Same job, different uniform.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Killing Me Softly With His Song

Is there any more tender, heartbreaking, emotionally accessible and relatable scene in all of recent moviedom than the scene near the end of "About a Boy" when Marcus gets on stage at his school's talent show to sing, OF ALL THINGS, "Killing Me Softly" by Roberta Flak? In front of an auditorium full of teenagers who couldn't be any more viscious if they had four legs, fangs and empty stomachs?? I mean, when Marcus steps out on that empty stage, alone, without even back up music and starts to sing "I heard he sang a good song; I heard he had a style . . . " . . . . it just wounds me every time. I think I could more easily walk to the guillotine than do what he did.

I was a nerdy, awkward kid for most of grade school and high school and I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie that more accurately captured the sense of it, without being maudlin or tragic about it. Because it's not tragic - it just is, and most of us experience it in some way or another.

Nonetheless it's usually painful as hell and this movie and that moment in particular strike such a perfectly pitched chord in that regard. Who of us wouldn't have thanked God for an angel like Will to step out from behind the curtains and help carry some of the load in our most vulnerable moments?

Marcus is truly the hero here, his mother's knight in shining armour. He is selfless, despite his extreme awkwardness; aware of the danger that awaits him; sure that the task before him will save his mother, but unsure of how to accomplish it without dying himself.

Then there is Will, the "anti-hero" as finely portrayed as any Clint Eastwood cowboy. He is extremely reluctant and knows it - to care, to be a friend, to be honest, to be less vain, to do anything more than eat, drink, watch TV, and acquire material comfort.

And yet, there he is, watching a child who is clearly more of a man than he is, about to be socially devastated and it is so painful to him that he pushes past all his fears in one moment - not to wrench Marcus from the devastation, but to bear it with him. THAT is love.

Who of us wouldn't pull a child out of the path of speeding car? I think most of us would without thinking twice. But I'm not sure at all that I could step out on a stage, where a friend was being mocked and jeered and allow myself to be mocked and jeered as well. I even knew what it was like as a kid to be treated that way and I never stepped out from behind the curtains to help anyone else who was in a similar situation.

The beauty of this scene is that you can relate to it from both sides. We've all been in pain. We've all helplessly watched those we love suffer. But no man is an island and sometimes the most and the best thing you can do is to just help carry the load.

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Blogger Hobster said...

good post, jeb. Most of my reaction during that scene was "WHAT? How could Hornby let them do this to his book?!?!?"

Good to be reminded there's value in it anyway :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blogger Lois E. Lane said...

I too LOVE this scene, and it contributes to what makes this one of my all-time favorite movies.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blogger Hobster said...

"had to change the ending as the movie was set in the early 2000's"? Something easier--and more honest to the work--would've been setting it in the mid-90s. Y'know the way Hornby did when he wrote the book years later :)

'course then it'd have been a totally different movie...and Grant wouldn't have done it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


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