Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

Or do we? Of course, I think human nature generally wants things to come out right in the end when it comes to storytelling. We want evil to be vanquished, the good guy to get the girl, and all to be right with the world. But at the expense of the storyteller's goals?

During my convalescence yesterday I watched (with commentary, for the first time) Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange, and Blade Runner, none of which are what you'd call crowd pleasers. But who would want them to be? Blade Runner has even had the ending changed a couple of times as Ridley Scott got to be able to edit the film the way he wanted it. Yes, it's gone from "happy" to "indeterminate," but it works better. Another key example is Terry Gilliam's Brazil, in which his "happy ending" involves the main character going insane. By contrast, the studio hack's recut "Love Conquers All" edit tried for a more traditional happy ending, indeed, in the same drive into the sunset way that Blade Runner started with.

All of that is just an overly long intro to this BBC News piece about the happy ending in film, including some notable examples of sad stories "happied up" for movie going audiences. I understand the desire for a happy ending, particularly in dire economic times. Escapism is, for many people, what film (or TV or music or whatever) is all about. But it can be about much more and can be equally entertaining, in a completely different way.

1 comment:

Paul Higginbotham said...

Interesting post. I suppose it depends on the film and your mood. Some films/stories simply work better with a more realistic less-than-happy ending (including the good examples you gave). Usually usually those are films that I have no desire to watch over and over again. Case in point: Chinatown. Brilliant film but horribly depressing ending.

More often than not, though, the escapism I seek in films calls for all-is-right-with-the-world endings. Because it's only in those films that all is ever truly right with the world.