I send an email to my housemate: Got a lot done today, want to go to a movie?
We do that sometimes; send emails when we’re too lazy to walk the stairs. I hate yelling between rooms.
Sure, what do you want to see?
I do a search, gave him four preferences in descending order: 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyer’s Club, American Hustle, August: Osage County.
I really only have three preferences; I don’t want to see Osage County. I’m from Oklahoma; I’ve been to Osage County, and Meryl Streep is a bit too perfect for me. But Paul loves Meryl Streep and we’d just had a fight, so I offer her as a peace offering. Being housemates is not really an intimate relationship, but six years under the same roof generates enough friction that we’ve figured out how to hurt each other.
Paul replies in under a minute. My top choice is August: Osage County.
You need to get into big screen action movies, buddy, with slaves, gay addicts, and pimps instead of screaming women, but for you I will suffer screaming women.
I’m accommodating, if not solicitous. Paul would pay good money to sit in a theater and watch Meryl Streep gaze into a fish bowl.
As usual, Paul proves more solicitous than me and agrees to 12 Years a Slave. Now I am in his debt.
The traffic to Arlington is gruesome but we’re retired folk who left home with plenty of time. The Arlington Diner is closed; our preferred dive has become a breakfast and lunch only place. We check out eateries as we walk toward the theater.
This looks good. Paul nods towards Comella’s, a hyped up red sauce place with counter service and mom’s unzipping children in puff parkas. I hate Italian food, and restaurants teeming with kids, but I won on the movie, so I demur.
Comella’s is, I don’t know, confusing. You get food at the counter but they have to deliver your beer. They key the bathroom. The staff tells me its occupied when it’s actually empty. I spend eight minutes squirming outside a locked door. You want knives and folks? Make a separate trip to the counter. Paul is gentlemanly, as always. This place could use some process improvement. My empty bladder’s content that the food’s not half bad, though overpriced.
Dinner doesn’t take long. Fine dining is a challenge when three-foot high creatures with sniffles and pizza slices hang onto your chair. I’m relieved to exit, to walk over to the theater to watch a slave.
There’s only one ticket left for the 7:10 showing. I stare at the ticket boy in disbelief. Doesn’t he know that, by definition, when I finally get around to seeing a movie it’s long past sold out? I sigh, fall away from the line, look at Paul, check my iPhone clock, and admit defeat. We still have half an hour to drive to East Cambridge and visit Osage County.
Now we hustle. We pass the busses on Mass Ave. We veer through the shortcut at Porter Square. I drop Paul in front of the Kendall with five minutes to spare. He goes to buy tickets. I park the car. When I return he’s standing in the lobby with two stubs and a bottle of water. Water! How about popcorn, or Milk Duds, something satisfying on this loser evening.
But there’s no more time for concessions. We find our seats. I visit the bathroom, which thankfully, isn’t locked. By the time I return, Sam Shepard is already hiring the Indian maid who will provide the emotional baseline from which to gauge the utter insanity of the white folks of Osage County.
I settle in. The panoramas of the plains are magnificent. Some of the dialogue makes me wince; some makes me tear. Who allowed Tracy Letts to eavesdrop on my family? He quotes my mother, god rest her soul, verbatim. She at least deserves a screenwriting credit.
As the film escalates, and people start yelling between rooms, I give myself over to the shock of the familiar. I hate them all, and love them too. My heart aches for Chris Cooper. I wish I understood Ewen MacGregor better. Julia Roberts is awesome; its good to see that huge mouth being put to such trashy use. I love the movie, maybe more than I would have been preserving twelve years of slavery.
The movie ends. Paul and I sit beside each other in silence. The credits roll. We measure our own chequered lives against the tortured souls of Osage County, just as people do everywhere after films that present a sharp mirror.
Of course, Meryl Streep is perfect. You don’t need to see the movie to know that.