Last night Dom and I watched 50 First Dates starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. I’m not a huge fan of Sandler and his style of comedy so I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. In a way, it’s a perfect date movie, with material to satisfy both him and her. Sure, there were plenty of jokes about bodily functions, enough to satisfy any 11 year old boy; but, ladies, it’s worth enduring them because there was also a sweet romantic plot with surprising insight into the sacrificial nature of true love.
The premise of the film is that Henry (Sandler) is a shallow ladies’ man, preying on tourists (it’s set in Hawaii) and never committing to anything more than a one night stand. Lucy (Barrymore) is the victim of a terrible traffic accident which has destroyed her short term memory. Every morning she wakes up with no memory of anything since day before the accident. Her father and brother, in a heroic act of self-sacrifice, have lovingly tried to insulate her from the continual pain of waking up each day to rediscover her tragedy anew. With the help of a few local accomplices they have engineered a plan so that she never realizes that time has passed. She just lives the same day over and over again. Until one morning Henry shows up at the cafe where she always eats breakfast and breaks his own cardinal rule to never pick up a local.
At first Henry thinks he has discovered the perfect woman, one who can never demand commitment from him. He can play with her as long as he likes and leave whenever he wants. But very soon he begins to feel true compassion. He also realizes that as good intentioned as her father and brother are, their fantasy world is doing her no favor and is not a viable long-term solution to her plight. One day she is going to wake up and notice that the face in the mirror has aged.
Henry therefore crafts a new strategy, a home-made video that gently breaks the news with a good dose of humor and love and that allows her to come to terms with the tragedy each day and that by
recording the highlights of the lost time gives her a new continuity. This plan shows remarkable insight into human nature and allows her to move forward, to progress, instead of the stagnant repetition of the same day in which she’d been trapped by her well-meaning family.
Many romantic comedies these days end not in marriage but with a who-knows-how-permanent-this-is hook-up. The movie, however, ends with a beautiful tribute to marriage and family. It takes considerable self-sacrifice to stick with someone who doesn’t remember you from one day to the next, with whom you continually have to re-form a new connection. It takes constant work and doesn’t allow one to coast from day to day. But isn’t that a great metaphor for what marriage is really all about? A good marriage cannot remain static. It must continually build on the past but move into the future. Each day requires Lucy to make a leap of faith, to have a deep trust in the foundation that Henry assures her they have built together. But the reward for both of them is that their love is continually renewed as they rediscover the joy of their first kiss. Not a bad recipe for enduring love. And, yes, I cried.
And, on a more personal note, Dom and I were pleased that the movie used “our song”, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.