Tag Archives: feelbad feeling

Tips for Adulthood: Five Reasons The Elegance Of The Hedgehog Is For Grown Ups

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This week I’d like to take a page from Gretchen Rubin, who blogs over on The Happiness Project. From time to time, Gretchen will identify a book or movie that she thinks encapsulates certain key ideas about happiness and blog about them. (Here’s one example:  a post about the movie Junebug.) I did this recently for adulthood and the film Up In The Air.

In that vein, I’ve just finished reading Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance Of The Hedgehog for my book club. This is a very small, intimate novel about an exceedingly well-educated concierge in a Paris apartment building and her relationships with its tenants. In addition to thoroughly enjoying it, here are five reasons I think that this book is essential reading for grown ups:

1. It’s about social class. Not a very American topic, I grant you. (Unless you bought into the whole John Edwards “Two Americas” thing- oh those were the days…). But boy, does it resonate over here in the U.K. right now, where social mobility is a major theme in the upcoming British elections. (Not to mention a time-honored theme in France, where the novel is set.) And to me, that’s a very grown-up topic for a novel.

2. It’s about the possibility of change. Which is – perhaps more than anything else – what defines adulthood, at least for me. Sure, all those personality tests I’ve taken basically confirm that I’m the same person I’ve always been. But growing up is about being open to change. It’s about knowing that  – however sure you are of yourself – there’s always a possibility that you’ll discover something new. Or find out that something you thought was closed off to you is actually within reach. Or just recognize when it’s time to make a bold move.

3. It’s about love. But not of the sappy, head-over-heels variety. Rather, it’s about the love of one’s friends. It’s about the love you can experience when you connect with strangers. And it’s about the possibility – but just that – of romantic love.

4. It has an appropriately bittersweet ending. Some will no doubt be disappointed by how this book ends. I won’t spoil it for you. But as a die-hard fan of feelbad movies, I loved reading a book where the ending was less than 100% hunky-dorey. That’s life, as they say.

5. It’s about Paris. And what – pray tell – is more grown up than that?

*****

Today I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about the central role that women voters will play in the upcoming British General Election.

Image: Hedgehog skin by gari.baldi via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Indie Films Worth Renting

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I ran into a friend the other day at a party. She was on her way out the door to see a movie, but she looked sad. “What’s wrong?” I asked, seeing a scowl upon her face.

“We’re going with another couple,” she explained. “I really like them, but we have totally different tastes in movies. And they *only* like sci-fi.”

I knew exactly what she meant. It’s such a bummer – not to mention expensive! – to go see a movie that you’re not psyched about.

Which is why I ‘m so happy that my husband and I see eye to eye where movies are concerned. Just the other night, we popped Frozen River into the DVD player (you know you’re middle aged when you’re watching *last year’s* Oscar nominees on New Years Eve.) And as the acoustic guitar twanged, the female vocalist kicked in and the camera cut to a bleak close-up of a beleaguered working mom’s face, my husband said, “Yup, it’s our kind of movie.”

So if , like me, you like your films like you like your eggs – e.g. sunny side down, here are five movies worth renting now:

1. Frozen River – The plot – about a single mom struggling to make ends meet who starts smuggling immigrants into the U.S. for cash – is a bit far-fetched. But the rawness in Melissa Leo’s performance – etched into the very folds of her skin – brings new meaning to the word “spare.”

2. Sugar – We got (literally) frozen out of seeing The Hurt Locker in a cinema the other night, or I’m sure I’d be posting about that here. Instead, we came home and watched Sugar. (Note to self: be sure *not* to order the X-rated film by the same name!) Sugar is a small but moving film about a kid from The Dominican Republic who gets drafted for the minor leagues and how he fares when he actually lives the American Dream. Keep an eye on this actor: Algenis Perez Soto. His face speaks volumes even though he is remarkably laconic.

3. Sherry Baby – I don’t know why Maggie Gyllenhaal wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for her performance in this film, which tells the story of a young mother who gets out of rehab and tries to resume her parenting duties. It ‘s painful to watch, but oddly heartening, and reminds you why New Jersey is such a great place to set a film.

4. The Wrestler – In an earlier post this year on why I like movies with a certain “feelbad feeling,” I singled out The Wrestler as exemplary. It tells the story of a down-and-out “has been” pro-wrestler who tries – and fails – to turn his life around by reconnecting with his estranged daughter, falling in love and leaving his profession. What I liked about this movie most was that it wasn’t afraid to have a sad ending.

5. I’ve Loved You So Long – Yep. You guessed it. Here’s another film about one person’s (often doomed) efforts to overcome the odds and turn their life around. But this one’s French (bonus) and it stars Kristin Scott Thomas (double bonus). It’s about a woman who struggles to re-connect with her family and find her place in society after spending fifteen years in prison.

Well, bet you’re all feeling chipper after that round up. Anything I’m missing?

Image: Zim Eggs by World Megan via flicker under a Creative Commons License.

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