It often happens that movies seem to overlap or collide with each other. All of a sudden, there are two or three movies at the same time about earthquakes, or farm foreclosures, or asteroids hitting the earth, or CGI films about insects. “Antz” came out just before “A Bug’s Life.” It could be copycats. Or it could be just a reflection of some societal zeitgeist. Maybe both.
We seem to be experiencing several sychcronistic batches of movies this year. Three otherwise very different but all critically acclaimed films focus on an unexpected pregnancy, with all three woman deciding against abortion. In the bittersweet indie “Waitress,” Keri Russell feels trapped when she becomes pregnant with the child of her abusive husband. The raunchy Hollywood comedy “Knocked Up’s” has Katherine Heigl getting pregnant after a drunken one-night stand. And in “Juno,” another independent film, a teenager becomes pregnant the first time she has sex. At first she plans to have an abortion, but she is stopped by a protester outside the clinic, a classmate from school, and realizes that she wants to hav the baby and give it up for adoption. The makers of all three films said that they were not trying to weigh in on abortion as a right or a political issue; they just said that if the women in the story terminated their pregancies, the movie would be over. It was deciding what to do with the babies and how the pregnancies affected their relationships that provided the storyline for movies that were otherwise very different in tone.
Also this year, two heartbreaking films with brilliant performances movies focus on the conflicts faced by families who must find nursing homes for people who cannot care for themselves. “Away from Her” has a radiant performance by Julie Christie as a woman with dementia from Alzheimer’s. And in “The Savages,” Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney are siblings who have to find a place for their irascible father.
In another case of similar themes, Thanksgiving weekend included two different fairy tales set in modern-day Manhattan. In “Enchanted,” characters from an animated Disney fairy tale find themselves in live-action New York, interacting with bus drivers and dancing in Central Park. And in “August Rush,” a boy runs away from an orphanage and uses the power of music to find his parents.
Two movies based on acclaimed novels are opening in December, both stories of adults who must find a way to make up for terrible betrayal they committed as children, “The Kite Runner” and “Atonement.”
This year also saw a number of feature films and documentaries relating — directly or indirectly — to the war in Iraq. But none of them captured much support from critics or audiences. Films about problems closer to home seemed to inspire better movies and attract bigger audiences.