Oh hey there! It’s the year of our lord 2021, and I sincerely hope that it’s treating you as kindly as possible so far given, well, I’ll just gesture vaguely at everything. As much as we are still trying to hold out hope that an easier version of everyday life will someday return, it seems most likely that we will be stuck as we are for a while longer.
While I still don’t have any answers or certainties (I wish I did!), there is one thing I do know for sure: I don’t know where I’d be today if I didn’t have pop culture to escape into — especially movies. To make a list of all the ones I’ve watched in the last year would be an impossible feat, but I thought I would share some of the best viewing experiences for an evening of self-care. Because to quote Renée Zellweger in Judy, “It’s about hope. And we all need that.” Now more than ever. So apply your facemasks (the beauty ones), get wrapped in a blanket, and shut out the negativity for a good hour and a half.
13 Going on 30
“I can’t remember my life! You have to help me remember my life,” I say to my subconscious self, trying to remember a time before everything was shitty and broken. Needless to say, Jenna Rink has always represented the hidden child that still exists in all of us, and not a day goes by where I don’t apply her wisdom of not turning my back on something that I used to love or something that used to be good. Also, “Why Can’t I?” by Liz Phair is the ultimate self-care song—sorry, I don’t make the rules. (I would also like to slow dance to it with a 2004 Mark Ruffalo, please.)
(The most iconic comeback in the history of film, BTW. ^) I actually only saw Erin Brockovich for the first time a few years ago (I KNOW!), and it has since inexplicably become a quarantine favorite. Well, maybe not completely inexplicable: I love Julia Roberts, especially during that late-‘90s post-Stepmom era, and Erin Brockovich’s refusal to let anyone get in her way or talk down to her is one that we should all hold dear. Also, I know I’m a white person because no matter how many times I’ve seen this movie, I will always believe that Roberts is one of the best actresses of our time. (Other significant Erin Brockovich quotes that have come to define my quarantine life: “I don’t need pity, I need a paycheck” and “Who fucking lives like this, George?!”)
Under the Tuscan Sun
Under the Tuscan Sun is the ultimate self-care movie. I can’t explain it, it just is. Your entire personal life falls apart so we drop everything and buy a centuries-old Tuscan villa? OK, that’s definitely some white people shit, but it’s also self-care: learning to accept that no matter how hard we try, sometimes we have to put just the tiniest amount of faith in the possibility that the universe will have our backs on this one. “No matter what happens… never lose your childish innocence.” I concur.
An impeccably underrated Snow White retelling that still deserves so much better. (In fact, I wrote all about that very fact for Spectrum Culture’s film section last summer, which you can read here.) Lily Collins as Snow White, Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, and Armie Hammer as Prince Charming? Of course, you had me at Lily Collins, but Mirror Mirror is also a heartwarming, comical, and refreshing take on the age-old tale. “You know, all that time locked up in the castle I did a lot of reading. I read so many stories where the Prince saves the Princess in the end. I think it’s time we change that ending.”
We love a heteronormative mid-2000s romcom about how weddings and marriage are the only things white women care about. (I mean, that’s not entirely false.) But what I’ve always loved most about 27 Dresses is Katherine Heigl’s character Jane, someone who has dedicated her entire being to pleasing others at the expense of her own self-worth. It’s only when her spoiled younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman) decides to impulsively marry Jane’s boss (Edward Burns)—to whom Jane is hopelessly devoted—that her entire way of being starts to fall apart, and she realizes that it might be time to start putting herself first. Which ultimately pays off, because she gets to marry James Marsden in the end. And isn’t that something we should all aspire to? (Putting ourselves first, of course, not marrying James Marsden. Or maybe both. I can dream.)
This is by far my favorite telling of Cinderella—mostly because I will never tire of Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine—but also because now is surely a time when we could all use a bit more courage and kindness. Be the one that rescues you, and through the clouds you’ll see the blue. As Fredrich Schiller once put it, “Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.”
Boys on the Side
Figuratively putting everything in the past and hitting the road, as if our problems and mistakes will never catch up to us? With Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker, and Drew Barrymore? In 1995? Of COURSE this is one of my all-time favorite movies. It has been there for me during a lot of tough shit in the past and I am certain it will continue being there for me for whatever tough shit the universe still has in store. “That’s what you get in life. You get whoever you end up with. Whoever is willing to stick by you and fight for you when everyone else is gone. And it ain’t always who you expect. But you just have to make do.”
Not a day goes by where Elliot Page’s cynical sarcasm as Juno MacGuff doesn’t live rent free in my mind. Juno is like a warm hug from an old friend no matter how many times I’ve seen it (which is a LOT), and it’s feelings like those that we need to cling to the most. Rainn Wilson was actually talking about the goddamn coronavirus pandemic when he said, “This is one doodle that can’t be undid, home skillet.”
Message in a Bottle
The ONLY good Nicholas Sparks adaptation, do not even @ me. I know you love The Notebook and always will, which is fine (in theory), but Message in a Bottle—the first Sparks novel to hit the big screen in 1999—has the unbeatable chemistry and romance shared by Kevin Costner and Robin Wright (excuse me, Robin Wright Penn), and nothing will ever take their place. (I also wrote about this for Spectrum Culture’s film section, which you can also read here.)
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki’s journey into adulthood has meant the world to me since I was just a child who didn’t really get it, and since taking flight on the same journey for myself, Kiki’s Delivery Service means just that much more. “But we each need to find our own inspiration, Kiki. Sometimes it’s not easy.” AMEN.
What are your favorite self-care movies? Let me know in the comments!