[Dr. Mark Eckel is our blogger for the month of August. Mark is the V.P. of Academic Affairs, Director, Interdisciplinary Studies, Professor of O.T. Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, www.warpandwoof.org]
Preamble Film-going and movie-watching for Christians is fraught with promise and problem. The intention of sharing movie reviews in the August blog for Society of Christian Psychology is for reflective believers to carefully consider ideas movies offer. It would be impossible to adequately engage every single Christian interpretation or conviction. These 4 August film reviews consider the ambiguities of life from a Christian point of view. My personal hope is that we might engage the Cineplex as actively as we do our disciplines.
Why do we make things harder than they have to be? Some people tend to be so introspective that they have trouble living life. Jennifer Westfeldt (also writer and producer) delivers Abby as the exact opposite: one who seemingly finds delight in every person and situation. To the viewer, Abby is a “one-of-a-kind” loveable saint who communicates kindness to muggers and hugs check out clerks at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Who wouldn’t love to love Abby? Well, that would be Ira.
Chris Messina as Ira is a better introspective self-hater than Woody Allen. His characterization sizzles on screen. Tone and delivery create the self-absorbed Manhattenite. For those who consistently second guess themselves, watching Messina act is like looking in the mirror. Ira loves Abby, well, most of the time. The movie’s plot and tension revolves around not “will they get together?” but “will they stay together?”
Two single people meet, discover true love, and are married within 24 hours. Can it happen? Why not?! But then there are the parents, the past, and the psychiatrists. Abby’s parents suggest the perfect marriage, imprinting their daughter with the possibility of marital fulfillment, until attraction becomes a distraction. Ira’s parents’ “stick-it-out-as-a-role-model” philosophy is anything but wedded bliss obviously creating baggage for their son. Abby has her own subtle deceptions (“Didn’t I mention my two ex-husbands?”). In contrast, Ira carries his own incompletion problems which surface again and again in psychotherapy. Human foibles have never been both so funny and so sad.
A strong subtext layers Ira & Abby: why do we depend on psychiatrists to resolve human issues? Psychiatrists have their own problems, have their own agenda (read “psychological model”), and screw up just as much as the rest of us. While everyone will comment on the final circle scene when all the characters converge in roundtable discussion, short takes throughout the film expose those flimsy layers. From the bored to tears, twelve year veteran analyst of Ira’s unfinished life to Jason Alexander’s “how does that make you feel?” routine, to the deadpan delivery of Chris Parnell, one wonders if renting this DVD will mean a little less business for all those “shingles” hanging out there.
Multiple character bits—from the subway mugger to the ex-husbands—play as if they were leading roles. The tartly repartee pops on screen. Viewers will find themselves smiling in spite of themselves. Fred Willard, Robert Klein, Judith Light, and Frances Conroy all deserve special attention as the couples’ parents, perfectly playing their roles. Musical composition by Marcelo Zarvos exactly matches the direction of Robert Cary.
Can finding love be as easy as meeting-to-nuptials in 24 hours? Can love overcome all the obstacles humans set for themselves? Can people create relationships dependent upon talking with each other rather than psychotherapy? Ira & Abby answers “yes.”
Rated R for language and sexual situations.