Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Neurotic Affair to Remember

With age comes new perspective.

While that sounds really deep, it's based on seeing "Sleepless in Seattle" today at the historic Henrico Theater. When I saw it was playing, I thought sure, why not see a movie I hadn't seen since 1993?

I've been to the restored Art Deco theater, which has its good points ($1 admission) and bad (no concession stand), before to see vintage movies. Today I took a different route, though, tooling through the East End rather than taking the highway since it's such a gloriously warm afternoon.

When I first saw "SIS," I'd never seen "An Affair to Remember," the classic Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr film from which it takes its inspiration. So while I had enough context clues to understand the relevance of the older movie, it was certainly more meaningful now that I've finally seen the classic.

But, whoa, 1993! How had I forgotten what another world that was? It doesn't seem that long ago.

Land lines with extensions in every room (a red wall unit in Meg Ryan's kitchen). The most primitive of computers. Kids with record players. White wine spritzers. Non-passengers at the boarding gate. A 65-cent cup of tea. People with radios on the kitchen counter. References to "Paul is dead." Writing letters to people. Women wearing full slips.

For that matter, I'd also lost sight of how very young Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were (37 and 32) and what the social mores of the time were.

Tom's character is worried about dating because he hasn't dated since the Carter administration (would today's audiences even know when that was?). He's surprised to learn women ask men out and split the tab (when he insists he'll pay for dinner on a date, his friend says he'll be the most popular man in Seattle). His friend tells him women want men with great pecs and cute butts. He's confused about why women toss their hair (amen). And it seems to be common knowledge that no one in the '90s is getting laid.

I was there in the '90s but I really don't recall any of this being a big deal. And some of us were getting laid, thank you very much.

Given that that was the era of grunge, I was surprised at how gorgeous the soundtrack was with an array of songs from the Great American songbook (As Time Goes By, Stardust, Make Someone Happy) sung by the new and old (Jimmie Durante, Nat King Cole, Carly Simon, Joe Cocker).

What I especially liked about the film was all the discussion of relationships. "What we think of as fate is just two neuroses knowing that they are a perfect match." Were we really so jaded already?

Or this gem from her best friend, played by Rosie O'Donnell, looking far skinnier than I ever remembered her: "Verbal ability is a highly overrated thing in a guy and it's our pathetic need for it that gets us into so much trouble." Don't remind me.

For me, the best and worst part of this romantic comedy classic was how unconnected a world I got to experience back then.

Was it only 22 years ago that some wooing was done via the postal service? I know I have letters to prove it but I guess I'd forgotten. How is it possible only two decades later that no one even meets for a drink without Googling their date when we used to just take a chance on instinct and attraction?

Right now, I want nothing so much as to put on a full slip and read a letter from a suitor while the kitchen radio plays "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" by Louis Armstrong. And if my land line rings (because it's the only phone I have), I will walk into the bedroom to answer it.

At no point will I toss my hair, although I may silently rue my attraction to verbal ability. Some things are timeless.

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