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It Ain't Just MY Folks

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET

So, here's what I now know:

The movie I've wanted to make for almost half of my adult life is finally coming out. It's called "The Thing About My Folks," and in the movie, Peter Falk plays my father. But it turns out, he's actually playing everyone's father. And that's the part I never saw coming.

I've traveled with this film all over the country, and everywhere -- from Seattle to Sarasota, Connecticut to Kansas City, New York to Nashville -- every single time, people come over, wipe away some tears and tell me that this was their father too. This is their mother. It's a huge country, and yet, we all apparently come from the same family.

The movie is a comedy, and you wouldn't be wrong to say it was about a father and son. But to me it was always about the Mom and Dad. The husband and wife.

In the movie, Dad shows up at his son's house to sheepishly report that Mom (the radiant Olympia Dukakis) may have left him. After forty-seven years of a "perfectly happy" marriage. No fights, nothing wrong. She just woke up one morning and decided she'd "had enough."

And the journey begins. Father and son hit the road, and discover more than they bargained for. About each other, about Mom, and about women.

I always wished I could have known my parents before they were parents. I would love to have known who they were before they became the 70-year-olds I saw nodding off together to Tom Brokaw every night. There was great love between them for sure. But it must have been somehow different fifty years ago. What happened to those people? How did they become these people? My guess is it didn't happen overnight, but gradually, imperceptibly. Like a glacier of routine and compromise. We end up the sum of all the things we do, and -- for whatever reason -- don't do. Day after day, year after year, we become all the words we never speak, the trips we never take, the effort we never make and the love we never share.

And it's that, I think, that everyone is responding to in this movie. All the Could've, Should've and Would'ves we recognize in our parents, and worry about for ourselves. Are we going to be any different? Will we get there any better? No idea. But I do know people are leaving the theater after this movie and saying they want to try. Not that they haven't been trying, but they want to try a little harder. They want to go call their parents. They want to go home and hug their kids. Sit down with their husbands, their wives... And I'll tell you: to have people see your movie and feel like that -- it ain't a bad thing at all.

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