Julia Roberts has never been a favorite actress of mine. She’s tough to get past. Meaning, when I see Julia Roberts playing another person I see Julia Roberts playing another person, not the character she is trying to embody. My actor tastes run toward Aussie Cate and British Kate. And, of course, Magic Meryl the American. Note: Yes, I have noticed that I have written more about Julia Roberts on this blog than any other actress. I’ll work on this.
However, I did love the 1999 movie NOTTING HILL for a few reasons, despite the fact that Julia was playing, well, HERSELF.
One reason was Hugh Grant’s line the morning after Julia spent the night. She asks,
Can I stay for a while?
And he replies,
You can stay forever.
What a LOVELY, WONDERFUL, PERFECT thing to say. But I digress.
The main reason I fell in love with the movie and the moment I decided to write a screenplay was the musical montage.
Here’s a quick summary:
Julia has just kicked Hugh to the curb for the second time. Hugh is left alone with his smitten heart in the middle of the bustling street market of Notting Hill.
Cue the music: Ain’t no Sunshine when She’s Gone.
It’s high SUMMER. Hugh walks through the street market. Jacket slung over his shoulder, shirt slightly unbuttoned in the heat. Vendors and neighbors smile, say hello, nod. Hugh does the same in return, but he’s subdued with the weight of his heartbreak.
He keeps walking. It’s FALL in the market place. Leaves blow, the pregnant woman looks a little fuller around the middle, he puts on his jacket.
Still walking through the marketplace, the snow comes, high WINTER, he folds the collar of his jacket up around his neck. Still the same nods and smiles. But it’s obvious his heart is not in it.
And then, SPRING.
The jacket opens up, fresh green and red fruits in the market, the previously pregnant woman holds her darling baby, apple blossom petals blow by in a breeze, crocusues are surely blooming in Buckingham Palace. And still our Hugh is putting on a brave face for the public. Nodding and smiling, with a decidedly hang-dog, and floppy haired demeanor.
But everyone knows SPRING is a time of rebirth. Life is fertile again. Hope SPRINGS. And sure enough, Hugh gets his Julia in the end (and a Chagall painting, lucky bastard).
This montage was brilliant, really. Perfectly written as a moving picture (which is what movies are) and as a way to further the story while passing time, all four seasons in this case.
In my own personal moving picture, I’m in the musical montage phase and time is definitely passing.
In my montage I am the forlorn, hang-dog expressioned, mourner of a broken heart, dressed in black going to work every day and pretending to interact with feeling. I am saying Well, Hello? How ARE you? and then answering when asked in return, I’m fine thank you, just fine, yes, things are good with a genuinely fake smile on my face. I nod and smile to the people I meet on the bustling street, etc. etc. It all looks good from the outside, but if I was being filmed, the accompanying music would tell the true story.
Here’s how it would go:
Cue the music: Hold My Heart, by Sarah Bareilles.
While the music plays, I am seen in the heat of SUMMER selling a very fine painting, smiling, laughing, shaking hands in friendship as I peel off my tailored jacket in the warmth and glance out the window as if looking for someone who never appears.
As the FALL leaves blow in a dry wind I’m captured raising a glass of wine in a celebratory toast after rallying troops of artists to bring together a show that people talk about around town, write about in the local press. Smiles all around, my smiles not lingering for very long.
WINTER finds me at work pulling nails from the wall, and repainting the damaged portions to hang something new. Paint is on my face and clothes, spackle under my fingernails.
Switch to a scene of me at home. Cold winds blow outside my bedroom window, while a cup of tea steams on the table beside me. I hunch over my laptop writing an essay to be published in the coming year. Or, for serious comic relief, the scene would show me in the throws of Pilates, strung up on springs and cables like a spastic marionette, while rain beats against the studio windows. This scene would be akin to the Bridget Jones post-breakup montage portion when she falls off the stationary bike at the gym.
Looking busy and continually moving is very important to a grieving person within a montage. So, while I may look may focused and attentive true moviegoers will know my mind is off somewhere else, with someone else, and that all this busyness is just a distraction.
And then SPRING. What happens then?
Well, in real life it’s coming. And with it some sort of change, some sort of re-birth. It MUST. Every montage is the segue to change and the next act, so why should my version be any different?
I’m ready for the fulfillment of desire, some sort of redemption, even if it isn’t the object of my mourning showing up on my doorstep with his heart in his hands offering me everlasting love and devotion as well as a Chagall painting. I don’t expect that in particular, but there has to be something. Even if it’s just the switch to more colorful clothes, a happier song running through my mind, genuine pleasure in daily life. That would be more than enough. I’ve paid my dues for three seasons and SPRING is just around the corner.
For now I will write the SPRING portion of my montage like this:
Cue the song for SPRING: Actually, I haven’t found the happy SPRING song yet, but when I do I will post it here.
The scene shows me, rounding a corner carrying an armful of bright, yellow daffodils just purchased from the crowded farmer’s market and running into…well, change I guess. The question is, what will that change look and be like?
The final rule for every musical montage is this: sooner or later the song has to end and the dialog begins. Again.
Onward to SPRING,
For those of you who haven’t seen the Hugh Grant montage, here it is.
And what song is the soundtrack to where you are in your life right now? Beyonce’s SINGLE LADIES? Stevie Nick’s GOLDUST WOMAN? Journey’s FAITHFULLY? David Bowie’s UNDER PRESSURE? The entire soundtrack of Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID? The possibilities are endless…