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Jon Chattman

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Walking the Contradiction

Posted: 12/29/08 05:49 PM ET

In the new Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man, the protagonist shakes up his mundane every day life by taking part in a nutty seminar where a guru (played gloriously by Terrence Stamp, by the way) guides him to saying "yes" all the time. The movie is adapted from a British gentleman's real life experience of saying "yay" all the time and how it enriched his life beyond compare.

In the film, Carrey's Carl OKs everything without thinking. He marries a Persian email-order-bride. He learns Korean. He snorts Tabasco sauce off his hand on demand. That's just a few examples of the extremes he goes to. Such is the case, his changing from always saying "no" to always saying "yes," turns his life upside down in a good way: He excels at work, finds the love of his life, and smiles more while complaining less.

While the gimmick may have worked for that Brit, the movie, as entertaining as its plot is broad, makes you realize as the end credits roll -- it is just a movie. It also makes one realize a theme in recent cinema: You can't sit around and let life pass you by! Live your life! You only get one life to live!

We're told in movies like Yes Man, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and even the summer action flick Wanted, that we can't waste our lives and need to live it to the max. None of these movies tell you, however, "how" to do it. In the case of Button, a father (won't spoil anything here) tells his daughter via a letter that she should live life to the fullest and enjoy the ride. In Wanted, a disgruntled worker is able to tell off his boss, shoot up bad guys, and instantly enhance his life with no repercussions whatsoever. In the aforementioned Carrey comedy, a supporting character is able to throw a rock at the window of a bank, tussle with security guards, and get away with it simply because he took a "Yes" seminar. How freeing!

Look, I'm a realist. I don't expect movies to show us how to live. Films provoke us. They inspire us. At their core, they make us escape our lives for two hours or in the case of Australia seven (I kid). A problem I'm having lately is when they pass that fine line of preaching about making more out of your life without ever even suggesting the tools to realistically do it. It kind of feels cheap. I know it's "just the movies" and things can't happen like they do in them, but sometimes it'd be nice if these kinds of "message movies" held some concrete messages within them.

Not a day goes by where I wouldn't like to try a Yes Man routine or relive a scene from Wanted, but it's just the movies. I can't cap a superior in the face; throw a rock at a window, or bungee jump from my apartment roof. Well, I could but let's be real. To totally contradict myself, reality is hard and I wouldn't expect these movies to really be more than just entertainment anyway.

Who wants to see a movie about college giving people more debt than education or a job-search movie that proves it's less about credentials and more about people who know people who know people? I should've enlisted in a reality show instead of college. It kills me that William Hung gets a better night's sleep than I do but I digress.

 
 
 

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