Recently I saw the movie Knight and Day (yes, it has Tom Cruise in it–I was sucked in by the opening, forgive me, but at least I saw it free on TV!). It had everything that ought to produce a good romantic comedy–likable characters, a quirky plot, good pacing, and most importantly, a happy ending. But it left me unsatisfied. And why is that? Because it wasn’t a satisfying ending on an emotional level.
And thanks to this article I read recently, I know why! Because according to movie producer Lindsay Doran (and since I can’t really paraphrase the article, I’m just going to quote one pithy part), ’“the accomplishment the audience values most is not when the heroine saves the day or the hero defeats his opponent.’ Instead, she said, ‘the accomplishment the audience values most is resilience.’” As she puts it, the ending “might not be about winning. It might be about not winning, about finding something deeper that means more than victory.” We want to see people learn from their mistakes and grow. And if that means NOT winning, it’s still satisfying. What that said to me is that even if the person wins and reaches their goal, if there’s NO growth going on, the movie still isn’t satisfying on an emotional level.
At the end of the Tom Cruise movie, they “win,” but they learned nothing and sacrificed nothing to get there. Or at least that’s how it felt to me. But a movie like Sabrina, where the heroine DOESN’T achieve her goal of gaining the youngest son of the family as her husband, resonates with me because the heroine learns that what she really needs is a different kind of guy entirely. Plus, she still finds love–just not the love she expected to find. And the hero learns that relationships are more important than business success.
So what do you think? Do you agree with the article? What makes a movie memorable to you? Does the movie always have to end happily to be enjoyable to you? Or can you enjoy the occasional tragedy (Titanic, for example) if you feel the characters have risen from the ashes, so to speak?
Sabrina Jeffries is the NYT bestselling author of a whole bunch of historical romance novels for Pocket Books and Avon Books, as well as a caffeine addict, Third Culture Kid, chocoholic, and jigsaw puzzle aficionado. Before writing as SJ, she wrote 8 historicals as Deborah Martin (now being revised and re-released) and 3 contemporary paranormal romantic suspense novels as Deborah Nicholas. Her 24th SJ book, WHAT THE DUKE DESIRES, will be out in June, and her first revised Deborah Martin re-release, BY LOVE UNVEILED, is out now!
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