Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Last Holiday: Life With Butter

Tonight I will write a movie review.  It does not run counter to my abstinence from writing trivial things, as “Last Holiday” is anything but trivial for my QT sisters and I who saw the movie right after work on a Tuesday night.  It was just what the doctor ordered for five single Christian women who needed to let their hair down.

I admit I agreed to see the movie because I wanted to laugh.  I was expecting Queen Latifah to hold the screen as her stage and entertain me with bold strokes into a fantasy world where I could buy anything I wanted without having to pay for them.  What I was treated to, however, was a gentle woman who held back all her life but once told that it was about to end, savored every minute with passion and gratitude.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me provide the premise of the movie, which is a remake from a 1950s British comedy.  Queen Latifa plays Georgia Byrd, the best employee in a department store, who played by the rules and who suppressed her dreams in favor of the comforts of a predictable life.  She sang at her church choir, babysat for her sister, fed her neighbors, and harbored a secret crush on her co-worker Sean, played by equally famous rapper LL Cool J.  I’m telling you, the woman is a saint!  Aside from what I’ve already mentioned, she also watches her calories and gives store-sample food to the elderly, to the consternation of her profit-oriented boss!  

Georgia lived in another world, like a parallel universe, in her mind.  She kept a book of things she would do someday – like meet famous chefs (one played by the gifted Gerard Depardieu, and the other, Food TV host Emeril, who starred as himself); travel to Europe; eat her favorite foods without worrying about weight gain; and marry the man of her dreams.  Whenever she thought about these dreams, she just added a page to her album, but did not do anything to actually pursue them.

Until one day when a head injury brought her into the reality that is life – she was diagnosed with a terminal illness and was given three months to live by their company doctor, Dr. Gupta, played effortlessly by an actor so good the memory of his image kept me and my friends in stitches even hours after watching the film.

This plot was highlighted on the trailer and it actually misled me into thinking that afterwards, the heroine decided to suck the marrow out of life, shop, travel, wine and dine all she wanted without a care in the world!  

The surprises for me were:  First, she did not max out credit cards (as I assumed) in order to finance her Last Holiday. She just liquidated all of her investments.  Second, she maintained her wisdom and humility even in the midst of struggling with her sickness.  Third, she touched lives wherever she went, from America to Europe, because of her honesty.  Fourth, she had a personal relationship with God, often talking to Him in the middle of a conversation with another person, seeing His hand in her life and alternating between doubting Him and thanking Him for everything.  Fifth, she could be one of my sisters in Lingkod, for she reads the Bible, has a personal relationship with God, goes to church, and even serves in their Music Ministry!  That’s what made her character so adorable for me and my friends.

The movie was paced just right to make the seeds planted in the first hour bear fruit in the second hour.  It was funny and poignant, touching very common topics such as love, death, and life with freshness and restraint.  The delights which she unwrapped one by one were not borne out by her backsliding into a hedonistic lifestyle; they simply were treats she finally allowed herself to indulge in out of an appreciation of who she really was as a person.  The meals, treatments, outfits, sports, and jewels were things she relished, slowly, with her eyes closed and her lips curled up in a satisfied smile.  She was surrounded with a good mix of characters, all perfectly-cast with talented actors, from the hotel crew who adored her sincerity to the elite guests who clamored for her company.

I felt God’s love for Georgia Byrd, and it reminded me of His love for each of us.  When she was tearfully questioning Him on why He let her suffer, I asked with her.  Why God, why me?  I did what you asked, I was a good girl.  When she could not believe all the blessings that were surrounding her, she looked up, shook her head and smiled.  She did not believe in luck but knew Somebody was watching over her.

I cannot reveal the ending without spoiling the movie experience for you.  It is a highly recommended movie especially for sisters.  One of us is out there, and her name is Georgia.  She’s obedient, prudent, and patient, yes, but she also has longings, dreams, and desires that you and I know cause real pain.  

It’s a film that would make you laugh, cry, and think of turning “possibilities” into “realities”, by God’s grace, which was what the entire film was about.  The “secret of life” is in the film too, and I think my father would have to agree:  it is not the prison (or did the good chef say “box”?) of extra-virgin olive oil; for the secret of life is butter!  It was not spelled out, but I agree.  It stands for flavor.

Georgia counted the things she would have done more given another chance at life:  she said she wanted to laugh more and to love more.  Mercy, Gay, Arlene, Mirac and I took note.  Now, if each of us would just take out our secret journals of possibilities and shared them, perhaps they could become realities as well!  

To laugh, and to love, and to laugh again… maybe the film is not very realistic, but that is how I like my movies sometimes.  They have to paint hope and joy in bold strokes so I could bring them home with me.