January 8, 2002
A Matter of Taste


The first time we tried to watch "Last of the Mohicans" together, David fell asleep twenty minutes into the movie.

Daniel Day-Lewis and company had just discovered the Cameron family's burned-out cabin, and now they were arguing over whether or not they should bury the victims. Was it 'the Christian thing to do'? Or would it lead their murderous enemies directly to them? I turned to David, laying next to me in bed -- I wanted to tell him that the third-best part of the movie was coming up: the part where they're all hiding out in the Indian burial ground, and Madeline Stowe delivers her speech about the great American wildnerness being "more deeply stirring to her blood than any imagining" -- and I wanted to make sure he was paying attention. That's the moment when you can actually see Daniel Day-Lewis' character falling in love with Madeline Stowe's character, while all around them this achingly lovely music swirls gently in the background: surely one of the most toe-curlingly romantic moments ever committed to celluloid.

But David was flat on his back ... mouth agape, chin pointed straight up in the air, eyelids twitching.

Out like a light.

The second time we tried to watch the movie, a year or so later, he didn't even make it to the first scalping.

So I'm not exactly optimistic when he suggests we try watching my favorite movie one more time. "What else is there to watch?" he says. He's got a point. We didn't have time to stop by Blockbuster after jacket-shopping. We've already watched the wedding video 43,897,621 times. (We already know how THAT one ends.) We still don't have cable, and network programming is nothing but re-runs and re-runs of re-runs. Don't get me wrong: it's not like we're enslaved by our television addiction around here or anything. Usually when there isn't anything decent to watch, we just turn off the TV and spend the evening reading or talking or [ahem] doing other stuff. But there are some nights -- and the snugglers in the audience will back me up on this one, I'm sure -- when all you want to do is cuddle up in bed with the person you love and watch a little mindless tube. And this is one of those nights. So I take a deep breath, and I pop the movie into the VCR.

"Be gentle, please," I say to David.

I haven't been trying to maneuver David into watching "Mohicans" with me, all these years, simply because it's my favorite movie of all time, although it is. I haven't been trying to get him to watch it because it has had this huge, weird, profound effect on me, ever since the first time I saw it almost ten years ago, although it has. And I didn't want him to watch it with me because I think that it's nice when married people share the things they love with each other, although I do. (As long as it isn't The Three Stooges.)

Mainly I've been trying to get him to watch "Last of the Mohicans" with me because I just wanted to get it OVER with.

The truth is I'm secretly sort of embarrassed to admit that LOTM is my favorite movie. I'm embarrassed about it the same way you're embarrassed in junior high school, when your best friend comes back from summer vacation and all of a sudden he's a whole lot taller or shorter or fatter or skinnier or dorkier, in some fundamentally discomfiting way, than everybody else in your class, especially the cool kids. You still like your best friend, and you still cherish the memories the two of you share, and you still enjoy spending time with him. 

You just don't want anybody to KNOW about it.

That's pretty much how I feel about "Last of the Mohicans." I love it, I could watch it a bazillion times in a row and never get tired of it, I think everybody on the planet should love it as much as I do. I just wish it wasn't so ... I don't know ... scripted in places. I wish it didn't feel so much like "Miami Vice in Buckskins." I wish Daniel Day-Lewis didn't try so hard to look like Fabio. Plus there's the whole issue of intellectual value: now that I'm married to this really smart, really educated guy, I feel as though my favorite movie should be something snooty and cerebral and unwatchable. "Last Year At Marienbad," for instance, or Kurasawa's "Ran." But it isn't. "Last of the Mohicans,"  for better or for worse, is my favorite movie ... much the same way that KFC Honey BBQ Chicken is my favorite food, and "People" is my favorite magazine, and "Entertainment Tonight" is my news source of choice. (You can take the girl out of Trailer Town, I guess, but you can't take the Trailer Town out of the girl.)  And even though I'm afraid David is going to hate every big, overblown, bodice-ripping moment of this movie I love so unreasonably -- or, even worse, he's going to fall asleep again, thereby prolonging the torment for another year or so -- I point the remote control towards the VCR and hit "play."

Much to my surprise, David not only manages to stay awake for all 112 minutes of the movie this time, he seems to enjoy it.

What I'm forgetting, of course, is the fact that "Last of the Mohicans" isn't simply a chick flick. Yes, it has at its center not one but two exquisitely tragic, compelling love stories. Yes, it's filled with enough hair, heartache and heaving bosoms to fill an entire shelf of Harlequin Romances. Yes, it features a soundtrack guaranteed to wring tears out of a bag of potting soil. But it also has a lot of stuff that most Testosterone Units -- including David -- find absolutely irresistible:

  • Big guns!
  • Big explosions!
  • Big fight scenes!
  • Big glaring historical inaccuracies!

The other thing I'm forgetting is that David isn't your typical Testosterone Unit.

He isn't going to sit there and pout for one hour and forty minutes because we didn't rent Lethal Weapon IV. He's not going to make fun of me if I cry. (I swear to god I've seen this movie a bazillion and a half times and I still fall apart every time Alice steps off the side of that cliff.) He's not going to suddenly announce "This is the stoopidest movie I've ever seen!" and stomp out to the garage to smoke another Marlboro.

Mostly he just lays next to me in bed and watches. When I get to another weepy part, he puts his hand on my shoulder and squeezes.

When the movie is over, we talk a little bit about why it means so much to me. What is the big attraction? Is it the music? Or the love story? 

"It's both," I tell him. 

I've always been a sucker for big sweeping historical dramas -- especially big sweeping historical dramas with haunting soundtracks and plenty of good old-fashioned *Boo Hoo Moments* -- and "Last of the Mohicans" fits the bill. Plus it came along at a time in my life when there was precious little in the way of romance. The idea that two people could be that deeply in love with each other, even two characters in a movie, seemed to me, at the time, almost indescribably exotic and unattainable.

It's clear that he doesn't completely get it. But the mere fact that he would ask says something, right there. 

All things considered, watching "Mohicans" with him was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Why had I allowed myself to get tied up in such a knot over it, anyway? If anything, it only confirmed what he already knew: that his wife is a big stoopid sentimental romance junkie with an incurable taste for schlock.

But with excellent taste in second husbands.



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now if only i can work up the nerve to tell him about 'king of kings' ...