Thursday, January 15, 2009

Living In Oz (Part 2): The Family Man's Bachelor Plan

Never Really Lost - Todd Thibaud (mp3)
A Beautiful Life - Everclear (mp3)

I re-watched The Family Man over the Christmas break and found myself amazed at how differently the movie played out for me now as opposed to it's release in 2000. At that time, I was four years married and enjoying the insanity of our first newborn. The movie felt important because it's a very moving argument for the very life we were accidentally forging for ourselves.

Almost a decade later, here's what stuck with me: It's a highly-flawed male-minded fairy tale.

You have a guy -- Jack Campbell -- who's living the Perfect Bachelor Life. He's as wealthy as the day is long. He is king of the hill at his job and enjoys every stinkin' minute he spends there, even Christmas. Screw those family-centered underlings and their whiny babies! Work first! He sleeps with models. And probably other women hot enough to be models yet more enjoyable for dinner conversations. These women arrive at his apartment door in coats covering nothing underneath but really hot lingerie.

He is consummately gifted as a lover. Great wealth, great job, numerous lovers, mad skillz in da sack. In other words: a completely fictional character. This is the fantasy life of most men. In reality, rare are the men who can be all of these things. Rarer are those would can live it for very long.

So, why does Jack Campbell of the Perfect Bachelor Life turn into The Family Man? I love this part...

Campbell dares to tell an "angel" character (played by the always-awesome Don Cheadle) that he's got everything he wants out of life. The hubris of this claim apparently offends the angel, who then forces Campbell to "glimpse" the life he could have had for himself had he married the girlfriend he ditched 13 years prior.

It takes a while, and it's an amusing and sometimes heartwarming (read: cheesy) ride, but of course Campbell eventually realizes he loved -- and could still love -- that woman. Which would be tough, 'cuz Tea Leoni is [sarcasm] soooooo hideous, and her character is a stick in the mud [/sarcasm] . (Although she's not atop my hot list, she never looked better than in this role.)

Don Cheadle forces this guy to realize that his perceived happiness at earning mad quan and getting laid all the time was only holding on because it had never been challenged by alternate possibilities. And now that he's seen what could be, he'll never be happy with what is. Which is to say, his Perfect Bachelor Life now feels meaningless and isolating.

What kind of fucking angel would screw with someone like that? I see that you're happy. In fact, you're TOO damn happy. By God, I'm gonna make you realize you should be sad, alone and depressed!

The movie concludes (SPOILER ALERT! ON A MOVIE THAT CAME OUT EIGHT YEARS AGO!) with Jack thrust back into his real life, searching out that long-lost girlfriend, convincing her in his wacky crazy Nicholas Cagey way to postpone her departure to Paris so she can have coffee with him and hear about the children they never had together and the house they never lived in together. And it's safe to believe they have officially begun their life together, 13 years after they shoulda coulda.

The moral? Jack Campbell gets the best of everything. He gets to enjoy every spoil of disgusting wealth with, apparently, none of the negatives that go with it, for 13 years of his adult life. Then, an angel comes in and makes him realize he should have a family, that he should feel this big gaping hole in his life. And voila!, he finds that woman and will end up marrying her and having a family. Basically, Campbell gets laid a lot, tastes the peak of success, sees the world unencumbered and then still gets the girl of his dreams that he "never stopped loving," even, apparently, while in bed with Amber Valletta.

He is given the best of both worlds and a huge, silver and gold antique platter. It's one helluva Christmas present.

I'm going to write the screenplay for a sequel, The Family Man 2: Nice Glimpse!

The main character (played by Anthony Michael Hall as a slightly more handsome Bill Gates-lookin' fella) is happily married in a middle class neighborhood with a comfortable job and two wonderful children. He doesn't have any regrets, and he's completely satisfied with the way his life has turned out. But Don Cheadle the angel is annoyed at his smug satisfaction. He makes Jack "glimpse" life as a multimillionaire bachelor and forces him to live in the fast lane of financial business and hot women.

(One could argue this movie is made every day and is actually called Married Men Who Go to Las Vegas for Conferences, but that would ruin my pitch.)

At first, Jack is overcome with grief, because his wife, in this "glimpse," is now his ex-girlfriend, and his children were never born. That's one helluva pill to have to swallow, so it takes a while, but he finally adjusts to this new reality. His obsession over his wife ends after she has him arrested for stalking. He draws pictures of his children and frames them as a way of memorializing them.

He hits bottom and has then a breakthrough by screwing five of the Rockettes, and that breaks the seal on his infidelity-phobia. After that he pretty much screws everything. He eventually takes Angelina Jolie from Brad ('cuz, let's be honest, who doesn't wanna see that?). He buys the Yukon Territory from Canada and renames it "Wal-Mart Territory."

Then, just as he gets totally in the groove of this new, materialistic, shallow life, the angel throws him back into his married life. Hijinks ensue!! He forgets to pick up his children! He starts saying Angelina's name when in bed with his wife! He quits his job, starts drinking expensive bourbon by the gallon and ends up living in a hotel in Biloxi and barely getting by as a "professional poker player"! God, it would be soooo hilarious...

"Never Really Lost" is from Todd Thibaud's 1999 album Little Mystery. "A Beautiful Life" is from Everclear's 2003 album, Slow Motion Daydream. The former can be found at iTunes or's mp3 site. The latter ain't much of anywhere..

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