Seven films that ease the Reel Dad’s woes
I don’t like to be sad. I don’t enjoy being worried. And I loathe any tendency to be afraid. So, when I want to feel better, I go to the movies. And since, today, I can’t actually sit in a theater, the world wide web lets me bring the movies to me. And here are seven that always make me feel better.
The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
Usually I save this movie for the holidays. But I need the warmth this warm story creates right now. What can feel better than sharing a couple of hours with Bing Crosby playing everyone’s favorite priest? And with Ingrid Bergman as a spirited nun? Together they provide enough good will to fill a catalog of movies in this story of spirited clergy trying to save a school from demise. Yes, the movie feels dated and, yes, the outcome can be easy to predict. But the journey is so enriching, who cares if we can easily guess the destination?
Bye, Bye, Birdie (1963)
My daughter-in-law, Shana, absolutely loves this movie and, this weekend, played the soundtrack to my infant grandson to help him through a fussy afternoon. And I quickly realized how many times this musical fantasy has helped me just the same way! Dick Van Dyke and Ann-Margret star in this adaptation of the Broadway hit about a rock-and-roll star who gets drafted into the military. Before he reports to boot camp, he shakes up the routines of a small town in Ohio, and sings a collection of fun show tunes. It’s silly but it sure feels good.
Field of Dreams (1989)
One evening, in the early 1990s, I was watching this favorite on an airplane. The man sitting next to me, from Australia, asked me, “what is it about this movie and Americans? Why do you all like it so much?” I tried to explain the sentiment around baseball, and movies, before returning to this classic that makes us believe in happy endings. Even in cornfields populated with mysterious spirits. Years later, despite the dated hairstyles, the magic of the film still works. And this favorite always makes me want one more chat with the parents I lost long ago.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1945)
During times of struggle, we often look back to simpler days when outcomes felt easier to predict. This musical, directed by Vincente Minnelli, returns us to the early 1900s when a family shares typical highs and lows, from becoming afraid on Halloween to fearing the change of a possible move to a new city to trying to capture the attention of the boy next door. Vincente Minnelli makes it all feel so real that you almost think you can smell the apple pie cooking in the kitchen. And he leads Judy Garland to one of her most appealing performances.
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
It’s no surprise how, during World War II, millions of people went to the movies every week, perhaps to escape, maybe to understand, certainly to share an optimistic spirit for better days ahead. This Oscar-winning classic tells the story of how a British family adjusts to life during the war, what they must sacrifice, habits they must change, friendships they must leave, family members they must bid goodbye. While it’s vignettes may not form a solid narrative, the good feelings are so enriching that every moment with the Miniver family feels like time well spent.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Few films capture the magic of friendship as this adaptation of Robert Harling’s play about strong-willed women in a small town in Louisiana. From its opening moments, we feel right at home in a place where people matter, friendships flourish, and a glass of sweetened ice tea is always available. Julia Roberts shines as a young woman trying to live her life with Sally Field — always so strong — carefully watching over as a mother with a heart. But the performance honors go to Shirley MacLaine and Olympia Dukakis as two friends who would do anything for each other.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)
Perhaps it’s the setting, in Colorado, my home state, that makes me sentimental. Or, maybe, it’s that its musical numbers are so filled with energy. Or, could be, Debbie Reynolds’ enthusiasm so naturally appeals. Whatever the reason, I always feel better about the world when I hear Reynolds belt, “I Ain’t Down Yet,” as she looks at the possibilities life can bring. Her determination to always make a day better than it could be enhances the story, certainly, and reminds us there is always another side to each challenge.
At times like these, it’s always good to feel better. Thank goodness for the movies. Enjoy.