Bad Movies with the Girlfriend: “Me Before You”
Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
The first time the Girlfriend and I tried to catch a showing of “Me Before You”, she was personally invited to an AMC advanced screening. It was scheduled for 7 pm sharp, a week before the wide release and she was, for lack of a better term, HYPED. However, there were just three obstacles that stood in our way. One, it was first-come-first-serve. Two, the theatre was in Central Jersey. Three, I work full-time in NYC. But there I was, a young professional unwilling to let down his gal-pal during her life-defining moment. I tried my absolute best to get us there on time. But by the time we arrived at the box office, all of the tickets were claimed and the movie was well under way. Lesson learned. Don’t underrate the combined viewership power of teenyboppers, soccer moms and elderly cliques. There are good reasons why movies like these manage to defy expectations by still getting made. Anyways, we were offered vouchers as consolation prizes. I quickly promised her we’d see it when it was in theaters. We got dinner at the local pub.
The second time the Girlfriend and I tried to watch “Me Before You” we were strolling around her neighborhood after dinner. With no plans, we gave a half-hearted attempt at being ‘spontaneous’ and dropped by the local theatre. Now, this theatre is one of those places where you choose your seats in advance. While we saw that the showing was packed other than the very front row, we still opted to purchase the last two seats way in front. No, I had no idea what we were thinking. Maybe it was the sheer look of joy on her face. Maybe it was because I let her down on our first attempt. But I knew we had to try and SWEET JESUS was it such a mistake. Lesson learned. Never ever pick the front row for anything other than roller coasters. Not the front row in classrooms. Not the front row in SoulCycling sessions (Did it once. Never again). And definitely not the front row for movie theatres. Our eyes were so strained that we booked it out of there in the middle of the “Bridget Jones’ Baby” trailer.
The third time the Girlfriend and I tried to watch “Me Before You” we streamed it online. Yes, I understand. Illegal! Shame! But the time/gas/energy we expended in our pursuit to watch this godforsaken movie seemed economically equivalent to two regular priced adult passes. And moreover, our passes expired in the midst of our failed conquest. We were fully intent on using them for another movie. So instead, we turned to the dark annals of the internet and I’m happy to report that it did not let us down. But while the stream had large Chinese subtitles and a pesky blurred out box in the top right corner, we refused to let these minor nuisances ruin the experience. We were both going to see this movie if it was the last good thing I’d do for her on this earth. But actually enjoying the film? That’s another story entirely.
Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
The film opens on sexy, shirtless Sam Caflin as Will Traynor, a young, rich British aristocrat living in a city that looks like London. It’s morning and he’s headed out to work after a quick shag with his fiancee. As rain pours outside, she pleads for him not to take the motorcycle (classic misdirection here). So he begrudgingly obeys and walks out the front door only to get hit by motorcycle… To be completely honest, I have no idea what they were going for here. The irony behind Sam’s paralysis is so palpable that it almost seems appropriate to laugh. Almost. I mean, I nearly did. But come on! Are you kidding me? The dude just got Mad Max: Fury Road-ed by the exact same vehicle he was supposed to drive? And now he’s paralyzed from the waist down? Just look at that photo right above. Those were his last minutes before his life would change. Wearing a nice suit that is that soaked is just the worst. Those writers did Sam Caflin dirty.
In the next scene, we meet a dragon-less, dothraki-less and unsullied-less Emilia Clarke as Louisa “Lou” Clark, a quirky 26 year old gal who just got laid off from her waitstaff job and still lives with her parents. Cue the easiest job search ever filmed for the big screen and Lou manages to take on a well-paying gig as an emotional caretaker to a fully paralyzed Will. And yes, I meant emotional caretaker because Will already has a male nurse looking after him. He’s getting his physical needs met, now he just needs an emotional partner, a forced adult play-date if you will. And so Lou is simply there to provide moral support and emotional enlightenment to the foil that is Will’s despondent state. His black clothing and dungy hairdo only cements the true state of his emotions. Will has essentially gone emo. All that’s missing is a tee from Hot Topic, a lip ring and a pair of Doc Martens. So, for the next half hour, Will broods, grumps and harumphs as Lou toes the wire between cutesy, klutzy and kooky all while performing her duties. I get it. It’s not supposed to be easy but it’s supposed to look cute. Mission accomplished.
But then it happens. The two finally find flickers of affection by…. bonding over a foreign movie and then attending an orchestral concert together???
……I mean, COME ON, are we really going to do this again? A pivotal part in the main character’s relationship catalyzed by attending a music show or watching a film together? The opera in Pretty Woman? Waiting in line at the movies in Annie Hall? The Graduate matinee in 500 Days of Summer? The 90’s movie marathon in Pitch Perfect? Tripping on molly while at Coachella in We Are Your Friends? Need I go on? This is a tired old Hollywood trope that’s been dragged out and beaten to a pulp for the umpteenth time. It needs to die a short, sweet merciful death. People find other ways of falling in love. Wake up Hollywood! Sometimes they’re actually nice to each other from the start. Other times they actually try asking the other person out on a date. Couples don’t share a cathartic experience like watching a movie or attending a concert BEFORE they’re interested. That usually happens AFTER the fact. Get a grip. Whatever. I’m nitpicking. Yes, I’m done. It’s fine.
Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Eventually, the main conflict of the movie takes shape when Lou finds out Will plans to die via an assisted suicide program in Switzerland. So Lou takes this as a challenge and plans out an excursion to a horse race, a wedding and a birthday dinner. This feels like one of those instances where you know a character goes in with the right intentions but the actual objective is completely off-mark. But! It seems as if Will is happier. As if he’s actually changing his mind about, well, kicking the bucket. He appears to be enjoying the time he’s spending with Lou. He starts to allow himself to be caught up in the whimsy, wonderful and “romantical” (as the Girlfriend would say) whirlwind of these meticulously planned adventures. And yet, on Lou and Will’s final trip to the island of Mauritus, Will reveals to her that he’s still intent on dying. Lou storms off devastated. Will pensively stares out into the dark ocean. Their relationship is in ruins. Cue the waterworks for the Girlfriend.
Full disclaimer, I fell asleep around this part. It was 1 am and I had a late night dinner that was kicking in real hard. But apparently I didn’t miss much! According to the Girlfriend’s abridged summary, Lou made it in time over to Switzerland to speak with Will before his final moments. They made up. He also wrote her the most “romantical” letter that she reads while exploring Paris. There, he writes to her, instructing her to buy a perfume, eat a croissant and most importantly, to live well. Random but I’ll allow it. Cue credits. And just at that moment, I remember that I sleepily nodded right into the Girlfriend’s tear-stricken face. The wetness of her cheeks surprised me. I hadn’t realized she was crying! And just at that moment did she also realize that I was asleep for the last 30 minutes of this movie. After a few quick punches, in a quick lie to appease her justified annoyance with me, I told her I liked the movie. But I actually didn’t. And I fully expected to go into this review expounding upon why I didn’t enjoy the movie. But in retrospect, I would be lying if I said such a thing.
To be completely truthful, Me Before You was a sweet yet fleeting film. It hits its emotional beats when it needs to and quickly steps out your mind once the credits roll. It won’t change your life or your perspectives on love, life and death. But now that I think about it, the movie’s fleeting quality is kind of a great metaphor for what Will emotionally did to Lou throughout the movie… But anyways, that is to say that there was no grand concept or noble theme the film was trying to espouse. And I can appreciate that. Real experiences will always trump cinema (the exception being Mad Max: Fury Road, The Godfather I & II and The Sandlot). All it was doing was telling a story about two people crossing paths for a brief moment. One can respect that without having to enjoy it. I actually liked that it provided an affecting experience for the Girlfriend. It tells me that there’s value to be found in the film, it’s just that I’m the wrong person to go about it.
So somewhere in there, utterly invisible to my eye and intangible to my senses, is some legitimacy in the film’s emotional resonance. Or it may be that the Girlfriend just has terrible taste in films. But since she reads this website regularly, I’m prone to go with the former. But in all honesty, it would be too immature and easy of me to chalk it up to gender norms and movie preferences. So we just won’t go there. Ultimately, Me Before You was NOT a bad movie. It was an OK movie. A satisfactory movie. A “thanks for your participation” movie. I know. Shock, shock, horror, horror. How could you possibly review a movie in an article entitled “Bad Movies with the Girlfriend” but not say it is a bad movie? Well. I’m pretty keen on taking the L on this one and moving on. I thought Emilia Clarke’s eyebrow acting was on par and Sad and Rich Finnick makes for someone I can partially sympathize with. So there it is. I officially pronounce the inaugural issue of a “Bad Movie with the Girlfriend” to be a complete and utter failure of a write-up. DEFCON 5. We have a mediocre-at-best film on our hands. Nevertheless, I promise to make it up to you all. The next installation will feature a horrific, nightmare-fueled vision of a film that’s been etched into my mind’s eye…