IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, join them and have a laugh about it.
Nevermind that its been around for a few years but we feel American Beauty tops the list as the No: 1 Midlife Crisis movie to date. It’s a dark comedy that makes us laugh at, but identify with, all of our midlifer’s problems (played by Kevin Spacey as the unfortunate main character Lester).
Unloved by his teenage daughter, unhappy in his marriage and cheated on by his wife, as well as made to feel unnecessary and redundant in his job by a dismissive boss, he knows he has lost the respect of his peers and those closest to him. The highpoint of his day, everyday, is making himself feel good (by masturbating) in the shower as he gets ready to face another humdrum day ahead. “It’s all downhill from here,” narrates Spacey in that shower scene right at the start of the movie.
And then one day, he meets his daughter’s friend, Angela ─ a beautiful, young, voluptuous cheerleader ─ and suddenly, he has reason to live again. Why? Because Angela is now the object of his lust and obsession; it is immoral, he knows it, but his fantasies about her do become the catalyst that snaps him out of his emotional paralysis of so many years.
“I quit my job, told my boss to f*** himself and blackmailed him for $60,000!,” he announced very happily one day, right in the middle of a funeral.
Don’t we wish we could do that too? Tell our boss to f*** himself?
After years of being demeaned in the office, we want to say that so much.
But for those of us in our middle age and beyond, we would be too afraid to do that, afraid to salvage our own dignity in the face of contemptuous behaviour because we may lose that last job of our lives! Be grateful we have a job, we tell ourselves. So we grit our teeth, swallow our pride and accept our fate with quiet resignation. How tragic is that? And then there are those of us who have children and/or spouses who don’t realise what we are going through, let alone notice we exist. Yes, that’s the reality of middle-aged Malaysia, let’s not deny that.
If you’ve ever struggled with the issues of Lester ─ never mind that it’s about middle-aged America and not Malaysia as these issues of emptiness, dejection, and loss of self esteem are all the same ─ this film is a must-see.
If your crisis has you longing for renewed passion in your life, look no further. Meryl Streep portrays a middle-aged housewife, Francesca Johnson, who has an explosive one-night stand (well, four nights actually) with a by-passing stranger played by Clint Eastwood. In that four days ─ she happened to have the house to herself as the children and husband were away ─ she falls in love all over again, and answers quite a lot of questions about the choices a woman makes when she marries and becomes a mother. It’s an insight for men.
“When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops,” she says. “You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you’re expected to move again only you don’t remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself. You never in your life think that love like this can happen to you.”
There are some real steamy scenes with post middle-aged Eastwood, stating once again that middle aged people are interested in sex and can have their passions aroused, given the right chemistry and moment.
And who can forget this classic line: “Do you want more eggs or should we just f*** on the linoleum one last time?”
Later, Francesca chronicles the affair in a diary which her flabbergasted grown children read; never would they have expected their mother to be capable of the passion she experienced with a passer-by.
And then there are some screwball comedies that takes crazy jibes at middle-agers.
This has become a classic for Billy Crystal. In the midst of a midlife crisis, Crystal and his two friends head out to the Wild, Wild West to find the answers to some of midlife’s biggest questions. They end up in the middle of a humungous cattle drive and meet Curly (Jack Palance) who sticks up a black-gloved finger and asks them that forever epiphanous question: “What’s the one thing?” See if you can answer that. The trio even come home from their fact-finding, self-discovery mission with a cow.
4. Wild Hogs (2007)
Like City Slickers, Wild Hogs too are about four middle-aged guys on a road of discovery. The film follows four Ohio men who aren’t so much facing a midlife crisis as they are running away from it astride their big bikes.
Starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H Macy, these city guys are used to drowning out the stress of home and work with the roar of their motorcycles. Idealizing themselves as a gang of road-savvy Wild Hogs, they ride abreast through Cincinnati wearing leather jackets and bomber goggles.
While the movie didn’t receive the rave reviews of City Slickers, watch it for the ludricruous moments and genuinely funny jokes. It’s midlife crisis at its goofiest.