career performing tricks at the circus, and his evil owner shows up in the audience… it’s just not fair. There are few movie characters who deserved to catch a break as much as Balthazar. Bjork’s relentless string of misfortunes in Dancer in the Dark make me angry, but Balthazar’s suffering seems less contrived and more genuinely disheartening. This is a scene of him communing with the circus animals:
Here are a few other movies that leave me wishing things turned out better:
In the 1950 film Gun Crazy, a gun-obsessed, though mild-mannered, guy meets the girl of his dreams at the carnival. She’s a sharpshooter with a dark past and a taste for blood, but he can’t resist her dangerous charms. Before long, she talks him into robbing banks in order to satiate her lust for thrills and a fancier lifestyle.
Normal Life, starring Ashley Judd and Luke Perry, tells a similar story, though the relationship is a bit more complicated. In Gun Crazy, the attraction is based on a mutual affection for firearms. Luke Perry’s motivations for hooking up with Judd seems to be based more on a need to take care of her (because she’s alluringly nuts?). The first time he sees Judd, she’s throwing a temper tantrum in a bar. Her behavior only grows more mercurial as the film progresses. While Perry wants to settle down and lead the normal life of the title, she becomes more restless and nihilistic. (It’s a bad sign early in the movie when Judd throws up right after getting married.)
In order to keep her happy, Perry takes up bank robbery so he can give her the better things. The only problem is that he uses the ill-gotten cash to provide more stability to their lives, which is exactly what Judd doesn’t want. So, she spends most of her days at home playing Russian roulette or cutting herself. It’s only when he allows her to come along on his bank jobs that she feels truly alive, but even that rush can’t last forever…
Normal Life is a tragic sort of movie. Perry’s character is completely oblivious to the fact that Judd simply can’t adapt to the lifestyle he wants for them. Her obsession with astronomy in the film is probably supposed to be a symbolic contrast with Perry’s more grounded, practical outlook. (When he buys her a dog, she names it “Chaos”. The guy just doesn’t pick up on things.) I guess there’s a morbid entertainment value to watching Judd and Perry follow the path to destruction, but I still want to slap them both every time I watch this movie.
Speaking of morbid entertainment value, you really can’t go wrong with Valley of Dolls if you want to watch hopes and dreams become a car wreck. Even the theme song to the movie (sung by Dionne Warwick) is about longing to find one’s lost identity and sense of footing in the world, which sets the mood for the whole movie. (This is a video for the song featuring clips of actress Sharon Tate from Valley of the Dolls. The nature of her death gives any film she appeared in an elegiac quality.)
Don’t get me wrong, Valley of the Dolls is a fun movie, for the most part. There’s lots of humorous scenes, particularly with Patty Duke as the pills-addicted movie star Neely O’Hara.
But, by the end, when all the characters have been shot down by disease, drugs or disillusionment, I’m left wanting something uplifting to take away from it. Even Neely O’Hara’s breakdown at the end is a bit of a downer, despite her amusing hysterics. (Though, at least Anne Welles learns something about life and herself when it’s all over. So, there’s that.) Here’s some trailers:
Come back tomorrow when we’ll look at movies that disgust and disturb with Contempt.
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Chad as kingofpain on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.