Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's Like That... Only Different

Ever watch a movie and think, "This is kinda like that other movie... but not really?" Have you gotten the feeling that whoever made the movie you're watching was somehow inspired by some other movie?

I’d like to try a new feature. Well, actually I’d love to start a “movie night” thing of sorts where we’d watch two “similar but different” movies, but A, I don’t have any friends that like movies, and B, I don’t have any friends. So for now, I’ll just mention in passing that I love movie nights, and if anyone wants to be friends and come over, let me know, and I’ll ask my wife.

The "It's like that... only different," feature will highlight two movies, maybe more (that's right Iceman, I am dangerous) that have absolutely nothing to do with each other but will complement each other well when watched back to back.

Let's give it a shot. This pair actually gave me the idea for the topic.

Harold and Maude / Charlie Bartlett

Harold and Maude is one of my top ten favorite movies (see list at right). When I watched Charlie Bartlett recently I couldn't help but think of H and M. Story-wise, these two couldn't be more different. Harold doesn't sell prescription medication to achieve popularity and Charlie doesn't hook up with any saucy old chicks. Nevertheless, there's just something about these flicks that tie them together.

Harold and Maude is about a young man who is so obsessed with the idea of death that he regularly attends funerals for people he doesn't even know. He's not suicidal, but enjoys playing morbid pranks on his mother. The mood is dark but hilarious. His life changes when he meets Maude, a woman on the verge of her 80th birthday. She embraces all sides of life, the happy and the sad, and shows Harold what it means to be alive. And I know the whole thing about a 20 year old with an 80 year old is weird and maybe a little gross, but have an open mind. The movie isn't really about that. It's not like that movie you rented last month when your parents were away. What was that called, "Cougars on the Prowl 6?" Maude has lived a long time and experienced moments of joy and sadness. That's the key. I imagine that, if this were to be remade, they'd cast Cameron Diaz and through some plot-dialogue simply announce that she's been through a lot and it would all be very convincing I'm sure. Harold and Maude is a funny and brilliant film. From the shocking first scene to an even more unexpected ending, it's truly an emotional ride.

Charlie Bartlett is about a troubled high school teen who wants nothing more than to be worshipped by his peers. His mother thinks all his problems can be solved with therapy and prescription meds. This provides Charlie with a means to make friends. He holds therapy sessions and sells medication out of the boy's bathroom. It's not entirely plausible, but makes for a pretty good story. It's funny and touching and Robert Downey Jr. plays a great drunk.

I will bet you five dollars that the creator of Charlie Bartlett likes the movie Harold and Maude. I won't say that he ripped off H and M because the stories are nothing alike. But I can definitely say that he was inspired by it. Everything about Charlie Bartlett echoes H and M. The characters are quirky and the locales are vintage. Both mothers are snobbish, entitled, and proper, and they have no idea how to raise a son. They also dress alike even though they live decades apart. Harold and Charlie are polite and calm and have this creepy yet endearing stare. The boys also thrive on rebellion and crave attention from their mothers. These two movies have an odd sense of humor and over-the-top supporting characters. While often dark and dreary, some shared spirituality and romanticism make both films very uplifting.

And if those similarities weren't enough...

Harold and Maude - If You Want to Sing Out

Charlie Bartlett - If You Want to Sing Out

So, if you're in the mood for a different kind of movie night, try these two. They are both hilarious and heart-warming. While they are each unique in their own right, they complement each other perfectly. At the end, discuss the similarities over some pie and coffee. Harold and Maude should go first, in case you're the easily bored type. I want you to at least see the one on my top ten list.


Fletch said...

Damn, I think of these things all of the time while I'm watching a movie, but I seem to forget them just as quickly. I'll be watching something like The Hangover and thinking "yeah, this is just like Toy Story, only with Vegas and lots of penises instead of toys."

No, that's not really one of them, but it's similar to what rolls through my head. If I can recall some, I'll come back and post 'em...

JLG said...

Good deal, cuz now I can't think of any more. I thought of doing "Garden State" and "Elizabethtown", but that might be too obvious.


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