Sam Mendes has a new movie out. And guess what? It’s not about how family life in the suburbs sucks your soul out of you like most of his other movies. It’s about two young people worrying about whether family life in the suburbs will suck their soul out of them. A radical departure, eh?
Mendes directed the ballyhooed film “American Beauty” years ago about how life in the suburbs was soul sucking, anti-gay, annoying, boring, conformist, desperate and even murderous. I remember thinking while I was watching it that Mendes captured exactly what I thought of the suburbs…when I was 16.
But I’m not 16 anymore. I’m not sure how old Mendes is but his phobia of the suburbs is still strong.
He also wrote and directed the much ballyhooed film Revolutionary Road which had the same elitist and urbane view of the suburbs.
Now it’s “Away We Go” where two young-ish unmarrieds search for couple who’ve found happiness. Essentially there’s very little to be found out in America. Only alcoholics, depressives and suicide risks.
Essentially, Mendes seems to adopt the view of literary urbanista types that the suburbs are a death filled wasteland.
I find this attitude weird firstly as a business decision because it seems to me that mocking where most people live isn’t the way to make a lot of money.
But more importantly, I don’t know what the big look-down-your-nose issue is that people have with the suburbs.
I live in the suburbs because it’s near the city where my wife and I work. But we like having a lawn and a little space. I’m just not getting the soul sucki-ness of it all.
I think I’m the bizarro Sam Mendes. I’ve embraced everything he fears.
The question sometimes comes up in conversation with old friends. What was the best time of your life? And I’m sometimes embarrassed to admit it but right now is the best time of my life. Truly. And I’m a short chubby bearded dad living in the suburbs. I mow my lawn. I pay bills. I talk to my wife about what she did that day. I change diapers. Lots of them. Sometimes we go get ice cream. I do all those things that angsty pubescents jeer at.
I’ve lived in the suburbs coming up on ten years. And I’ve yet to feel my soul sucked. I don’t really do angst. I think I used to. But I think I’ve forgotten where I put my existential angst. I’m happy. And even more importantly, I’m content. I’m focused.
So often his characters are running around and saying they’re looking to “feel” something. I think I’m content because I don’t consider my feelings all that important. And because of that I feel things more intensely than I did ever before in my life. A child’s utterances can have me laughing all day. I feel the pain of a parent who sees his child hurt. I feel tired just about all the time but it’s the tired that comes from doing something you love. It’s not the weary kind of tired that Mendes’ characters seem to feel.
And finally, there’s one thing I don’t ever remember hearing from Mendes’ characters: God.
God, thankfully, is at the center of my life. And that puts me in proper perspective.
Now if, like Mendes’ character seem to often do, I found myself at the center of my own universe I’d be pretty depressed too.