So, I went and watched a movie and the plot and characters crawled into my head and refused to leave, which sometimes happens. The movie is still in the theaters as of this blogpost, and it is ‘The Lost City’ (2022), starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, and Daniel Radcliff. (Trailer) It is fabulous, of course, and one might think of it as a sort of modern retelling of the movie ‘Romancing the Stone’ (1984), which I always loved.
And of course, I had to write just a brief little fic about it – not a fix-it fic, no need to change anything. Just to fill in a little romantic gap at the end between the third-last scene and the penultimate scene that nicely explains the last scene found in the midst of the credits – which also happily sets up the movie for a sequel, joy of joys. Patrons can find that fic over on my patreon if you haven’t seen it yet, and everyone else can find it on my AO3.org account. The fic I wrote is called ‘Write What You Know’.
There were a lot of things I loved about this movie, and it was very well done; a well-told story with compelling and deep characters who are each on their own path, in the midst of their own story, as it were. Fabulously done. The thing I’ve been thinking about just recently is how we can get tunnel vision – how there can be facts sitting right in front of us that we are totally capable of missing entirely, even when we’re the sort of person who sees deeply, who has insight into people and situations. And of course when we’re stressed out, or grieving (as is the case with a character in question in the movie), that can happen even more so – missing the obvious.
In the movie, Sandra Bullock’s character, Loretta, is still deeply grieving the death of her husband, five years before, and the fictional character that is obviously based on her dead husband – a romantic hero of Loretta’s novels, no less – is someone she just can’t stand to write anymore. So she finishes one more book and decides to kill him off. And her husband, the hero, was an archaeologist – brilliant, compelling, and sexy. They quoted Latin to each other and were happy nerds together.
Enter Channing Tatum’s character, Alan, who has a crush on Loretta. Alan is her cover model, the face (and abs) that all of her reading public associate with her romantic hero. And Alan is nothing like her dead husband, so that twists the knife – he doesn’t have a doctorate, he doesn’t quote moment-appropriate Latin, he isn’t a nerd, and when nervous, his speech drips with malapropisms. And yet… underneath the malapropisms are actually… very good ideas, excellent points, plans that have merit. He just expresses himself in the way designed to annoy Loretta, who has been dismissing him as someone not worth talking to for years.
And because it’s that kind of movie, Loretta gets kidnapped by Daniel Radcliff’s character, and it’s Alan and friends who mount the rescue. Which is eventually, after ensuing hijinks, successful. But better than finding the fabled thing they were looking for, and better even than seeing Daniel Radcliff’s character slowly unravel and reveal him to be really quite the bad guy, is seeing Alan shine, and Loretta finally able to exit tunnel vision and see it. It’s not that he’s secretly a Navy SEAL, or very good at rescuing people and trekking through a jungle. But he does actually come prepared, he is actually trustworthy, humorous, stalwart, dedicated, and kind and… the character clearly meditates and is into mindfulness. It’s mentioned in a passing ramble that he’s a personal trainer in addition to a model, and you can see that he’s someone who can calm people down and encourage them to go farther than they think they can. Several times in what could be a crisis involving grave danger, Alan tricks Loretta into breathing deeply, being present minded and refocuses her on success. And it works.
I’ve been in several crises in my life and I can honestly say, I’d rather surround myself with people who can remain calm in a crisis and calm others down, too, than people who have a lot of degrees and who are very intelligent. (And I say this as someone who has a lot of degrees, is very intelligent, and generally prefers her friends to be smarter than she is, in some way.)
Alan’s good points are never harped upon in the film, and it’s all quite subtle, but Loretta slowly wakes up to the fact that beneath the nervous word-vomit is someone deeply worthwhile.
This seems connected to my earlier musings this week, about the things we value and the Tolkien quote about the innate wisdom of hobbits loving food – “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” And it’s fair that we all value what we value and we love what we love. And hey, if you want to value wealth above all things, you do you. And also, valuing stuff that doesn’t sit in the category of ‘Love-Joy-Peace’ can also get us humans into trouble down the road.
As an example of this, Loretta valued intelligence above all else. Okay, fine, right? Perfectly reasonable thing to value (says the blogger who also values intelligence). Except she really valued intelligence above all else and anyone who didn’t seem to have it, or have enough of the right sort for her calculation… they got left out. Very specifically, Loretta did a thing that humans do when we start sorting the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ categories, because it makes no difference on what basis you do the sorting, so long as you do it. When there is an ‘us’, the ‘us’s deserve dignity and respect, and the ‘them’s can be reviled and ridiculed for not being ‘us’. Historically speaking, we humans have often taken this to justify killing ‘them’. Whoever we decide ‘they’ are, based on how we’re sorting people in that generation. And in the movie, of course she didn’t resort to killing Alan, but she hated him, mocked him, and refused to listen to him even after the first several times of him actually showing himself to be a competent rescuer. And eventually she changed her mind about him, which is a beautiful thing.
As difficult as it is to admit to, perhaps, I do think that this movie has some truth in storytelling (or truth from fiction, as I named my newsletter); sorting into us-and-them categories never makes us look good as people, and there is a better way.