February 1, 2006
Maybe You Are That Happy
It is 2003. I am working my regular double Sunday shift at Snack, a trendy Greek placed owned by two young NYC hipsters, in SOHO. Outside the regulars are bathing in the sun and talking on their cell phones. Inside, I am alone with a strange man on table one. Adam is making baklava in the back as I read the paper. The cretin on table one chews very slowly and talks even more so. Something about him gives me the creeps. His skin is pale and soft and looks like it may smell of an abandon attic or worse a morgue. I am relieved when he leaves.
“You missed the freak on table one.” I tell Adam as he dusts his apron of cinnamon.
“That was Todd Solondz.”
“You don’t say? Well he is a shitty customer and an even worse tipper." So that was the mind that had given the world all of those uncomfortable yet memorable moments in films like: Welcome To The Doll House, Happiness, and Storytelling.
I was thinking of his face and translucent skin while watching Palindromes, his latest movie, in my bedroom last night. The movie itself is bizarre and, like all his films, deals with the theme of people who live on the periphery of “normal’ society and their views on issues, in this case abortion. The notion of the "freak" is a theme, that after waiting on him, I can understand why he gravitates towards.
The movie itself was discomforting, funny, and bizarre to the point of me often thinking: Am I really going to be able to sit through the whole thing? At one point a ten year old is looking through the trash to find aborted babies, so his mother can give them a proper Christian burial. I did not intend for this to be a review of the film. There was one part that I thought was beautiful that I wanted to share. But if pedophilia, born again Christians killing abortion doctors, blind albino crack babies, and characters named Mama Sunshine are your thing, by all means have fun watching the whole thing yourself.
Here is the scene:
Two prepubescent teens are sitting on a bed looking through a photo album. They are about to have sex and the tension is being built as they ponder the images they face in the album. It is the boy’s album and so the pictures are of him as a child.
Flipping the pages he says, referring to one photo, “Look at how happy I looked. What sucks is that I didn’t even know it at the time.”
To which the girl replies, “Maybe you are that happy now and you just don’t know it.”
We look to art to help us realize the simple truths that should be obvious in our everyday lives. So sitting through one hour and forty minutes of Todd Solondz’s creepy vision of the world was worth it, for this one idea. Maybe we are as happy in the present as we look in the photographs of our youth, and we just don’t know it.