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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

entry arrow9:13 PM | Charlie Makes a Request | Scene From Men Don't Leave (1990)

Favorite Scenes Series

When Paul Brickman's Men Don't Leave was released in 1990, it came at the most opportune time in the most personal way. I was 15. I was at an age where I was slowly shaping my passions, and I guess I was beginning what would turn out to be a life-long love affair with the movies. Sure, I'd seen other movies before this one, and ha loved many of them -- but the early 1990s was when I made a deliberate choice to be a cineaste. I went out it with the calculation of a fanatic: I cultivated a taste for the non-commercial and the challenging (I knew I had to expand my horizons, film-wise), I read up on biographies of movie stars and directors, I devoured film history books and from them compiled lists of films I was supposed to see as a budding cineaste. But I wasn't also entirely high-brow: I paid attention to what was popular as well, even waking up very early in the morning of every Monday to watch CNN's Showbiz Today and its weekly report of box office tallies. The titles of the top-five box office winners I would carefully log onto my film notebook, which also contained a long list of films I could remember having watched. (Each title was painstakingly rated. Four stars meant I had liked it very much.)

Men Don't Leave was one of those films I saw advertised in the newspapers with the poster filled with blurbs. The review snippets told me it was a must-see, a critical darling. And so when I came to watch it, I was prepared to expect that it would be good. And it was, to my relief. Because there were many films in my youth advertised with exactly the same kind of critical fervency, but I'd find washing over me like a piece of a puzzle I could not get. From the get-go, I liked the film's slow-moving drama, its universal dilemma, its quiet unfolding. There were no villains in this piece, only interesting people confronted with problems and trying their best to overcome them without losing their humanity. I liked that. It also introduced me to Jessica Lange.

I soon moved on to bigger movies with vaster legacies. I had forgotten about this little gem of a movie until the writer Wilfredo Pascual reminded me about it in a recent Facebook meme. Paul Brickman's tight melodrama about a mother (Jessica Lange) and her two sons (Chris O'Donnell and Charlie Korsmo -- Charlie Korsmo! That name is soooo 1990s! I miss him.) trying to find new life for themselves in Baltimore after the husband dies in an accident. Heart-tugging all the way, but surprisingly restrained all the same. There are syrupy moments, but it worked. I've always found the score to be such a joyful complement to the story, and to have found out now that it was done by Thomas Newman, one of my favourite composers, is to revel in the discovery that there is a DNA to my filmic taste.

In this scene, perhaps my favourite from the movie, we find Mr. O'Donnell's character pleading in a roundabout way to Arliss Howard -- who plays Ms. Lange's new boyfriend -- to give his mother another chance. They have had a falling out, a result of domestic turbulence, and here is the mother's son begging Mr. Howard's character not to leave. Leave-taking by the men in this film is the story's objective correlative, underlined by Mr. Korsmo's tearful speech in the end of the film.

A great movie -- although it does sometimes feel like an ad for life insurance.

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