I've used psychedelics, meditation, and philosophy to understand the mystery of the cosmos -- with decidedly mixed success. But now that I've reached what feels like the astoundingly old age of 70, I'm pleased to find wisdom any way it appears to me.
Such as, through the unexpected workings of Netflix. Which led me yesterday to a better appreciation of what is really important in life.
My mini-enlightenment began when I noticed that "A Star is Born" was available in our Netflix DVD queue as of February 20. So I elevated it to next in line and mailed back the movie we'd just watched, "The Wife."
However, I didn't realize that Netflix would send us our next request on February 19, when "A Star is Born" wasn't available. So I got an email saying "Dan in Real Life" was on its way to us.
Damn, I thought. That's probably a loser of a movie, since it was released in 2007 and we've had no interest in seeing it over the past dozen or so years even though it was near the top of our Netflix queue.
So my plan was to return it as soon as it arrived, to hasten the arrival of what we really wanted, "A Star is Born."
Things turned out differently, though. Which, interestingly, is the central theme of "Dan in Real Life," as the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis describes:
Widowed father and family-advice columnist Dan Burns, who is reeling from the heartache of loss, takes refuge by trying to maintain order with his three rebellious young girls, while dodging anything unexpected or outside the box.
But when Dan heads to Rhode Island, his miffed daughters in tow, for the annual fall weekend thrown by the large and boisterous Burns family, everything changes. Soon after his arrival, he runs into an alluring woman named Marie in a bookshop.
For the first time in a very, very long time, Dan experiences real, live sparks--only to have to douse them liberally when he discovers Marie is, in fact, the brand-new girlfriend that his brother Mitch is about to proudly introduce to the family.
As the weekend gets underway in the close quarters of a crowded house filled with quirky, prying relatives, Dan and Marie try to squelch and cover up their growing mutual attraction at every turn, leading to one comical situation after another. Yet, no matter how hard they try to do the very opposite, Dan and Marie can't help but fall in love.
Now, Dan is about to realize that no matter how wise safety might seem, when it comes to real life, he's going to have to break all the rules.
Last night I told my wife, Laurel, that "Dan in Real Life" got pretty good critic and viewer reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, so we should give it a look-see rather than returning it without watching the movie. After all, if it sucked, we could stop watching it after half an hour or so.
But both of us loved the movie. Steve Carell was great in it, as was Juliette Binoche. This romantic comedy even made us laugh out loud several times, and we usually keep our amusement silently inside our heads.
The movie was short enough (98 minutes) for us to see it in one Wednesday night sitting.
However, it was long enough that we didn't have time to see any of our usual politically-oriented TV shows that pile up in our DVR for eventual watching. Like, Late Night With Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Real Time With Bill Maher.
(Why is it all of these have "with" in the show names? Another mystery of the cosmos.)
What struck me as I headed off to bed after watching the local -- OK, Portland, since Salem doesn't have a TV station -- 11 pm news was how much calmer I felt, compared to our usual television-watching routine. Almost always my wife and I feast, maybe even overdose, on a diet of the above-mentioned politically heavy shows.
Given that the Mueller report appears to be coming out next week, part of me was wondering what Colbert, et. al., had to say about this important development. However, a larger part of me was feeling good about the, well, feel-good message of "Dan in Real Life."
Love is what counts most in life.
Not politics. Not the Mueller report. Not the 2020 election. Or any election. And love, no matter who is fallen in love with, can't be controlled, predicted, anticipated, or even understood. It is simply there, a mystery in plain sight.
If you haven't seen "Dan in Real Life" and want to get a feel for the movie, here's four clips from the last part of it.
Here Dan and his brother Mitch, whose girlfriend is the woman Dan is falling in love with, Marie, both sing to her in their separate ways. Marie likes what Dan did, yet also is confused by it.
I loved the bowling scene. Dan (Steve Carell) and Marie (Juliette Binoche) meet up after Marie realizes that she really isn't attracted to Dan's brother and leaves the family reunion. But she calls Dan and says, "I had to leave. But I didn't get very far." What they didn't know is that the whole family also has decided to go bowling.
Dan feels bad that he's been letting down his three daughters. They get him back on track with Marie, though.
And naturally there's a happy ending in the closing credits. Geez, I really like romantic comedies.