Saturday, February 21, 2009

Groundhog Day meets American Beauty

Every time I think about it, I come back to the same conclusion. The only way out of this scenario is the Groundhog Day solution. Or the American Beauty answer. Same difference.

"What is that?" you ask?

Well, good question!

Both films are about guys who are in messed up situations. Bill Murray (GHD) is a lonely cynic who alienates those around him. Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) is depressed, barely speaking to his wife and daughter, and is misearable at work. 

And both films show the protagonists doing what they need to do to become happy within themselves. 

Bill Murray keeps trying to win the girl (Andie MacDowell) by finding out _exactly_ what pleases her. It almost works, too... until it backfires and she thinks he's some kind of stalker. It's not until Bill gives up trying, becomes less of a cynic and builds a positive relationship with those around him that Andie finally falls for him. 

In short, he becomes happy. Positive. Confident. Relaxed. He's no longer seeking something from Andie. He has something to offer her instead. He is no longer chasing after her, but rather is letting her come to him. But -- and this is the cruical part -- he's doing this not as a strategy to get her, but rather as a result of the new person he has become. 

His very act of seeking her put her off not because women don't like to be wooed, but because his interest in her came from a needy and unpleasant part of himself. Deep down he was, no doubt, a vulnerable guy, as we all are. And he masked this vulnerability with cyncisim and negativity. 

Through the movie, this masking morphed from negativity to positivity. Cynicisim and self-absorption evolved into generosity of spirit and a genuine care for others. He became more likable, of course, but I think just as importantly, he liked himself more, too. And because of that, perhaps, he no longer needed the relationship with Andie; which meant that he was suddenly much more appealing to her on all sorts of levels. 

It's, perhaps, a bit like another film, the Shawshank Redemption. It was only when Morgan Friedman no longer cared whether he was paroled or not that he was finally let out. 

I know I am not cynical, and I certainly try not to be negative. But I certainly have deeply unmet sexual needs -- and perhaps other unmet needs as well. 

So I guess my goal is to be a bit more like Bill Murray -- to become a nicer, more generous, expansive and pleasant person. A person who is a bit less needy. Because as long as I focus on what I don't have it will: 1) drive me nuts, AND, 2) mean any attempt to get it is doomed to fail. 

If I focus instead on building as positive, expansive, social, generous and fullfilling life for myself as I can, then I am much more likely to obtain that "other" goal. And I will have a better time of it along the way. And if I fail in that other goal, I will be in a much better position to cope with that, as well as whatever our relationship and my life brings me next. 

Next time... more on American Beauty 

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