Monday, April 18, 2011

The Good Stuff

It's almost Passover. The house has been vacuumed and scrubbed of every errant crumb--a job I cringe to admit I do only once a year. The matzah is hung by the chimney with care. Normally, we'd be at my parents, but this year we're doing Second Night Seder in the OC. That's okay--more nights with decent meals.

It's later now and we've had our quick and dirty Seder for Short Attention Spans. It was actually quite lovely. I made my famous brisket, with new potatoes, and Jarrah and David helped me chop apples for a beautiful charoses. Charoses doesn't sound good, or look good--but it tastes amazing. It's chopped apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, toasted walnuts and sweet wine. (In our case, we used high-quality kosher grape juice.) What could be bad about that? Jarrah found the Afikomen and has requested a La-La Lucy doll. Ugh. We reclined on pillows like kings (quite civilized, that) and dipped various things in salt water. It was good fun.

Last night David and I had a superb date night. For one thing, we hadn't had one in eons, due to my crazy theater schedule, so it was extra-special. And everything about it was delightful. We started with dinner at the Afghan restaurant in Hillcrest. I have been teased for my love of sweet savories, but man, I can't get enough of their Sweet and Sour Apricot Lamb Curry. Scrummy. And Palow rice with big, soft cherries in it. Mmmm. While we ate I told David that my ears were actually ringing from the quiet...Jarrah has been a speed-talking machine lately and her voice is usually completely filling my head. I even drank a glass of chardonnay, while David made me laugh with stories about the $300 bottles consumed at NAB by the various wine connoisseurs in his cohort, and how the word "chardonnay" would probably elicit the kind of obscene hilarity that merlot did in the movie Sideways.

Then we got candy that we didn't have to share at Candy Depot, and I reveled in the licorice pastilles I'll have to forswear for eight days now (did you know that a major ingredient of licorice is flour?) And we ascended happily to Hillcrest cinemas, home of the half-way respectful audiences and truly tasty Italian sodas. Our movie was in Theater One (the big one!) and not too crowded. Sure, there was Over-Emoting Man right behind us, who shouted encouragement and guffawed so loudly that we sometimes missed lines, but I was vindicated because it was bothering David more than me (often I complain about movie-talkers on the way to the car and he responds mildly "Really? Didn't hear a thing.")

And it was an awesome movie. I think you should see it. A movie that rewards your attention with a good story woven with small, careful details, really great acting, genuine emotion and tons of laughs. The movie was Win Win, the latest written and directed by Tom McCarthy (I'm a fan of all his previous movies) and Paul Giamatti (Mike) and Amy Ryan (Jackie) are absolutely great as a New Jersey suburban couple with low-grade money troubles and two really cute kids. Mike is a compassionate lawyer with a small-town practice and several elderly clients, and he coaches high school wrestling on the side. He gets himself into a pickle when he accepts the legal guardianship of a client but pockets the custodial checks while checking Leo Poplar into a (admittedly nice) senior home. The pickle comes when 16-year-old Kyle shows up from Ohio, looking to bunk with his grandpa, and Mike and Jackie take him in when they can't find his mother. Turns out Kyle is a former state champ wrestler, and as the team blossoms, so does Mike's family's relationship with Kyle.

Sounds pretty simple, right? But the real pleasure of the movie is the tiny stuff, observing the growing closeness between Mike and Kyle, often over the subject of wrestling, but clearly meaning a lot more. I heard that Alex Shaffer, the 16-year-old actual wrestler/non-actor who plays Kyle, was in awe of the performances of Paul Giamatti and Burt Young (who plays Leo.) Watching them made him want to be an actor. I love that idea.

Tom McCarthy is a great writer because he really gets how people talk. The smallest sentence--a single word--can mean the difference between a serious conversation and one that makes you crack up in surprise. And he gives his actors a lot to do. I was remarking to David that his "leading man" is never a conventional choice--Peter Dinklage, Richard Jenkins, and now Paul Giamatti--but that smooth, polished movie-star sheen would get in the way of the precise pleasures of his stories.

The movie made me feel good. I'm not ashamed of that. Sometimes when I actually venture out of the house and risk a crowd of strangers to watch something, I want to be rewarded for that decision. That's how I felt at the end of Win Win. Like the title totally applied to me.


Stephanie said...

Yeah, I've not so much as spoken the word merlot since Sideways.

Tom McCarthy would be honored by your review.

Logical Libby said...

Licorice has flour? I never would have guessed.

I liked the rest of the post too, that just has me scratching my head.

Laural Out Loud said...

I'm actually happy that my husband and I don't get a date night very often because it makes them that much sweeter when we get a night to ourselves. I should drag him down to Hillcrest- it sounds like a great place for a night out! Oh, and I only clean my house thoroughly once a year, too. And about every other year I hire someone to do it for me :-)