The other day, on the subject of “YOUR Happiness Project,” I posted about trying to cultivate an “area of refuge” for your mind – that is, when you feel yourself beginning to brood, wrench your thoughts away to think about happier subjects.
Along those lines, I’ve been making a list of scenes from movies where I felt a big jolt of pleasure at seeing someone perform some exceptionally kind or generous act – but I’m having trouble coming up with a lot of examples.
Off the top of my head, I thought of the scene in Boogie Nights when the main character, Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) and his friend Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly) eagerly ask the porn producer (Burt Reynolds) if they could make a different kind of porn movie, with plot and character. Burt Reynolds pauses and reflects, then agrees to take a chance on their vision.
One reason I love Boogie Nights so much is that the setting – the porn industry – is such an unexpected context in which to see a working out of the questions “What is the nature of loving action?” “What is our responsibility to others?” “What does virtue look like?”
I also thought of the scene in Steel Magnolias, in the beauty shop, when the sick, pregnant daughter (Julia Roberts) tells her mother that she wants to cut off her beautiful hair, to make her life simpler. Her mother (Sally Fields) pauses and thinks, then answers, “I think that would be just precious.”
In both cases, it is in the pause before speech that grace descends. The audience sees that the answer could go either way – to the loving, generous response, or the hasty, thoughtless response. Very Flannery O’Connor-ish.
I’d love to have more examples, and I know there must be a million. Please post any great scenes that come to your mind – and the more widely known the movie, the better. There are a ton of examples from the movie After the Wedding, say, but not very many people have seen it.
I posed this question to the Happiness Project group on Facebook, and got a terrific list — not of transcendent scenes that I recognized, however, but rather of movies to rent! I think I’d only seen three or four of the movies people mentioned.
I had never thought of Groundhog Day (a movie I love) as a forced, inescapable Happiness Project, but that’s certainly what it is.
My number-one project for vacation is to rent Amelie.
The main way that I find an “area of refuge” is to open up a book. I was very excited to discover Bookdwarf, a great, funny blog about books and bookworld news that captures the delight of reading and makes me want to read everything the writer recommends. A lot of people write about books in a way that I find interesting, but that doesn’t make me feel like reading what they’re discussing. Bookdwarf inspires me to make a list and head to the library.
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If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.