We’re all ridiculous in our own way, no matter what Tomatometer says
Special to the Daily
It’s that time of year when we have more opportunities to take in an evening movie. Kids are up later, and homework, while somewhere vaguely on the radar, just seems wrong on a blustery summer evening. And so, we happened across “What We Did On Our Holiday,” a British “comedy-drama” now airing on pay per view. When I first read the film’s title, thoughts of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” immediately came to mind, including certain unsavory scenes those of us with RVs would just as soon forget.
Undaunted, we hit the “pay now” selection and contemplated popcorn. It is absurdly easy to rent a flick these days, and I’m sure there are a multitude of opinions on whether that’s progress or a sign of civilization’s certain decline, with the ensuing debate a perfect subject for a scholarly paper or two. For now, however, I’ll just accept the convenience because bickering over it seems nearly ridiculous.
Only minutes into the picture, it became clear we were not in for Chevy Chase-like antics. The film, set in the Scottish Highlands, offered some breathtaking scenery, but was no “European Vacation.” Life messages sometimes come from the most unlikely sources, so I adjusted my internal antenna and settled in. One of the film’s recurring undercurrents captured my attention.
This seems a good point to acknowledge, readily, that I am no movie critic and not disposed toward artistic analysis. Either I like it or I don’t. The folks from Rotten Tomatoes far more eloquently dissected the film, giving it a 74 percent on the Tomatometer (whatever that is). In sum, the movie was neither widely praised nor widely panned, although I rather liked the critic who called it “breezy.” The same feeling of malaise that grips me when I read a particularly scathing personal attack rose up when I took in one critic’s view that the movie is a “damp-eyed comedy whose banal title isn’t the only thing needing improvement.” Then again, being bothered by film critic’s missive seems just a bit ridiculous.
It was, in fact, the film’s use of the word “ridiculous” that hit me. Often when we think something is ridiculous, it’s in a derisive sense, as Webster puts it, “deserving or inviting mockery.” The word’s origin suggests a slightly different connotation, meaning “that which excites laughter” coming from the word ridere, which means “to laugh.” Not to give away the entire plot, part of the wisdom imparted by Gordie, the film’s protagonist and terminally-ill grandfather (portrayed Billy Connolly) to his overly anxious 10-year-old granddaughter is that life often serves up the ridiculous. The choice is ours whether to deride, or to laugh.
There’s no shortage of current messaging imploring us to be mindful about the beauty that surrounds us, aspiring us to greater awareness. To that, I say amen — sometimes even out-loud when I stumble across a cluster of wild columbine beautifully unkempt, flourishing thanks to our recent nightly rainfall. Then again, sometimes I just get curse the ongoing storms, only to realize my resentment is, well, ridiculous.
During his dying film dissertation, Gordie explains, “The truth is, every human being on this planet is ridiculous in their own way.” That, too, deserves an amen, for the reminder that it’s just fine to be ridiculous and to acknowledge that humanity is as well. Gordie’s words of wisdom coming from the small screen on a random summer night reminded me to smile when I realize I’m being ridiculous and to appreciate the ridiculous in us all as an invitation to laughter and love.
Cindy Bargell is an attorney and mom who lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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