Boy, was I surprised!
Usually even over-the-top action/adventure heroes have a touchingly human trait that makes them sympathetic and relatable, but the brooding, insensitive, pugilistic Sherlock as played by Robert Downey Jr. left me cold. Jude Law’s Dr. Watson was slightly more endearing with his hopes of marrying and settling down, but his brotherly concern for Sherlock seemed highly misplaced. The movie seemed far longer than its 2 hours and 9 minutes. I couldn’t wait for it to end.
Two days later we saw Up in the Air. The movie began with some unnecessary (to me, anyway) crude language as it introduced “downsizing expert for hire” Ryan Bingham (Clooney). Bingham flies from city to city, firing employees for managers who don’t want to do the dirty work themselves. He has no life of his own. His apartment, which he rarely inhabits, is devoid of anything personal. He basically lives out of his suitcase, and is on the preferred client list of just about every hotel and rental car agency. His one goal in life is to rack up 10 million miles on his airline of choice.
Likable? Relatable? Hmmmm . . .
But very soon things start to happen that bring out Bingham’s hidden humanity. It begins when he must show the ropes to a hotshot know-it-all newcomer. He forces her to see that these are real people they’re dealing with, people with families, mortgages, medical expenses. They don’t deserve what they’re getting, and Bingham treats them with detached firmness but also with respect.
Without giving away more of the plot, let me just say that as the story unfolded, I honestly grew to like this character. I wanted to see him happy. I wanted to see him in a fulfilling relationship. I cared.
As for Sherlock? Not so much.
According to Michael Hauge in his DVD “The Hero’s 2 Journeys,” the number one goal of storytelling is to elicit emotion. With the right kind of emotion, we create empathy between our readers and our main characters, which means employing at least two of the following:
- giving the character undeserved misfortunes.
- putting the character in jeopardy.
- making the character an especially likable or good person.
- making the character funny.
- making the character powerful or especially good at what he/she does.
Ryan Bingham, on the other hand, was definitely in emotional and relational jeopardy. He was also very good at his job, no matter how distasteful it might be. He was funny in a sad sort of way. I’ll leave it to viewers to decide whether he really deserved what happened to him at the end of the movie, but no one can argue that he came through it a changed man.
Think about a novel, movie, or TV show that stands out in your mind. Did the characters draw you in, make you care? Was it right away, or much later in the story? If the connection came later, what made you stay with the story that long? Were your reactions what you expected, or were you surprised?
Coffee’s on. Help yourself to a cranberry scone, and let’s chat!