January 8, 2002
A Matter of Taste
first time we tried to watch "Last of the Mohicans" together, David
fell asleep twenty minutes into the movie.
Day-Lewis and company had just discovered the Cameron family's
burned-out cabin, and now they were arguing over whether or not they
should bury the victims. Was it 'the Christian thing to do'? Or would
it lead their murderous enemies directly to them? I turned to David,
laying next to me in bed -- I wanted to tell him that the third-best
part of the movie was coming up: the part where they're all hiding out
in the Indian burial ground, and Madeline Stowe delivers her speech
about the great American wildnerness being "more deeply stirring to her
blood than any imagining" -- and I wanted to make sure he was paying
attention. That's the moment when you can actually see
Daniel Day-Lewis' character falling in love with Madeline Stowe's
character, while all around them this achingly lovely music swirls
gently in the background: surely one of the most toe-curlingly romantic
moments ever committed to celluloid.
David was flat on his back ... mouth agape, chin pointed straight up in
the air, eyelids twitching.
like a light.
second time we tried to watch the movie, a year or so later, he didn't
even make it to the first scalping.
I'm not exactly optimistic when he suggests we try
watching my favorite movie one more time. "What else is there to
watch?" he says. He's got a point. We didn't have time to stop by
Blockbuster after jacket-shopping. We've already watched the wedding
video 43,897,621 times. (We already know how THAT one ends.) We still don't have cable, and network programming is
nothing but re-runs and re-runs of re-runs. Don't get me wrong: it's
not like we're enslaved by our television addiction around here or
anything. Usually when there isn't anything decent to watch, we just
turn off the TV and spend the evening reading or talking or [ahem] doing other stuff. But there
are some nights -- and the snugglers in the audience will back me up on
this one, I'm sure -- when all you want to do is cuddle up in bed with
the person you love and watch a little mindless tube. And this is one
of those nights. So I take a deep breath, and I pop the movie into
gentle, please," I say to David.
haven't been trying to maneuver David into watching "Mohicans" with me,
all these years, simply because it's my favorite movie of all time,
although it is. I haven't been trying to get him to watch it because it
has had this huge, weird, profound effect on me, ever since the first
time I saw it almost ten years ago, although it has. And I didn't
want him to watch it with me because I think that it's nice when
married people share the things they love with each other, although
I do. (As long as it isn't The Three Stooges.)
I've been trying to get him to watch "Last of the Mohicans" with me
because I just wanted to get it OVER with.
truth is I'm secretly sort of embarrassed to admit that LOTM
is my favorite movie. I'm embarrassed about it the same way
you're embarrassed in junior high school, when your best friend comes
back from summer vacation and all of a sudden he's a whole lot taller or shorter or
fatter or skinnier or dorkier, in some fundamentally discomfiting way,
than everybody else in your class, especially the cool kids. You
still like your best friend, and you still cherish the memories the two
of you share, and you still enjoy spending time with him.
don't want anybody to KNOW about it.
much how I feel about "Last of the Mohicans." I love it, I could watch
it a bazillion times in a row and never get tired of it, I think
everybody on the planet should love it as much as I do. I just
wish it wasn't so ... I don't know ... scripted in
places. I wish it didn't feel so much like "Miami Vice in Buckskins." I
wish Daniel Day-Lewis didn't try so hard to look like Fabio. Plus
there's the whole issue of intellectual value: now that I'm married to
this really smart, really educated guy, I feel as though my favorite
movie should be something snooty and cerebral and unwatchable. "Last
Year At Marienbad," for instance, or Kurasawa's "Ran." But it isn't.
"Last of the Mohicans," for better or for worse, is my favorite
movie ... much the same way that KFC Honey BBQ Chicken is my favorite
food, and "People" is my favorite magazine, and "Entertainment Tonight"
is my news source of choice. (You can take the girl out of Trailer
Town, I guess, but you can't take the Trailer Town out of the girl.)
And even though I'm afraid David is going to hate every big, overblown,
bodice-ripping moment of this movie I love so unreasonably -- or, even
worse, he's going to fall asleep again, thereby prolonging the torment
for another year or so -- I point the remote control towards the VCR
and hit "play."
to my surprise, David not only manages to stay awake for all
112 minutes of the movie this time, he seems to enjoy it.
I'm forgetting, of course, is the fact that "Last of the Mohicans"
isn't simply a chick flick. Yes, it has at its center not one but two
exquisitely tragic, compelling love stories. Yes, it's filled with
enough hair, heartache and heaving bosoms to fill an entire shelf of
Harlequin Romances. Yes, it features a soundtrack guaranteed to wring
tears out of a bag of potting soil. But it also has a lot of stuff that
most Testosterone Units -- including David -- find absolutely
- Big guns!
glaring historical inaccuracies!
other thing I'm forgetting is that David isn't your
typical Testosterone Unit.
isn't going to sit there and pout for one hour and forty minutes
because we didn't rent Lethal Weapon IV. He's not going to make fun of
me if I cry. (I swear to god I've seen this movie a bazillion and a
half times and I still fall apart every time
Alice steps off the side of that cliff.) He's not going to suddenly
announce "This is the stoopidest movie I've ever seen!" and stomp out
to the garage to smoke another Marlboro.
he just lays next to me in bed and watches. When I get to another weepy
part, he puts his hand on my shoulder and squeezes.
When the movie is over, we talk a little bit about why it means so much
to me. What is the big attraction? Is it the music? Or the love story?
"It's both," I tell him.
I've always been a sucker for big sweeping
historical dramas -- especially big sweeping historical dramas with
haunting soundtracks and plenty of good old-fashioned *Boo Hoo Moments*
-- and "Last of the Mohicans" fits the bill. Plus it came along at a
time in my life when there was precious little in the way of romance.
The idea that two people could be that deeply in
love with each other, even two characters in a movie, seemed to me,
at the time, almost indescribably exotic and unattainable.
clear that he doesn't completely get it. But the mere fact that he would
ask says something, right there.
All things considered, watching
"Mohicans" with him was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Why
had I allowed myself to get tied up in such a knot over it, anyway? If
anything, it only confirmed what he already knew: that his wife is a
big stoopid sentimental romance junkie with an incurable taste for
with excellent taste in second husbands.