Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Own Elizabethtown

I remember there were a lot previews for this movie, but it simply disappeared. It was a good movie with a lot of soul, but no body. There was something missing and I’m still not sure what. Kirsten Dunst is always good, and there’s Orlando. Orlando, Orlando.

As usual, there are movies reviews elsewhere online, but I write about what hits me.

After his father’s sudden death, Orlando’s character, Drew, comes to his father’s Kentucky hometown. Drew is a “citified” kind of guy with a hotshot lifestyle and only his sister and mother in Oregon. When he enters Elizabethtown, he’s amazed that strangers know who he is and why he’s there. He enters a house and everyone jumps on top of him with hugs and recognition as “Mitch’s boy.” Drew is amazed at the lack of formality and openness. There’s an aunt (Paula Dean) who holds the family history with words, photographs, and food. Traditions and beliefs have long roots in their home.

I recognized myself in Drew at that moment. I’ve felt that way visiting India. My first trip was when I was eleven and we had gone to my father’s small town Rajpipla. People came out of everywhere to introduce themselves as an aunt, uncle, cousin, or a neighbor who held my father on his knee. First cousins I didn’t know I had jumped to greet us at the bus depot. I didn’t have to prove myself or earn their hugs and affection. They knew who I was and we were family.

I remember going to a community event with a friend, and we were talking to a woman. She needed to identify me and asked whose daughter I was. My parents’ names did not ring a bell for her, since we didn’t live there. I mentioned my aunt’s name and our address (“opposite the post office”). She said, “Oh, are you the America-walli?” She had heard.

One line out of the movie that echoed for me was when a random cousin says to Drew, “Everyone says we look alike. Wow. It’s like looking in a mirror.” Bit of a joke, since he does not look like Orlando (no one looks like Orlando). When I went to India a few years ago, people kept telling my cousin Sheetal and I that we looked alike now. The comparisons were a bit tiresome. When Sheetal and I were reunited, we faced each other, holding the other’s shoulders. We studied each other’s face, and I said, “Wow. We look alike.” She said, “I feel like I’m looking in a mirror.” We laughed hysterically because we didn’t.

Since our visits have been few and far between, it is more of an introduction than a reunion. We don’t have too many memories together and need to find links and common grounds. For example, it was exciting to learn first cousins on my father’s side also have creative talents. We knew we got our artistic talents from father, but we didn’t think beyond our immediate family. It was amazing to have an innate connection to others.

The openness and lack of formality in India is like being wrapped up in a warm fleece blanket. Definitely feels wonderful when you’ve been in the cold. Of course, even if it’s 100-degrees outside, that blanket is still there. Indian relations believe they have the right to interrogate you about your weight, pimples, eyebrows, eyeglass prescription, etc. Not only will they ask, they will offer unsolicited advice and solutions to things you didn’t know were a problem. It’s not just immediate relations, but anyone who feels they have a connection. So, it’ll be that neighbor’s sister-in-law’s friend who will make recommendations about your complexion. That’s when the American in me needs to shake off that blanket and retreat into a world of privacy.

"Elizabethtown" invoked these memories of being an outsider who actually belongs. (Here's one more picture of Orlando for the road!)

1 comment:

AppleLina said...

Rented this last night -- inspired by your preview as well as on recommendation by othere...

i just couldn't connect with Orlando...or the story. i fell asleep mid way but i think that was just a function of being tired :)

I'm going to give it one more shot today to see if it's better today. Familiy Stone is next :)