“Have fun watching your Santa Fe movies,” my daughter said to me at the end of our conversation Sunday, although I stuck with Albert Brooks.
These two films came up last month, when I was in the Land of Enchantment (maybe best state motto ever; part Southwest serenity, part Hogwart’s). One I’ve mentioned a few times, a favorite, “Off The Map,” Campbell Scott’s 2003 film about a gridless life in New Mexico in the 1970s, with Sam Elliott and Joan Allen. I watched it again when I came home, and even though there’s nothing Santa Fe specific in it (I get the impression it’s set in the northern part of the state, though, and there’s a SF art gallery at the end), it’s probably the most beautiful representation of that part of the county in any film I’ve seen.
The other one is “Late For Dinner (1991),” which is bookended by Santa Fe, although in two different eras and for a very strange reason.
I won’t call it a guilty pleasure, because I’m not guilty about liking this movie a lot. My eyes are wide open, though — if it’s obscure (and I think it is) then it’s also not a secret gem. I can get all critical. There are big holes in it, unremarkable acting, a cheesy feel sometimes. That has nothing to do with it, or me. I like the idea of “Late for Dinner.”
Two guys, both Movie Good Guys, uncomplicated and sweet. One is desperately, passionately in love with his wife and young daughter. The other is Movie Disabled With Heart Of Gold Guy (nice but sorta slooooow. Also with renal insufficiency, for flavor).
These guys, played by Peter Berg and Brian Wimmer, get into trouble in 1962, not their fault but the fault of Movie Corporate Bad Guy (Peter Gallagher). They leave the house in Santa Fe one afternoon and keep going, avoiding the law, and getting back real late for dinner.
On the run, they make it to California, where they meet Movie Quirky Scientist, who’s experimenting with cryogenics. He persuades them to hide from trouble in the freezer, and so on.
Yeah. They get sort of forgotten for 30 years until a handy deus ex machina shows up to thaw them out. They’re pretty cold. They head back to Santa Fe, amazed at hamburger prices, ATMs, etc.
As I said. Maybe a little cheesy.
It has yet (and maybe never will be) to be released on DVD, although I’ve waited patiently (probably not worth the music rights, which are pop and period). So I ordered a VHS copy from Amazon, finally. For my birthday.
I haven’t watched it all yet. Just a few scenes. I just wanted to have it. Maybe tonight.
I got married 26 years ago today, in the hills overlooking Sedona, red rocks and folks from work, mostly. It was quick; we had a show that night, and it was going to rain anyway.
And in two weeks I head for Santa Fe again, this time for the wedding of my daughter. I can make this as symmetrical as you want.
I have no big thoughts on marriage, not for you, not for my daughter. She’s on top of it. I mostly bounce around the sidelines for this one, observing and trying to stay out of trouble. I have nothing much to offer; I am an expert on my marriage only, and you could make some arguments about that one, too.
Oh, I could say stuff about habits, and perseverance. About loyalty, and inertia, and having your own space, etc. Meh.
I could tell you about rough times. More meh.
I could tell you about this past year, one that might make professionals shudder a little, thinking about the fragility of relationships faced with catastrophe and terror, how thin bonds might actually be, what might actually result.
I think I’ll just tell you about the end of the movie.
That’s the best part, anyway, way too short. Willie brushes off the ice and wants to go home. Go home to Joy (his wife, Marcia Gay Harden). To hell with hundreds of miles and three decades. He wants to go home, and he does, too. That’s a great scene, by the way. His 20-something bride is now a business owner, mid-50s, solid and professional, moved on, disconnected from early passion. Until she turns around, anyway. Love that scene.
You go back, is all. Twenty-six years is a long time, in real life as well as the movies. Lots of things change. Some things are unfair. Particularly when you’re married to a 54-year-old woman who looks about 35 on a bad day. You think I do all these push-ups for my health? Just trying to stay in the game.
But for me, anyway, with all my demons and depression and bad choices and badder behavior, good times, bad times, grief and joy and all in between, that’s what I think you do. What I do, anyway. Brush off the chill, drive across the desert, screw the years, come back for love. That’s how you win, and I won, at least for today, I won.
(July 30, 1983)