far from heaven

Connecticut Goes to the Movies

New York has Woody Allen, and Connecticut has…well…no one really. That is, of course, except for us CuTters. Someday we’ll have the money to film our own celluloid love letter to the Nutmeg State (that doesn’t include any unhappy housewives) but for now you’ll just have to settle for hearing about our favorite movies set here…none of which is Revolutionary Road.

Anti-Couric – The Ice Storm

This was a tough one for me. I remember seeing Riding in Cars With Boys after being offered free tickets to a sneak preview. I was  with my ex-boyfriend who was from Wallingford–where much of the movie takes place. I liked that movie a lot. Also, there’s Outside Providence to be considered, which takes place largely on the campus of a CT prep school. The three-legged dog and Alec Baldwin are enough to sell me on its merits. But then I remembered The Ice Storm. If you’re not familiar with this gem, here’s the basic gist: it’s about a bunch of rich people and their kids in Fairfield County. There is a “key party,” an actual ice storm, and Christina Ricci lets Frodo Baggins feel her up while she wears a Richard Nixon mask. What’s not to love? The best part is, though, now every time I go out to dinner in Fairfield or Westport and I see some WASPy ice princess sucking down a martini I conjure images of a drunken Sigourney Weaver throwing herself at Kevin Kline and I wonder if couples out on a double date are going to do a little wife-swap at the end of the night. A girl can only hope…

RingNation – PCU

Without question, the best movie to take place in Connecticut is PCU. The two writers of the film, Adam Leff and Zack Penn, were graduates of Wesleyan University and based their screenplay on their experiences there. While college campuses in Toronto served as supplementary shooting sites, the film had a number of scenes filmed at Wesleyan, one of our finer institutions of higher learning. What makes this movie so great? Where to begin?! First off, it’s hilarious and easily quotable: “You’re wearing the shirt of the band you’re going to see? Don’t be ‘that guy!'” How about a pre-Ari Gold version of Jeremy Piven providing comedic gold with nearly every scene he’s in? His lines and delivery were priceless throughout the movie. This movie also made it cool to pretend to be into George Clinton and P-Funk. The rebellious tone in the movie is pitch perfect and inspiring, almost making you want to toss meat onto a group of protesting vegans. There are also scores of Connecticut references in the movie; talking about 84 to Hartford, CT Blue Laws prohibiting liquor sales after 8 p.m. (boo!), The Civic Center…they’re all over the place. So it it my contention that PCU is the greatest movie based in (and partially filmed in) Connecticut. Since this movie is so awesome, there’s really no comparison.

Asian-Persuasion – Mystic Pizza

For most of my childhood and adolescence, I lived under a rock. The Boyfriend calls it my “Dark Period.” My parents were very strict about what I watched, read, and listened to. So, when we decided to each write a bit about our favorite movie based in CT, my pickings were slim. However, despite its premarital sex and depictions of well-to-do dads banging the nanny, I was somehow allowed to see Mystic Pizza. While nothing about it really screams CONNECTICUT to me besides the title, I have liked this movie for a long time. First, who doesn’t love pizza? Second, most young girls sort of fantasize about being an “adult” (well, teenager) with a group of girlfriends who stand by your side no matter what happens and boys who romance you just for being a pretty girl. Listen, it’s a a standard childhood fantasy even if you realize as an adult that the guy is more likely to bang you for being a pretty girl. Although as I’ve gotten older, I will say my favorite part is the end, when the yuppie dad who Kat was having an affair with comes back and tries to give her a check for Yale, essentially demoting her to “prostitute”…and she destroys it. It’s a nice antidote to the sweet “happily ever after” of Jojo marrying a big oaf fisherman and Daisy’s country club guy showing up and helping to scoop ice cream (although forcing him into manual, domestic labor is pretty good too). However, the one thing that sort of kills the movie, and the fun of it being set in CT, was finding out that the pizza at Mystic Pizza wasn’t that great…yet seeing scores of tourists lined up outside of it every summer. But just this past weekend, I watched Beetlejuice for the first time (I hope this gives you an idea of how sheltered by upbringing was). While it wasn’t filmed in CT,  it’s supposed to take place here, as is mentioned several times. I’m not sure I fully appreciated the movie as much as The Boyfriend as he and his sister watched it countless times as children. For some reason I think it’s held in esteem more as a childhood memory, than a truly great movie. But, it was nice to see Winona pre-shoplifting, as well as a young Mr. Baldwin.

Gay Guru – Far from Heaven

Disclaimer: **DO NOT watch this movie on a rainy day!!**  While Far from Heaven is amazing and well worth the oodles of Independent Spirit Awards it won in 2002, the subtext of the movie is depressing as gay hell!  I just don’t want you seeing it on a gloomy day and then offing yourself afterward…because you know how the Gay Guru worries about you my sweets.  It’s because I care. Though it was filmed mostly in Dirty Jersey, Far from Heaven is set in suburban Hartford. The story takes place in the 1950’s and centers around Cathy Whitaker, an a-typical 1950’s housewife played by Julianne Moore. The film details Moore’s character as her seemingly charmed life careens off the tracks. I can’t be the only one who derives a sick little pleasure when seeing the walls of someone’s life (“someone” being a movie character, of course…or sometimes an actual movie star) get a little crumbly, right?  It’s sort of like how you loved seeing Tori Spelling’s character getting picked apart in the movie The House of Yes.  It’s just a little sinful pleasure, what can I say? I love this movie for a host of reasons. It deals with WASPs, the horrors of being a closeted mid-century homosexual, an interracial love affair and Julianne Moore not attempting to fake a Boston accent. I’d have to say though, what I appreciate about Far from Heaven the most is the charm of the film’s setting and style. I imagine that this was the world my late grandmother saw in the 50’s, and in a strange and sappy way, it makes me feel closer to her.

In Defense of CT

Today a rather hilarious Courant article about movie portrayals of CT wonders, “Is life in Connecticut really that bad?”  The writer goes on to list movies that make CT seem like a soul-crushing Hell hole where cool people go to die. The list includes the new Kate Winslet/Leonard DiCaprio affair, Revolutionary Road, as well as The Ice Storm, Far From Heaven and The Stepford Wives. Surely, the writer has a point, but I’m not sure he makes it.

I think the “hip couple leaves New York, then hate their lives” vehicle is a pretty well worn one, and one that RR tries on. The thing is, they could have replaced CT with Westchester or NJ and it wouldn’t have mattered — except audiences outside of the tri-state area might not have understood what the Hell “Westchester” means, or realize that people without mall hair, and acid-washed jeans do actually call the Garden State home. Anyone who is anyone, however, knows what “Greenwich” means when they hear it. (more…)