The ruptured appendix was ill-timed: I had waited three years for Fellowship of the Ring to come out. Two days out of the hospital, stoned out of my gourd on pain meds, I sat in the packed theater on opening night propped between my husband and my father, the latter only there to help my husband carry me to the car if I passed out. He had never read the books, was only somewhat interested in the film. I felt bad about dragging him along: I needed him to like this movie.
Fellowship was long enough for me to pass out for an hour in the middle and still catch an hour on either end. In my pharmacological euphoria, it was the best movie I had ever seen. Beautiful! Perfect! A thing of wonder to behold! At the film’s conclusion, I looked starry-eyed at my father, awaiting his thoughts.
"They end it there?" he cried. "They haven't destroyed the ring yet!"
Ah, yes. That.
I hate it when movies don’t end well. Fellowship of the Ring can be forgiven, seeing as how it’s the first of a trilogy: we had to wait two years for it, but Return of the King ended at least three times.
Other movies have no excuse.
I seek the worst from my movies: Pure Escapism. I am not in this for the art. I am in it for the explosions and the symphonic soundtrack and the satisfying ending. It doesn’t even have to be happy – it just has to be a clearly delineated ending.
Few traumas compare to the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when the credits roll prematurely. It’s a broken, soulless feeling. Blinking in the raised lights of the theater, after two hours that I’ll never get back, too heartbroken, too shocked to cry, I say, “I wonder how this movie ends…”
Because ending and stopping are so not the same things.
How could you do this to me, Hollywood? I trusted you.
The only way to cope with the betrayal is outright denial.
I’m particularly fond of pretending the producers simply forgot to end the movie. Picture, if you will, this happy and contented scene:
It’s 68 degrees and sunny, with blue skies and a gentle breeze. The producer is sitting on the veranda, having coffee and doing the crossword, perhaps humming to himself.
His wife comes in and lovingly kisses his cheek. She moves to stand behind him, rubbing his shoulders, maybe pointing out the answer to number twenty-three across. He loves that she’s so clever. She says, “Didn’t you have to be somewhere today?”
He puts the paper down, thinks, stares off into space. Then he says “No… No, I don’t think so.”
She shrugs her shoulders. “Oh, well. More coffee, dear?”
Meanwhile, some camera guy passes through the quiet studio on his day off. I don't know why he's there - maybe he forgot his cell phone? Anyway, he has nothing else to do that day. He was feeling productive but the hardware store didn’t have the parts he needed for his latest home-improvement project. Oh, what he wouldn’t give for something creative and productive to do… And that’s when he spies the poor unfinished film on the cutting room floor! “I’ll just tack some credits on the end of the last roll,” he says. He calls to his buddy, the janitor, “Hey, Mac, wanna be a producer?”
“Sure!” says Mac. Why, he’s never been a producer before!
The two of them have the time of their lives! They’re so happy as they slap the film in a can – if only they could bottle this feeling of accomplishment and carry it with them always!
And off to the theaters it goes.
It makes me happy for them, these imaginary people, when I tell myself this lie.