Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Provocative Thoughts from 'Fat Pig' and 'The Bucket List'

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Autumn is here! I realized that this evening on my way back from Piccadilly where I saw Neil Labute's newest comedy Fat Pig at the Comedy Theater on Panton Street. Theater-buffs were shrouded in cashmere scarves and leather jackets and were shivering against the cold night air. Festivity was in the air as neon lights twinkled all along Shaftesbury Avenue and the pubs and clubs in Soho. I was able to notice all of this as I took the bus to the theater and back, determined to avoid all the walking in those endless Underground tunnels every time you need to make a line change.

The play was topical in the extreme--its theme is the discomfiture of being overweight in a world that values only the underfed. Featuring just four characters--Kevin Bishop, Katie Kerr, Kelly Brook and Nicholas Burns, all of whom are popular stars of the British TV screen, the humor had a tragic edge to it in the classical manner of Dark Comedy. Helen is the fat librarian who chances upon the attractive and very sleek Tom in her cafeteria (make that the British 'canteen'). They start dating and fall in love but their affection has little chance of survival in a judgmental environment peopled by his superficial co-workers, Carter and Jeannie, who scoff at his choice of partner. Despite attempting to defend his love for Helen, Tom is ultimately unable to deal with this maliciousness and calls an end to his relationship with Helen. In the midst of the extraordinarily well-acted plot, I found myself sympathizing with people, especially women, who must continuously find the resources within themselves to hold on to self-esteem in an epoch which insists on judging human beings purely by appearance alone.

I was glad to have escaped into the outdoors for a while, having spent my entire day closeted indoors preparing for my class on Anglo-Indians in the 20th century that I will teach tomorrow and composing my mid-term exam for next week. Fascinated as I am with my current subject of inquiry, preparing this lecture was extremely time-consuming and ate up my entire day.

Well, not quite. Actually, I did spend a good part of the morning and about an hour during lunch watching The Bucket List, a film directed by Rob Reiner (Sleepless in Seattle) that my students had insisted I see last semester when I was teaching a Sophomore Seminar on Grief-Management. I had tried to catch it at my local Community Theater in Fairfield before I arrived here in London, but simply couldn't find the time. The main thesis of the film completely ties in with my own philosophy of life, i.e. that one should live each day to the fullest and as if it were one's last. Do not put off, in other words, doing the things you want to in the belief that there will be time to do them tomorrow--because, fatalistic as this might appear, tomorrow might never come. It is the way I choose to live my own life--fully, passionately, zestfully--and it is the way the two characters in the film played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman decide to live their last year after each has been diagnosed with cancer. They create a Bucket List--based on the things that would like to accomplish before they kick the bucket. In this team project, they develop a firm friendship.

Then follows the sheer fun and frolic of the film as they travel all over the world, reunite with estranged family members, laugh till they cry, and try to answer two questions: Have you ever experienced Joy? Have you ever brought joy to someone else's life? These are questions that we have often pondered in class in my course on the Politics of Mourning and on grief-management and, a few weeks ago, I was heartened to receive an email from one of my students who wrote to inform me that she had suffered grievous loss over the summer when her 18 year old brother died in a car accident. The loss has devastated her entire family and has caused a rift between her father and herself. Thanks to my course, she says, she has realized that every individual grieves differently and at a different pace. She says that taking my course has enabled her to come to terms with her own loss and to keep her fragile relationship with her father intact at a time when he has shut everyone off, including his closest family members.

This movie, sad as it might seem, is a celebration of life--and of those things that truly matter most, such as one's relationships with those to whom one is closest (spouses, children, parents, friends, pets). I found it deeply thought provoking and certainly one of the better films I have seen in a long time.

My feet continue to feel wobbly when I walk. It is as if they have a mind of their own--as if I have no control over my movements from my knees down. Llew rang me to inform me that my family physician in Connecticut, Dr. Ed Pinto, has confirmed that my recovery will be slow, but I need to be patient and follow all the suggested remedies.

Well, I am trying to make lemonade out of this tart lemon--I have seen two plays this week and I am eagerly awaiting the next two.

No comments: