Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Other Side of the Rainbow

Can't hold them back, y'all!
I know you've been patiently waiting to hear my verdict on The Muppets, which came out last Wednesday. Your minds are spinning trying to figure out why I have yet to weigh in. Did he see it? Was he abducted by aliens for the two hours he had tickets? Did he see it and then get abducted by aliens who erased all memories of it? Did he decide it wasn't worth the trip and that staying at home to watch Muppets in Space would be a better use of his time? Now you know I'm bluffing since you know that, even with a Kathy Griffin cameo, Muppets in Space is not worth staying home and watching in almost any situation unless a drinking game is involved.

Truth is, I had a pretty spectacularly horrible, no-good holiday weekend and it's taken me a few days to process my feelings about everything that is going on in my life. When the wheels in my head starting turning, I came to realize that my experience with The Muppets couldn't help but be informed by my life outside the cinema's revolving doors. Now that I've had a little bit of distance, I would love to share some of my thoughts about the movie (among other things). So you'll have to forgive me if this "review" of the movie is a little more personal than most. But we're all friends here, right? Awesomesauce. In that case, it's time to play the music! It's time to light the lights!

I want to work here. Make that happen, please.
I've made no secret of the fact that my job makes me want to claw my eyeballs out, thread them on a length of ribbon and wear them as a necklace. Part of the reason that I am so ready to leave New York City is that I have spent almost a year in a job that has done everything imaginable to suck my soul out short of drilling a hole in my chest and putting a vacuum cleaner against it. When I finally leave, I will probably never talk about it publicly because a) it has been so traumatizing and 2) people who have too much money and too few worthwhile things to do with it tend to like to use it on lawyers, treating litigation like a sport. A rich-people sport like polo or fencing. Lawsuiting. I can't afford a lawsuit, so suffice it to say that I am living in a nightmare version of Devil Wears Prada, but worse. Yes, it's possible to be worse than Miranda Priestly. You haven't met Your Majesty. When you finally see me next, we'll have a cup of coffee or cocktail and chat (strictly off the record), I promise.

The Wednesday that The Muppets was released was the day before Thanksgiving. I left the office promptly at six-thirty and headed uptown to pick up tickets for my husband and I to see the movie, which I had been waiting to see for months. I even went to The Museum of the Moving Image a few weeks back to see the Jim Henson exhibit and get my Muppet fix while I waited. I bought the tickets and pulled out my phone to see where Tom was. Of course, there was a message from Your Majesty. The masochist in me decided to listen and I was treated to three minutes (which is long in voicemail time) of the most passive-agressive, self-important, and flat-out mean drivel I have ever heard in my life. After eleven months of working my tail off without getting any respect or appreciation, Your Majesty told me that he could tell I wasn't happy, and that if I didn't like the way he ran his business, then maybe I should't be working for him any more.

Or even here. I'd totally work here, too, yo!
What horrible transgression had I committed? Well I had left on time. That meant that ten minutes later, when he wanted me to do a fruitless, self-serving task for him that I didn't know I was supposed to do, I wasn't there to do it. Did you get that? Yeah...me either. So I snapped. I was done. I called Tom crying. Going on about how awful it all was and how scared I am of the prospect of being jobless, no matter how much I hate what I do, and how I just wanted to go home. This was not how I wanted to see The Muppets.

I got a call from another beleaguered co-worker who was still tied down to the office and had been asked to do the busy work I wasn't there to do. Since it was too difficult to explain how to do it over the phone, I felt bad for them and I didn't want to hear guff about the situation all weekend, I returned my tickets and went into the office to get it done. So my Thanksgiving break started by going into the office at eight at Your Majesty's whim. Gobble gobble.

The upside was that I had time to calm down and realize that, dammit, I had waited for months to go see The Muppets on opening night and I'd be galldarned if I was going to let Your Majesty muck it up for me. Tom and I went back uptown, got our tickets anew and sat down in the front row of the mezzanine (!) for the ten o'clock showing of the movie. Before you are enveloped by the overwhelming and comforting smell of buttered popcorn and after you step out into the brisk late-fall air outside the theater, real life takes hold. But for those two precious hours, if all of the creative artists have done their job well, we are able to leave it all behind. And that night we were absolutely transported. From the opening Toy Story Toon to the end credits I had a huge smile on my face, I was ugly-laughing like my life depended on it and I did not think about Your Majesty once the entire time.

Hi. My name's Woody and I'm...
The Toy Story Toon, called "Small Fry" is hilarious. It imagines a support group meeting for tossed aside fast food kid's meal toys. The toys include a nod to Disney live-action film Condorman and Jane Lynch voicing the mermaid-on-a-rock leader of the group. It is a great riff on the Toy Story franchise without rehashing the same ideas. You do, however, get to spend a bit of quality time with your favorite characters from the original movies, including the adorable Bonnie, who just makes me feel like I'm get a big ole bear hug from one of the radtastic nuggets in my life, who are too far away to get a real bear hug out of at the mo. (Shout out to Dyllan and Sophia!!!) It's a perfect amuse bouche to get the party started.

Gratuitous Sarah Silverman shot for my hubby.
Then comes the main attraction- The Muppets. I can safely say that it's the best time that I've had in a movie theater in a long, long time. I was worried because some of the buzz surrounding the film's fidelity to the Muppets' spirit had been called into question. It seems to me that some people were being a bit too precious with our felt friends. I understand the impulse. None of us want to see these characters done wrong by. Luckily, they haven't been. The Muppets' history was respected and they were made relevant for a generation who has yet to meet them properly.

By telling the story of the Muppets reuniting for the first time in years, they were able to give us something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. By which I mean we got the old-school antics we expected to get as we catch up with what these guys have been doing, fresh characters introduced seamlessly into the mix, plenty of cheeky cultural referencing and celebrity cameos, all peppered with nostalgia and a big dollop of emotion on top.

If you've seen the movie, you know why this
shot makes me laugh out loud.
All of the performers are winning, but especially Amy Adams (Giselle from Enchanted) in one of the lead roles. There is nothing that this woman can't do. She can sing her face off, be really touching one minute and off-the-wall hilarious the next. Jason Segal is not usually my cup of tea, but he acquits himself quite well here and it is his passion for the project, which he also co-wrote, that got it off the ground. The new Muppet character, Walter, is very charming. I really came to care for him. Plus his human doppelgänger is the geek-dreamy Jim Parsons, so he's got that going for him. Chris Cooper and Rashida Jones also make unexpected and effective turns playing against their types. The music is fun, it looks great, and, when I saw it, the entire audience was guffawing, clapping and awww-ing wholeheartedly.

I just welled up adding this pic. Seriously.
I must say, though, that the big lump in the throat came late in the movie and it's one of the simplest moments. It involves a frog, a log, and a song about a rainbow. I'm sure that you all know what I'm talking about. Not to disparage what's new and fresh about the movie, but it's really hard to top "Rainbow Connection", written in 1979 for The Muppet Movie. It's a big, beating, muscular heart of a song. It's slightly cynical, but ultimately hopeful. It's gentle, but earth-shattering. And last Wednesday night, after almost a year of feeling beaten-down to the point of breaking, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Best. Road trip. Ever!
People can debate the details of the movie, angry that they got x, y, or z wrong about it, but in the end what matters is that they took a guy who was feeling just about as low as he could possibly get and, over the course of a single movie, and let him (in the words of another fantastic Henson creation) dance his cares away. Worries for another day. For that, I will always be very grateful.

The Muppets were there when I needed them most, reminding me that there's a good reason that we always keep what's at the far end of the rainbow in our periphery. It's the promise of something greater. A time and place where we will be again be as happy as we were (the lovers, the dreamers and me...and my amazing husband) in that dark movie theater just hours before a day we set aside specifically to give thanks. That's worth far more than box office receipts or merchandising revenue. That's the power of a great movie to help change lives.

The rainbow in my room.
In the days since I saw the movie, I was still feeling a bit down. Real life has a tendency to come back and hornswaggle you despite the exceptional efforts of any great artistic endeavor to keep you up. It's always a struggle when you are in an emotionally unhealthy place forty hours a week to not get dragged back down. However, this morning, when I woke up, I turned over and was greeted by a rainbow in the corner of my room. It's like the Muppets were sending me a gentle reminder as insurance in case all of this soul-searching does take hold. It made me smile first thing in the morning, which is usually the last time that you will find me smiling when not on Disney property, no matter the circumstances. So if someone or something is up there, trying to guide me, I am saying out loud, into the universe, that I am choosing to believe that there is something magical and wonderful on the other side of that rainbow and I will keep moving forward until I get there. Thanks Jim. Thanks Muppets. Well-played, all.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're an amazing writer.

    I hope you're doing well...wherever you are.

    And I hope you're far away from the self-centered, demanding boss.