September 24, 2015
Now, Voyager is a film I've revisited so many times over the last decade that I could probably shut my eyes and see the film flicker across my closed eyelids, frame for frame. It's a movie that I come back to time and time again when I'm feeling a certain sadness about life and loneliness because, like Charlotte Vale, no one ever called me darling before.
When I was 22 the film gave me a sense of hope. I, too, could blossom into a new woman and go out into the world and find a Paul Henreid to buy me perfume and camellias. Now I'm getting closer to 30. I'm having a very difficult time with it, to be honest. Even typing the words "I'm getting closer to 30" is rough. I may not have bushy eyebrows and an overbearing mother but I'm seeing more and more of myself in the Aunt Charlotte who needed to lose 20 pounds of weight and 100 pounds of anxiety. I'm not sure what it is about my impending milestone that feels like a deadline to me, but there it is -- after the big 3-0 it's spinsterhood or bust.
I have a tendency to write more about my relationship to movies than the movies themselves, but movies have that effect on me. It's hard to separate my thoughts about Now, Voyager from the feelings the movie arouses in me. Almost every movie that I love has some emotional tug on me, whether it's tied to the experience of seeing the film (who I saw it with, what was happening in my life the first time I watched it) or to the content and how it speaks to me personally. Quite frankly even Sunday in New York originally sparked my interest because it was about a girl who had been a virgin a little longer than everyone else. It's since become my favorite movie for other reasons but that initial kinship that I felt with Jane Fonda's character will always be present when I re-watch it.
And so it is with Now, Voyager. The feelings I had as a 16 year old, as a 20 year old, as a 25 year old watching this movie resurface whenever I hear the familiar strains of Max Steiner's score. I can remember feeling hopeful, and then I can remember when that hope started to fade. I've always been kind of cynical about love, but movies that once left me smiling stupidly as the credits rolled by now leave me feeling world-weary and selfish. The last time I watched Now, Voyager I snarkily wondered "Why can't *I* have that?," slightly jealous that Charlotte broke out of her silver cocoon while I was still trapped in mine.
But then I wonder, why is it that this one single element of movies is the one thing I deserve in my life (and everyone else deserves, too.) I don't expect to have Brigitte Bardot's hair or Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe. I accept those things as unattainable and enjoy their films anyway. I'd love to work on the set of a tv show like TGS on 30 Rock, but I know that it's not realistic for me. Even when people in movies travel or have picnics in the park I think "well doesn't that seem nice" but I don't resent the characters for doing something I'm not. So why is it that the absence of love in my life makes it difficult for me to tolerate love in movies?
Honestly all of these thoughts were swirling through my mind before the credits even started on Now, Voyager earlier tonight. I've been feeling very blue about my upcoming birthday (I'm actually turning 29, I'm just obsessed with 30 lurking on the horizon) and words like "death, alone, mortality" have been dominating my thoughts. Perfect time to watch Now, Voyager, I figured. Either it would restore my faith in love or I could commiserate with pre-makeover Bette Davis. Win/Win.
So do I have hope now that someday things will magically change and all of my worrying during my 20's that I'd end up alone would be for naught? No. At this point I've pretty much abandoned any dreams I might have had that I'll find someone. I'm not even kidding, I can't even fathom a future in which I'm not on my own. I can't imagine someone telling me they love me.
However, I also saw in Charlotte an independent woman who decided to live her life to the fullest even if she couldn't have Jerry. She threw herself into working on the new addition to the sanitarium and hosted parties at her house. Even before she went back to Cascade and discovered Tina was there, she had broken off her engagement and was more than prepared to lead a fulfilling life alone.
Movies speak to us when we need to hear them. They tell us things that resonate based on where we are in our lives, and they comfort us when we need comforting. Now, Voyager has been there for me since I was 15 years old, lying in bed trying not to cry because I was about to turn 16 the next day and I still hadn't been kissed. It was there when I was 23, feeling alone and in desperate need of some hope. When I was 26 and starting to lose faith that love would find me, I felt a kindred spirit in Spinster Aunt Charlotte. And now, at *GULP* almost 30, I found comfort in Charlotte's warm embrace of solitude.
I'm still going to have days where I'm blue about life and love -- it's pretty much inescapable. And I'm sure I'll still turn to Now, Voyager to help me through it. No one has ever called me darling before, but movies have provided me so much love and understanding over the years that they're basically my boyfriend.
Don't let's ask for love, Jerry. We have the movies.