Son of RomCom Myopia

Son of RomCom Myopia August 16, 2012

Apropos of the discussion of romances that end with a clinch, not a child, I thought I’d share an excerpt from io9’s review of The Odd Life of Timothy Green.  This is the recently released film where two childless parents write down all the qualities they’d like their kid to have, bury the list in the backyard, and have a magical 10 year old sprout up.

Watching The Odd Life of Timothy Green, I kept being reminded of Ruby Sparks, which only just came out a few weeks ago. In both movies, the lonely protagonist(s) write down their fantasies and dreams of a perfect girlfriend or a perfect child. And then, through magic that’s left vague, the lover or child of your dreams appears out of thin air — and everything that was written down about him or her comes true, exactly as it was written.

The difference between the two films is that Ruby Sparks embraces the creepiness of its premise, and dives into the ways that having your fantasies come true could be problematic. (Even though we’re apparently supposed to love and admire Calvin, the control-freak novelist in Ruby Sparks.) But meanwhile, even though we see plenty of instances where Timothy’s parents use Timothy for their selfish wish-fulfillment, the movie mostly gives them a pass. And the result is both saccharine and kind of dull.

In fact, a lot of the tropes in Timothy Green are sort of romantic comedy tropes, only here they’ve been turned into stories about parenting. The world is full of hundreds of romcoms where the love interest is a mannequin or an imaginary lover brought to life, or the male lead has some totally implausible secret. But this is a somewhat rarer movie where, instead of a man finding his ideal woman through a contrived set of circumstances, it’s about a married couple finding their ideal child. The whole notion of turning the romcom format into a movie about parenting is somewhat weird and ill-fitting.

…Most of our fairytales and fantasies are wish fulfillment of one sort or another — something magical and improbable to set us free from all the dead ends we’ve gotten ourselves stuck in. Either that, or there’s an element of confronting some terrible darkness that’s a metaphor for real-life evil. But what sort of fantasy is Timothy Green really? It’s not just a wish-fulfillment about a childless couple getting to have a child, because they don’t get a baby, and a lot of the most “magical” stuff in the film is about how Timothy somehow “fixes” all his parents’ problems with their careers or families.

So actually, it’s hard not to suspect that the gnawing anxiety at the heart of The Odd Life of Timothy Green isn’t about loneliness or childlessness at all — rather, it’s about feeling like a failure. Or fearing that you might not actually be special after all, you’re just another ordinary grown-up: compromises, regrets and all. The wish-fulfillment comes from the notion that a magic child-saint could show up and prove to the world that you’re somebody, after all. This is a fable for disappointed and insecure thirty-somethings everywhere.

Read the whole thing

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