April 18, 2013

BACHELORETTE Is A Welcome Distraction From The Marathon Aftermath

"I got you to smile...that's something."
As of this writing I'm still about a week back on articles, but in light of recent events I'm going to jump forward to the present and then I'll circle back tomorrow.  It seems silly to ignore the most dramatic attack on my hometown in my lifetime, but it feels even sillier to wait a week to write about it just because I've been busy lately and fallen behind schedule.  Besides, this is my project, I'll make the rules.

Anyone who knows me knows that my Boston heritage is a huge part of my personality.  My mother's family is Italian, my father's family is Irish and almost all of them still live within an hour of the city.  I may not have an accent, but I'm about as Boston as they come, and during my five years in Los Angeles, my hometown roots became a badge of honor.  In fact, that is quite literally true: before moving I got a tattoo (my first) of the Red Sox "B" logo, which I've always felt transcended its baseball context to symbolize the entire city.  L.A. is about as far away as you can get from Boston, but even there I found myself at the center of a wonderful little east coast ex-pat community, filled with high school and college friends who, like me, had gotten their fill of frigid winters and were lured by the promise of constant sunshine.  I had a collection of Sam Adams bottles on the shelf in our living room, a stolen Dunkin Donuts rug at the front door and a Wally The Green Monster doll sitting in a chair next to the TV.  We may have been 3000 miles away, but it still felt like home.

Since moving back east three years ago I've fallen back in love with Boston in many ways.  I've rediscovered the pleasures of actually walking in a downtown setting and riding a bike through the city streets.  L.A. taught me to love good Mexican food, but man is it nice to live in a place with great pizza on every corner.  Yes, the winters still suck and the summers tend to get oppressively hot, but autumn and spring simply cannot be beat.  And since my wife isn't a local, it's been a lot of fun to both introduce her to all of my favorite places and to discover all the great new bars and restaurants that have cropped up since I graduated from college.  I'm sure that we'll move on to another city in a few years and when we do I'll certainly be excited to go.  But, just like when I went to California, I'll also be sad to leave.

I won't try to summarize why Marathon Monday/Patriots Day is such a big deal around here, as plenty of others have already done so at great length.  (Personally, I think that Film Crit Hulk put it best.)  To be honest, my relationship with the holiday has always been a little off kilter; unlike most everyone else in the city, I've almost never had the day off from school or work, so I've never actually gone down to stand along the Marathon route and cheer on the runners.  Even still, the energy around town is as infectious as opening day at Fenway Park.  Everyone just seems...happier.  Even when I was on the west coast, I would lament missing out on Marathon Monday, despite never having had a chance to properly celebrate it in the first place.

It's been three days since twin explosions rang out on Boylston Street and there's still far too much that we don't know.  There have been fluctuating injury counts and death tolls, rumors that the government shut down cell service downtown (they didn't) and that five unexploded devices were discovered spread throughout the city (no such devices exist).  We've seen the best the city has to offer, with doctors and nurses who had already completed the grueling race jumping into action to treat those wounded at the scene while still other racers ran an extra mile and half past the finish line to nearby Mass General Hospital in order to give blood.  Unfortunately, we've also seen far too many surrender to humanity's worst instincts, looting a table of unclaimed marathon jackets and quickly adopting rumors that the perpetrator was a Saudi national.  We still don't know who did this, and yesterday afternoon was extremely frustrating in that regard: over the course of an hour the AP reported that an arrest was imminent, then CNN claimed that a suspect was in custody, only to find out that in reality no arrests had been made and no suspect had been identified.  Don't get me started on the state of modern journalism, but it's extremely frustrating to see the people whose only job is to inform the public casually sacrifice the veracity of fact (I'm looking at you, NY Post) in the rush to break the story first.  You'd think CNN would have learned their lesson from the Obamacare/Supreme Court debacle, but apparently not so much.

Thankfully all of my loved ones are safe and sound.  I had one aunt, a woman to whom I owe so much, who was running in the Marathon, but thankfully she was stopped at mile 21 and I was able to get in touch with her pretty quickly.  Facebook and Twitter became absolutely crucial that day, the easiest way to let friends and family know who was okay.  In fact, my old a cappella group instantly started a thread so that all the current and former members could check in and it became incredibly comforting as the day went on just to see an outpouring of love and care from some of my closest friends.  And that's what's struck me in the days since this horrible travesty shattered what should be a day of pure joy: this city has come together like I've simply never seen before.  I walked down to Copley Square yesterday and found a barricade on Boylston Street at the corner of Berkeley.  While reporters spoke quietly into their cameras, a silent crowd gathered in the street, reverently staring down the usually busy thoroughfare, now eerily empty.  There was a growing collection of flowers, candles and notes at the foot of the barrier, with a few men admirably maintaining the memorial by rearranging items, keeping the candles lit and taping down cards so that they wouldn't fly away.

Last night the Bruins played their first game back in the Garden, and this happened:

For me, it really sunk in Tuesday night.  I hosted my regular pub trivia show at Terry O'Reilly's and I was more than a little nervous.  Surely the desire for beer and whiskey would persist, but did people really want to go out in the world and be social?  I had visions of a mostly empty room, playing host to a few scattered folks who mostly just wanted to drink in peace and had little patience for my silliness.

I could not have been more wrong.

The place was PACKED, the biggest night of trivia we've ever had there.  All of our regular teams were there in full force, as well as dozens of unfamiliar faces in search of a respite.  Everyone was in great spirits, ready to laugh and escape from the nightmare that was still unfolding just few minutes down the road.  Usually I get a few teams that play for a couple of rounds and then go home, but at the end of the night we still had a full house.  Trivia night had become a haven, a safe space for people to gather together and lose themselves in a few pints, obscure pop culture and, most importantly, a sense of community.  After that night I truly felt that this was my trivia family, and in truth I was just as happy to provide a distraction as they were to have one.

Anyway.  Bachelorette...

I left work on Monday to find Jamie home on the couch absorbed in the local news.  She's on vacation this week, so she had basically been frozen there for most of the afternoon.  We watched the press conferences by Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Tom Menino and President Obama before finally deciding that we needed to change gears.  I was initially thinking of a really dumb action movie, something full of mindless spectacle that would let me unplug my brain for a few hours.  (The top contender was the Total Recall remake with Colin Farrell.)  However, Jamie really wanted to watch something upbeat and funny, so after a quick scan of the Netflix queue we settled on Bachelorette, a female driven hard comedy in the vein of The Hangover.  Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher star as three bridesmaids who, after a few too many drinks and lines of coke, accidentally ruin the wedding dress of their old high school friend played by Rebel Wilson's American Accent.  With only a few hours to get the dress fixed before the wedding starts, needless to say that some hijinks ensue.  It's easy to see how this movie got greenlit, but also just as easy to see how it ended up as a primarily VOD release.

The film clocks in at just under 90 minutes and the pacing feels a little all over the map.  I'm curious if there's a longer cut somewhere that flows better, or perhaps has some darker/over the top set pieces that just didn't land.  I don't necessarily think that would make for a better movie, as I actually liked the smaller scale here compared to the batshit crazy antics of The Wolfpack, but even in a landscape full of bloated comedies it's hard to escape the feeling that there's something missing here.  It has the swagger of a raunchier film filled with sheer lunacy, despite being fairly grounded in reality.  The three leads are all great, (even if Isla Fisher's accent tends to drift) and I laughed out loud early and often.  Plus it has James Marsden as a charming asshole, a.k.a. The Best Marsden.  Most importantly though, Adam Scott plays opposite Lizzy Caplan, a pairing that any fan of Party Down can tell you is pure magic.  They have a scene in his childhood bedroom where they simply look at each other and he calls her by the nickname that only he ever used...it's a really beautiful moment, demonstrating the kind of simple human connection that Jamie and I both needed to feel that night.

Mostly though, Bachelorette was simply a welcome diversion, an excuse to smile and laugh in the face of irredeemable horror.  When it was over, we immediately decided that we wanted something inspiring and flat out awesome, a movie that showcases the very best that humanity has to offer.

There was really only one choice.

Because even after that terrible day, I still believe in heroes.

Title: Bachelorette
Director: Leslye Headland
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Adam Scott, James Marsden, Kyle Bornheimer
Year Of Release: 2012
Viewing Method: Netflix Instant (TV)

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