Video Paraphrase: Mark (Mark Webber) is a young white straight man who is a struggling actor and has a baby. The baby is a white boy, and he is quickly becoming a "little man." His mother is dead, and Mark visits her grave and talks to her. He struggles to pay the bills and also to balance having sex with ladies with being a dad. Michael Cera and Amanda Seyfried are in this movie! Hello! Lydia (Shannyn Sossamon) is beautiful and will probably save him. There are words telling us that critics love this Sundance film and it is emotionally powerful.
I know that's a pretty bare-bones paraphrase, but, trust me, it's enough.
This is the sort of movie about which I probably would have been pretty excited 15 years ago, especially because I really like three of the four named actors above, and I'm only excluding Mark Webber because I don't know who he is, but he seems likable enough. I'll come back to him in a minute, because he also wrote and directed this film.
It's not that I've appreciably changed in the last 15 years (although I have changed, because life), so much as that I have merely been alive and seeing things for the last 15 years, and thus I have received (loud and clear) the message that it is Very Hard to be a straight, white, able-bodied single father. So hard. The hardest, man.
That sarcasm should not be interpreted to mean I don't think it's hard. It's difficult to be a parent in the best of circumstances—a fact of which I'm so certain that it is not an insignificant part of the reason I do not have children.
What I mean is: I get it. We should have all the emotions for privileged men who are doing this thing that women do all the time, much more frequently than men, and usually not (although sometimes!) under the tragic but romantic (as portrayed in movies like this one, or at least their marketing) circumstances of having lost one's partner. Mostly, it's just something super boring like: Dad left, because Dad's a jerk. Or: Dad's in prison, because Dad's a jerk and/or because for-profit imprisonment is all the rage these days. Or: Dad's dead, because for-profit war is pretty popular, too.
It's not that moms don't leave and moms don't die and moms can't be jerks. It's not that this, too, isn't a story worth telling. (I assume.) It's just that it's already been told. I have been implored so many times to offer my heartstrings for the tugging on behalf of the privileged guy who can barely get laid what with all the daddying he has to do. Or all the depression he has to overcome. Or whatever.
Meanwhile, try to get a film made about a disabled mother who is raising children on her own while not making enough money at something way more mundane than trying to become a movie star, and see how that goes. BO-RING!
What a drag. Let's give this guy some cookies instead.
One thing you might quite reasonably be thinking is: Well, Ms. Smartypants, maybe Mark Webber can't tell a story about a single mother! Is he supposed to not work just because he can't tell that story?
Hey, good point! Except here is the very first thing IMDb tells me about Mark Webber, star, writer, and director of this film:
The subject of a major TV network news magazine story, actor Mark Webber was raised by his single mother in the slums of North Philadelphia, where they spent a great deal of time homeless, living in cars and abandoned buildings, and struggling to survive during the harsh winters. Mark and his mother have been outspoken homeless advocates for many years and continue to be, walking in protests, helping to educate voters, and volunteering to help provide food and shelter to the urban poor in Philadelphia and elsewhere.The thing is, I'm not really hating on Mark Webber. Make your movies about how hard it is to be a white guy, Mark Webber! Enjoy your cookies!
I'm really just grumping about how this film, and other films like it, are continuously funded and promoted and acclaimed at the expense of other projects that tell different kinds of stories about different kinds of people. The film industry justifies its ardor for films like The End of Love by saying things like, "There are room for all sorts of stories," but we all know what's not really true, is it? Or: "Audiences just don't want those other kinds of stories," and we all know that's not really true, either.
Maybe this is a great movie and a great story. But I just can't be arsed to care. I'm tired of cookies. I want a carrot.