Thursday, March 25, 2010

"He's not a lad, brother. He's a man. The man from Snowy River."

The above quote is one of my all time favorite lines from one of my all time favorite movies.  From age about 8 to about 12 it was the only movie I ever wanted to rent.  My cousins and I could quote it word for word (and did) while we swooned over Jim in his tight pants and sweaty cowboy hat and wished we could be half as elegant as Jessica, despite her crooked teeth. 

The other night I was perusing Netflix looking for something to watch while I folded clothes.  Imagine my delight when I came across The Man From Snowy River.  I turned it on and prepared to be enthralled.  And I was.  It was still just as good a movie as I remembered and Jim filled out those tight pants just as well.  However, afterward, being the writer type that I am I couldn't let it go that it was just a good movie.  I tried to dissect it and decide what made it so good.

When I took apart the main conflict in the story, poor guy in love with rich guy's daughter and rich guy does all he can to keep them apart, it wasn't that interesting.  I mean, how many times have we seen the star crossed lovers story line. The subplots, now those are interesting: twin brothers both in love with the same woman haven't spoken for years despite the fact that she died long ago in childbirth; A horse turned loose out of vengeance that now heads the wild Brumbie mob and seems intent on wreaking havoc wherever he goes; a solitary mountain man on a solitary mountain horse that manages to bring the entire Brumbie mob, including aforementioned havoc wreaking stallion ,to heel. 

However, these aren't the things that come to my mind when I think of the Man From Snowy River.  The thing I first think of is crusty old Spur, the peg-legged miner hell bent on finding gold in the skirts of his Jezebel (what he calls his mine).  This role is superbly executed by Kirk Douglas minus the chin dimple which is covered by Spur's scraggly beard.  Then I think of Harrison, Spur's wealthy twin brother, also played wonderfully by Kirk Douglas (and his chin dimple).  Then there's Clancy, the wild card, who shows up where ever he feels like and leaves when the mood takes him.  From his twinkling eyes to his bushy mustache to his so thick you could cut it with a knife Aussie accent this is a CHARACTER.  When stacked against the tour de force of these three roles Jessica and Jim, the lovelorn leads, barely register on the charichter (see what I did there? Ah. Ah.) scale.  Though Jim's buckskin horse ranks right up there next to Clancy, in my opinion. 

Lately I've been having a really hard time finding books to fall in love with.  It wasn't until I spent entirely too much brain energy taking apart this movie that I realized why.  I have to have CHARACTERS in my books.  I enjoy a good story, but if it isn't populated by fleshed out, fully realized human beings I have nothing to grip onto, nothing to draw me into the world of the book.  I think this is why I love Stephen King so much.  His characters are so finely drawn, so well depicted that you aren't perched on their shoulder, poking tentatively about in their world.  You're behind their eyeballs, taking in all they see, all they feel, all they think. For the few minutes or few hours you read that book you are immersed totally in their existence.  That, I think, is what's been lacking in almost every book I've read lately.  So with that in mind tonight when I open up my work in progress I intend to go back and see if my characters are as full and quirky and layered and interesting as I can possibly make them.

I would be interested to know, though, my few followers, what you think makes for a good book or movie, story or characters?

1 comment:

Fraser's and Co. said...

Just found your quote while looking for this movie line on google. I'm actually posting about this movie on my blog today. Fun to find others who share my love for spur, Jim, and quoting this show.