Fresh off of her onscreen success in The Blind Side and The Proposal, Sandra Bullock’s “other” movie from 2009 finds its way to our homes via DVD just in time for Christmas. There are plenty of likable moments, and plenty of crazy ones, but the movie itself is definitely an acquired taste. Why wouldn’t you bet on a movie of Bullock’s after seeing the other two? If she can play a conniving Devil Wears Prada boss and a southern Christian lady, why couldn’t she pull off a crossword puzzle-writing, Steve-chasing loner named Mary?
While the main thrust of the movie is Mary’s pursuit of Steve (Bradley Cooper of The Hangover and He’s Just Not That Into You) across country after just one date, the main lesson of the film revolves two lessons. One is of course all about Mary, the woman who is kinder, more naive, and more straightforward than all of the people who are posing and propping up their lives to get ahead and make something of themselves. Mary is completely transparent, to the point of alienating a busfull of people, scaring her parents, or delivering a heroic moment in the midst of tragedy. And Mary is accepting of everyone and anyone, even if she’s a bit obsessive about Steve and grammar.
But the second point, and one played out in films like The Truman Show, Ed Tv, Someone Like You, and others, revolves around the way in which the media and our pursuit of the very last detail about everyone else’s lives gets in the way of our really living. Steve serves as the cameraman of Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden Church) and the wingman of director Angus Tran (Ken Jeong) as they race around the country trying to please their producer by finding the best “news” stories, even while embracing the axiom that sex and sensationalism sell advertisements.
Mary proves to be more brave and trustworthy than any of the other characters, even those who treat her like she’s neurotic, sick, retarded, or crazy. Mary embraces a love-others-as-you-want-to-be-loved mantra, and even challenges the beliefs and systems of others, to the point where they change. That’s gospel, down-and-dirty redemption, and not just because it occurs deep within the mine! When we embrace our best and believe in the best of others, and provide grace in the moments when others fail, we can change the world.
Now, the obsession she has for Steve that gets her into the mess in the first place? That’s for another essay.