Pass the Popcorn

March 30, 2010

When I’m sick, feeling a little down, or too tired to read, one of my favorite things to do is escape into a familiar, comforting movie. I think a lot of people have movies they turn to when they just want to veg out. For my husband, it’s usually action and adventure—the more exciting the better. I prefer a movie in which I don’t have to cover my eyes to avoid splattering gore, or my ears to block out explosions, though he seems to find these things soothing. (Sometimes, however, his go-to movie is Gosford Park. Go figure.) I like a good story, interesting and clever dialogue and beautiful scenery. (And I don’t want any animals to die, either, thanks very much.)

Here are a few of my favorite feel-good movies, and why I like them:

Under the Tuscan Sun. Frances discovers love is all around, even if it doesn’t look like she expects it to, while restoring a gorgeous old house in romantic Tuscany. Sigh.

Shirley Valentine. Shirley comes out of her shell, and falls in love…with herself.

What Shirley might have seen (Santorini, Greece)

Last Holiday. Georgia opens herself to all the good things in life, and instead of losing it all, gains even more.

Georgia (could have) slept here

American Dreamer. (Synopsis for those who have never heard of this movie: A housewife wins a writing contest, and the prize is a trip to Paris. On the way to a luncheon in her honor, she is hit by a car and wakes in the hospital convinced she is “Rebecca Ryan,” the main character in the series of books the contest was based on. Mayhem ensues.) What’s not to like about someone named Kathy winning a writing contest and going to Paris?

My Life in Ruins. I originally wanted to see this because it takes place in many of the Greek sites I visited on my own life-changing trip nearly three years ago. I’ll keep coming back to it, because of the lovely message about regaining your kefi, or zest for living.

My life, in ruins (Delphi, Greece)

Thinking about these movies, I realized I had a sort of theme emerging: woman leaves husband/job/ordinary life, goes to foreign country and “finds herself.” Hmm. I wonder what that says about me? Perhaps I think I have to travel somewhere, leaving my ordinary life, in order to learn about myself and what I really want. I do know that I love to watch women opening up to the world, stepping outside their comfort zones to embrace life, probably because in general I’m such a big chicken about doing that myself. I live vicariously through them, when I’m not willing or able to buy a house in Italy or spend all my savings on food and clothes and snowboarding in Europe.

I suspect I’m not alone in having a theme arise in my favorite movies. When I mentioned my theme to my mother-in-law, she noted that many of her favorite movies have a road trip theme. In fact, she’ll rent or borrow a movie she’s never heard of before if it includes a road trip. (My husband’s theme seems to be good triumphing over evil, after a heck of a lot of blood loss.)

On a real road trip with Mom-in-Law in NC

What are your favorite feel-good movies? Do they have an underlying theme and what do you think that means? Share them, and maybe I’ll have some new ones to add to my list.

You Might Also Like


  1. I love "Bread and Tulips" another wife leaves husband while on a road trip (well she gets left behind accidently) movie.
    Another one is "Satin Rouge" about a Tunisian widow and her self-discovery as a woman while dealing with the Arab cultur and womans role in it.

  2. Uschi--I think I've heard of Bread and Tulips, and Satin Rouge sounds very intriguing, thanks!

  3. Laure--I liked Chocolat a lot too. I should pull it out and watch it again. I love the scene where the uptight town mayor goes crazy and eats all the chocolate in the display window (am I remembering that right?)!

  4. Kathy, what a wonderful post! You've made me want to go dig out one of the Artist's Way books (not sure which one, could be Vein of Gold, could be the original TAW) and find the exercise where she asks that we list our favorite movies. Julia (we're on a first-name basis now, LOL) contends that those themes that come up are part of our particular Vein to be mined for the gold of our story/art. In other words, it might not matter if you don't always have the courage to act on those impulses; you might be meant instead to be writing about a woman who does!

    I found this fascinating, and I have to go search for my old list (I'm positive I could not at the time find a coherent, universal theme as you did so succinctly), or perhaps do the exercise all over again. I live with a film buff now, so surely some of the faves have changed...

  5. Also, I have to put American Dreamer and My Life in Ruins on my Netflix queue. ;)

  6. Now that's interesting--I hadn't thought about my theme being something to mine for writing material. Though I did write a personal essay about my trip to Greece and what I learned about myself. (No one has seen fit to accept it for publication yet, unfortunately!) When you find your list, write again and share!