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                                                Unlikely Romances


"Once":  Guy meets girl and they make beautiful music together.  Literally.  Guy (that's what they call him in the credits!) is Glenn Hansard, an Irish musician who plays in a (rather obscure) rock group called The Frames, and who was part of the delightful indie film "The Commitments" in 1991.  But what a riveting singer he is, even on a street corner or in a piano store, much less in a music studio.  Girl (that's what they call her in the credits!) is Marketa Irglova, a Czech who is speaking English in Dublin , and who has zero acting experience, but has cut an album with Hansard (called "The Swell Season").  In "Once," she plays a Czech immigrant living in a small apartment with her mother and young daughter, making money by selling flowers on the street.  She hears the Guy playing guitar on the street corner, and strikes up a conversation.  When they take a break and stroll into a music store, she plays the piano for him, and soon they are singing together.  The combination is really dynamic.  They gather some other street musicians for an impromptu studio session, and that's it.  They go their separate ways.  No big, romantic fireworks.  In fact, she spurns his awkward advances, because she's married (her husband is back in her home country), and she wants to honor that commitment.  Wow, imagine that.  So, we have Guy meets Girl, some street language but no violence, sex, or nudity; some lovely singing, and then everybody goes home. If this is what an "indie" film is, we need more of them.


"You Kill Me":  If Guy meets Girl is unlikely on a street corner, how much more unlikely in a funeral home?  Ben Kingsley plays Frank, an alcoholic hit man from Buffalo who's sent to San Francisco to dry out and get his act together.  His "handler" (Luke Wilson) introduces him to AA meetings, and a job at a mortuary (being around dead people doesn't seem to bother him).  There, he meets Laurel (Tea Leoni), whose stepfather has just died.  He's 60ish and she's 40ish.  He's socially awkward but persistent, and because she's also lonely, after a while she finds herself enjoying the attention.  The campy humor of this film is supposed to be in her ironic acceptance of both of his condition (still a drunk) and his chosen profession (still a professional assassin), and yes, it is a tongue-in-cheek form of low comedy.  But really now, aren't we carrying "unconditional acceptance" a bit too far?  Doesn't there have to be repentance before there can be forgiveness?   At least they have enough discretion not to show us the sex scene, but to deliver it as a sound byte overdubbed on a brief shot of intertwined bare feet at the foot of a bed.  The violence is much less discreet, and she even becomes a convert, of sorts, which makes this whole unlikely scenario difficult to root for, despite the brief accomplishment of sobriety.


"Shrek The Third":  Well, for this third installment of the blockbuster animated series, we can assume the unlikely romance of Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and Shrek the Ogre (Mike Myers).  After all, they're now married, and she's pregnant.  But he's not quite ready to settle down to regal, stiff, and stuffy life in the castle yet;  preferring a quick return to his beloved swamp, where he attempts to enlist the reluctant Arthur (Justin Timberlake) to claim his royal place in Camelot, er, Happily Ever After, er Far, Far, Away----well, it's all jumbled up, anyway.  So we have the unlikely gathering of Snow White and Cinderella and Pinocchio and The Gingerbread Man and Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs and the Three Blind Mice and Captain Hook and …Merlin the Magician?  Well, it's all supposed to be fun, and it is, except when they try to get serious, and preach about the importance of deciding you aren't going to be bad anymore (repentance overcomes depravity?).  The animation is for the kids, but the one-liners and inferences are for the adults, and in the end, the handsome but evil Prince Charming is defeated, and no animals are harmed; not even the cartoon ones.  Could be a lot worse.


Questions For Discussion:

1) What's the most unlikely romance you've ever witnessed?

2)  Should what we do in our professional lives matter to whom we are with in our personal lives?

3) Should AA be considered the only means to overcome alcoholism, or are there other viable choices?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell , Texas