Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sob Sisters? by Hank Phillippi Ryan

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I hate to cry. I know, people say, it’s good to “get it all out” and “let your emotions flow.” There’s some sort of a cliché about “have a good cry,” which I see only as an oxymoron. You know what I think? There’s no such thing as a good cry.

My eyes get puffy, I feel sad for days afterwards, there’s some sort of residual thing that happens so that even when I’ve stopped crying, and I’m not even sad anymore, it still feels like I’m about to cry.

Movie crying-woman The problem is, I cry at EVERYTHING. Yes, the Hallmark commercials and anything where there’s a soldier, or a little kid, or anyone leaving anyone. I can’t discuss The Old Man and the Sea. Once, on a road trip, I read the whole thing out loud to my driving boyfriend. Buy the end, I was sobbing. THE WHOLE FISH WAS GONE! I wailed. Oh, nooooo.

Don’t even talk to me about the music from Candide ("And watch our garden grow..” Can’t even type about it.) Defying Gravity, from Wicked. Nope. I’ll lose it. In Les Miserables, “bring him home, bring him home, Bring Him HOME!” They almost had to carry me out of the place. I could go on.

Remember the movie Sling Blade? Jonathan and I went to see it, like our first date. We had planned to see something else, but it was sold out, and we really didn’t care, we’d known each other for a week and “dinner and a movie” was just an activity that one had to do. So we’re like, yeah, what movie has seats? And it was Sling Blade.

Movie sling Remember, Jonathan barely knew me at this point.

So about ten minutes into the movie, I start to sniff. I am trying so hard not to cry, but I know the whole thing is futile.

Jonathan leans over, whispers: “Do you have a cold? Do you want some Kleenex?”

I say, “No thank you, I’m crying.”

“Huh?” He’s worried. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m crying at the movie.”

The look on his face. Utterly utterly baffled. “Why?” he whispered. “It’s not sad."

I whispered back “I know. But it’s going to be sad.”

Oh, yes, and indeed it was. I cried all the way through our Chinese dinner. It’s a wonder J and I are still together. He still doesn’t understand why I get so sad.

Which of course, requires me to protect myself from things that I know will upset me. If there’s a movie we might want to see, or a play, or whatever, I ask—“Is it triumph of the human spirit?" If so, I’m not going.

I ALWAYS cry at triumph of the human spirit.

So. No Beaches. No Schindler’s List. No Fried Green Tomatoes, no Terms of Endearment, No Steel Magnolias, Marley and Me. No Philadelphia, no Boy in Striped Pajamas. Nope nope nope. Not doing it.

No Pearl Harbor, no Band of Brothers (you kidding me?) no Saving Private Ryan.

I couldn’t resist To Kill A Mockingbird, ofcourse. Exception. An Affair to Remember, okay, l loved it. Cried like mad at both. I cried in You’ve got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle and –anything that has any element of Cinderella or the Ugly Ducking. (I think I cried at Maid In Manhattan, okay?) (Psychiatrists, you’re having a field day, right?)

Movie cinema_paradiso The saddest movie I’ve ever seen? Maybe it was—what’s the title? It’s Italian (not Life Is Beautiful, not a chance I’m going to that) but it’s the one where the little boy hangs out with the film projectionist, who has to cut all the kissing out of the movies, and in the end, he finds all the edited bits, all spliced together, in kiss after kiss? What was that? Oh, yes. Cinema Paradiso. Sad. Lovely. But sad.

There was just a survey, which said The Champ is the saddest movie ever. I didn’t see it—of COURSE—but if you have, you know why. I did see the number two sad movie, Bambi, which, indeed is sad. But is now kind of annoying, since it seems—creepy to show that to kids.

ET! Now that was sad. And Old Yeller. And A Night to Remember, yikes, I saw that as a kid and was permanently traumatized. Still, I find its easier if I know what’s gonna happen. Tell me the end, I always plead. It’ll be easier to handle. They die? They lose? They die, but the planet is saved? Okay, I'll get myself ready for it.

We had brunch this weekend with a bunch of pals, six of us all together, a pretty diverse group if you consider there were criminal defense attorneys AND trust and estate attorneys. But I asked—what’s he saddest movie you’ve ever seen? And do you seek them out? Or avoid them? They were all—analyzing what ”Sad” means. Sad, like, you cry at the end? Or sad like, it’s sad along the way, but happy at the end?

Whatever, I said. Just whatever you think sad is. Love Story, a man said. He admitted he brokeMovie love story down at Love Story. Someone else said The Bicycle Thief. Sophie’s Choice. The Green Mile. (Oh yeah, FORGET about it. I read the book. That was enough.) Bonnie and Clyde isn’t. Thelma and Louise isn’t. There was dissent over Titanic.

We decided "sad” was: unintended consequences. People just trying to do what was right and th en it goes wrong. War. Mistakes. Unfulfilled love. Missing someone, or departures. Saying goodbye. Bravery. Sacrifice.

They all said they were happy going to sad movies. Didn’t avoid them. Me, I do. Avoid them. How about you? Any movies you wish you hadn’t seen? What’s the saddest ever?


  1. Oh, thank my neurotic stars, I'm not the only person who refuses to see utterly sad movies or who cries watching 50 First Dates (I think that's it...Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. She has short term memory loss. At the end when he tells their daughter, "Go tell Mommy hello," I'm done.)

    I have a daughter with Down's Syndrome, so every Special Olympics commerical wears me out.

    Refuse to see Titantic, Schindler's List, Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Band of Brothers...anything based on real events, I can't bear. If real people died, it's too much.

    I couldn't watch The Green Mile. Sophie's Choice? Can barely walk past it in the bookstore without shivering. Won't read or watch it. Terms of Endearment and Steel Magnolias...saw a rerun of Officer and a Gentleman, lost it.

    I totally forgot about Cinema Paradiso until you mentioned it.

    And, finally,I shed tears during Up, batteries not included, and Wall-E.

    My adult children are beginning to refuse to watch movies with me.

  2. My husband wanted to rent Bridge to Terabithia because he liked the book as a kid. I had never read it so I had no idea it was going to be so sad. I was so annoyed! =-)

  3. Christa, hey, sister! I'm SO with you. I never thought about the "real people" element--exactly. Secretariat, that Sandra Bullock movie about the football player--no way.

    You're so brave to have gone to UP!

  4. Jaymie--I never read it..why is it sad? (Or is that a spoiler?)

    Do books affect you the same way, anyone?

  5. Really, don't ever watch the THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. It's basically a sob fest disguised as a movie. I also cry at everything, but I kind of enjoy it. I especially love when I go to a movie that's not supposed to be a tear jerker and am unexpectedly moved. I also love "life is beautiful" moments.

    Opera -- forget it, I'm a mess by the end. I'm reading BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett right now and I've already teared up in two places.

    It's a weird affliction to have, b/c I'm rather insensitive otherwise. But I do value the ability to be easily moved. It keeps me human.

  6. Ernessa, you are so right! I embrace my too-tender
    heart--but it dos sometimes cause problems. (Thanks for the Benjamin warning!)

  7. Love you, Hank!

    My most outrageous cry-fest was at Mr. Holland's Opus, as the bit about the deaf son hit me in the deepest part of my heart. I was bawling SO HARD that I thought the people around me were going to call an ambulance. Pretty embarrassing ...

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  9. Oh, Ellen, I never saw that. And now, I certainly won't! Christa and I can, um, not go together!

  10. Absolutely no Mr. Holland's Opus because when I'm not writing, I'm teaching high school. That would be double jeopardy.

    Forgot about the Curious Case...not just tears, but nose running.

  11. I wept at Toy Story 3. Seriously. Don't go near that one. When he's (sniff) packing up all his (sniff) toys because he's heading to (sniff) college...tears like a river.

  12. Can't wait to pick up this book and get started reading

  13. Hank, thank you. I avoid a whole range of films because I know they're going to make me cry. (BTW, don't ever see August Rush.) I cried through most of the movies you mentioned -- Love Story, Titanic, Cinema Paradiso, Secretariat, etc. -- and the musicals, too. I was a mess during/after Les Mis...and didn't make it through 20 min. of Mr. Holland's Opus. No war movies. No separated lovers. No lost/hurt children. No, no, no films that are described with the word "poignant." Not ever.

  14. Melissa, I too sobbed all the way through Toy Story 3. And "Up" don't even get me started on that!

  15. Why should this make me laugh? You all are so adorable...Marilyn, exactly, no poignant! My husband calls it "triumph of the human spirit." I don't do triumph of the human spirit!

    So silly, I know. And we just watcthed The Kings Speech..and I must say I was apprehensive. But it was terrific, and although I misted up the when the Beethoven started, I managed.

    UP? Forget it! Maria, did you really see it

  16. Loved this line: “Is it triumph of the human spirit?" If so, I’m not going.

    Same here!

    I knew I was right avoiding Fried Green Tomatoes. Hope Floats is another one that was too sad for me..and it had "hope" in the title!

  17. Yup, Sara, I'm with you. Hope Floats? Hank Runs.


  18. Ha! What a funny post! I, too, cry at everything. Commercials, chick flicks, greeting cards, everything. If there is a single touching moment, I will be sobbing. But I don't seek out movies that are designed to be sad because, like you, I hate the fact that I cry at everything. Now, I have seen a few sad movies, of course, perhaps just to torture myself! The worst: The Joy Luck Club, The Champ (yep, I saw that one, too), Dancing in the Dark (racking, snot producing sobs), Seven Pounds (I was depressed for a week afterward). And I went to see Madame Butterfly at the opera. I cried from intermission to the end and for days and weeks after whenever I thought about it.

    So, generally, I try to avoid anything that depicts hardship or grief or loss or even stories that are just "heartwarming." And that, in itself, is sad because I'm sure I'm missing out on some really great storytelling. So, maybe just one sad movie a year. But a sad book? Not on your life.