Monday, April 5, 2010
Sometimes, we all just need a good cry. Watching a great tearjerker is a bittersweet experience: the emotional release can be enjoyable, but the sadness lingers. I'm still not totally over the whole Bambi's-mom-getting-knocked-off-by-a-hunter thing. It haunts me still.
It's a testament to the quality and effectiveness of a movie when it has the power to make you reach for the Kleenex. Bonus points if it warrants a whole box. When a movie moves you to tears, it allows you to really let it all out. Plus, it's totally embarrassing if there are other people around. Some tips? I recommend pretending you have a bad cold or a loose contact lens. Practically foolproof.
Defining a solid tearjerker is tenuous territory. Plenty of movies have the power to move us, but only some give you that satisfying release of a much-needed cry. Some might be heavy contenders for tears on the basis of subject matter alone--for example, a well-executed war movies. This list, however, focuses more on the non-violent genre. Or, dare I say it, girlier movies. Okay, fine, chick flicks. But I threw in a few neutral picks as well, so, you know. You're welcome.
You're more than welcome to add your own favorite cry-a-minute picks to the list in the comment section. It can serve as a reliable reference for when the next cryfest urge hits. So, whether you consider yourself to be an emotional lightweight or possess tear ducts of unmovable steel, here are some movies likely to make you bawl like a little girl...whether or not you ever were one:
If you're watching Titanic at will, you can't say they didn't warn you; it's a pretty sure bet you know just what you're getting yourself into. On the off chance you don't, spoiler alert: the boat sinks. Rose swears to Jack that she'll never let go, but then he freezes to death and she lets go. Not much for follow through, don't you think? Joking aside, it still gets me every time. I'm only partially embarrassed to admit I usually keep a fully stocked Kleenex supply on hand if the Titanic mood ever strikes.
You've got to miss Patrick Swayze when you consider the tearjerking reflex of Ghost. The movie examines a murdered man's posthumous observation of his former lover in mourning. Ghost has some interesting ideas about what happens to our loved ones when they die, striking a tearful chord with any movie-watchers who have ever lost someone close to them. Throw in that much-satirized pottery wheel scene and you've got yourself a surefire cry session.
As a kid I could watch this one over and over again, though I think I may have been more interested in Selena's spangly stage outfits than her eventual demise at the hands of her fan club president. It's an interesting story, even more so because it's a ripped from the headlines account of a likable teenage girl poised on the brink of potential stardom. Jennifer Lopez's portrayal of the Mexican-American singer is believable and sweet; you can't help but feel for her family, friends, and fans for her tragic murder. There's also some really catchy music as an added bonus, so it's sort of a twofer.
Take one look at this cast and tell me this isn't the ultimate chick flick. It out-chicks the rest of the genre on cast alone. I mean, really. Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field...they've really got all chick flick hands on deck with this one. Based on the play of the same name, Steel magnolias explores the relationships between a group of close-knit Southern women as they encounter various obstacles in their lives. The movie throws around a lot of funny one-liners toward the beginning, so the whole tragedy/death thing sort of sneaks up on you. Let me tell you though, it's a doozy,
What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Gilbert (Johnny Depp) lives his small town life with his a 500-pound widowed mother, a developmentally disabled younger brother (Leonardo DiCaprio), and a married lover (Mary Steenburgen.) The movie has an offbeat oddball warmth and appeal, endearing us to this dysfunctional family. What's Eating Gilbert Grape isn't showy and high-minded. It shows us everyday life at its most basic and mundane, making it all the more affective. Bring on the tissues.
Here's a handy hint: if one of your movie's major characters is terminally ill, it's pretty darn likely that movie will try its hardest to elicit uncontrollable sobbing. Like Roberts' other film on this list, it starts out heavy on the humor and then gets us when we've let down our defenses and are at our most movie-watching vulnerable. I remember the previews for this movies hinted nothing about anyone dying a slow and painful death, so many of us were stuck wiping our eyes on our sleeves and popcorn wrappers. I was totally unprepared for this one.
Vada (Anna Chlumsky) is an eleven year old hypochondriac whose widower father is in the disconcerting funeral parlor biz. The movie follows Vada through her everyday trials on her path to adolescence, detailing her crushes, friendships, and social tribulations. Her best friend, Thomas J (Macaulay Culkin) is deathly allergic to bee stings, so surprise surprise, he gets stung. That's when the floodgates really opened for me. That scene in the woods is pretty brutal. The movie has no shortage of heart, so at least the ending
It takes a very well-conceived and well-executed movie to leave you uneasy and haunted after watching it, and The Piano pulls it off skillfully. The story is intriguing: a mute pianist with a daughter forced by her family into an arranged marriage. It explores emotions in an interesting way, and the result is a movie we are willing to invest in emotionally.
Who would've thought a movie about a man with shears for hands could be so touching? Johnny Depp is truly masterful as Edward Scissorhands in this quirky but ultimately moving movie from Tim Burton. The product of a mad inventor's experiment, Edward lives as an isolated outsider. Not only does this movie have the potential to make you cry, it also allows you to marvel over the fact that the villainous character is played by Anthony Michael Hall. The role is certainly a far cry from his brat pack days. It just goes to show, if you eventually beef up go through puberty, you may have a whole new world of evil-tinged roles at your fingertips.
Finally, a movie a guy can feel comfortable sobbing uncontrollably at. It's okay: it's about sports! The bulk of the movie is an earnest depiction of Jerry's quest for happiness on a career path paved by ruthless success. Throw in Renee Zellweger, though, and you've got yourself a serious cry fest. She pretty much had us at hello.
At a time when AIDS was still largely off-limits subject matter for popular entertainment, Philadelphia delivers a story about AIDS that is both moving and respectful. Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer in Philadelphia who has not come out to his coworkers. As he begins to show signs of illness, he suspects he has been framed by his firm to give reasonable cause to firing him. Hanks' performance is a testament to the power of an actor to make us feel for his plight and symp0athize with his situation. At a time when AIDS was largely a taboo subject, Philadelphia gave us a realistic and human look at its impact.
This movie forever changed my ability to visit Sea World. It's not that I can't, because let's be honest here, I have; it's more that it leaves me with a sort of undefinable sadness. Not so much at the whole entrapped and forced to do tricks thing, but more that I'll never have an orca of my own to dramatically jump over me at just the right moment. I've been waiting patiently, but the moment has yet to present itself.
It takes a special sort of movie to bring forth such strong emotions, but if you're in the mood for a good cry any of the above movies should more than fit the bill. They are not all fine works of high-concept cinema, but they will definitely do the trick. Just don't forget the Kleenex multi-pack: you're going to need it.