Time for some “feel good” movies – stories of redemption – where characters have flaws, overcome weaknesses, make the right choices, and leave you at the end of the movie with a big smile on your face.
It can also be a funny, touching, or dramatic journey to get there…these movies have all three.
Midnight Run – Directed by Martin Brest – released in 1988.
“Why Are You So Unpopular With The Chicago Police Department?”
People cheered on the internet recently when it was announced that, almost 25 years after the initial release, “Midnight Run” would have a sequel. Even though it was only a modest success, the cult has grown for this funny, touching, and action-packed buddy film.
Robert DeNiro shows his comedy chops as Bounty hunter Jack Walsh, who is sent to find and return bail jumper and former Mafia accountant, Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas. Charles Grodin is deadpan hilarious as “The Duke.”
Yaphet Kotto plays frustrated FBI Chief Alonzo Mosely, who is also looking for Grodin.
Alonzo Mosely: “Let me tell you something, asshole. I’ve been working on this Jimmy Serrano thing for about six years; Mardukas is my shot. I’m gonna bring him into federal court, and I don’t want any third-rate rent-a-thug who couldn’t cut it as a cop in Chicago bringing him to LA on some bullshit local charge. Do I make myself understood?”
Jack Walsh: “Can I ask you something? These sunglasses, they’re really nice: are they government-issued, or all you guys go to the same store to get them?”
Getting Grodin back to LA, of course, isn’t easy, and helps form a “bickering friendship”…
Jonathan Mardukas: “Why are you so unpopular with the Chicago police department?”
Foul-mouthed Mobster Jimmy Serrano wants “The Duke” dead, and can’t stand it when his two incompetant hit men keep screwing up the job:
Jimmy Serrano: “You and that other dummy better start getting more personally involved in your work, or I’m gonna stab you through the heart with a fuckin’ pencil. Do you understand me?”
Tony Darvo: “You got it, Jimmy.”
(He hangs up the phone)
Joey: “Hey, Tony… he ain’t mad at me, is he?”
Joe Pantoliano is hilarious as Bail Bondsman Eddie Moscone, who need “The Duke” back:
Eddie Moscone: What happened to the goddamn plane?
Jack Walsh: [Uneasy] He doesn’t like to fly.
Eddie Moscone: He doesn’t like to fly? What the fuck does that mean? Listen to me, Jack. You’ve gotta be here in less than two and a half fuckin’ days! A half a million dollars of my money… WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON THERE?
Jack Walsh: Eddie, Eddie, I swear to God, don’t start with me or so help me, I will shoot him and dump him in a fuckin’ swamp!
[Mardukas looks frightened but Jack shakes his head at him as in “not really”]
“Midnight Run” is a cult classic because it gets better with every viewing…with a ton of memorable quotes, like: “I’m just saying…if I WERE your Accountant”…and the classic interchange when Grodin drives DeNiro crazy by not letting up on his personal life:
Jonathan Mardukas: Did she hurt you, Jack?
Jack Walsh: Yeah, she did.
Jonathan Mardukas: I’m sorry.
Jack Walsh: What’re you sorry about?
Jonathan Mardukas: I’m sorry you’re hurt.
Jack Walsh: I’m not hurt.
Jonathan Mardukas: You just said you were hurt.
Jack Walsh: I’m not hurt.
Jonathan Mardukas: I just asked you if you were hurt and you said “Yeah, I’m hurt.”
Jack Walsh: That’s because you made me say that.
Jonathan Mardukas: Jack, you’re a grown man. You’re in control of your own words.
Jack Walsh: You’re goddamn right I am. Now here come two words for you: Shut the fuck up.
About A Boy – Directed by Chris Weitz – released in 2002
Here is another great, uplifting movie that deals with loneliness, suicide and “units of time.” Yes, it’s a comedy.
Hugh Grant is Will Freeman, a slacker who has lived comfortably off the royalties of a song written by his deceased father, and as such has never had to work a day in his life. He is a solitary man who places himself as the first and only priority in life.
Will: “I find the key is to think of a day as units of time, each unit consisting of no more than thirty minutes. Full hours can be a little bit intimidating and most activities take about half an hour. Taking a bath: one unit, watching countdown: one unit, web-based research: two units, exercising: three units, having my hair carefully disheveled: four units. It’s amazing how the day fills up, and I often wonder, to be absolutely honest, if I’d ever have time for a job; how do people cram them in?”
Twelve year old Marcus Brewer lives with his chronically depressed single mother, Fiona Brewer. Marcus will do whatever he can to make his depressed mother happy, even if it causes himself grief.
Fiona: I can understand why you’re angry, Marcus. But I don’t feel the same as I did yesterday, if it’s any help.
Marcus: What? It’s all gone away? All that?
Fiona: No, but, for the moment, I feel better.
Marcus: The moment’s no good for me. I can see you feel better at the moment. You just put the kettle on. What happens when you finish your tea? What happens when I go back to school? I can’t be here to watch you all the time!
The heart of the film is the unlikely friendship that develops between Hugh Grant and the boy – a causes Grant to re-think his views on life…kind of.
Will: The thing is, a person’s life is like a TV show. I was the star of The Will Show. And The Will Show wasn’t an ensemble drama. Guests came and went, but I was the regular. It came down to me and me alone. If Marcus’ mum couldn’t manage her own show, if her ratings were falling, it was sad, but that was her problem. Ultimately, the whole single mum plotline was a bit complicated for me.
After Mom attempts suicide, she is rushed to the hospital…and Hugh Grant finds a way to put it into his own unique perspective…
Will: It was terrible! Terrible! But driving really fast behind the ambulance was fantastic!
Rachel Weisz has a small role as a single Mom who challenges Grant to change his thinking…to limited success…
Christine: You will end up childless and alone.
Will: Well, fingers crossed, yeah.
But, since this is a post about “uplifting” endings, you will have a big smile on your face when this is over…Hugh Grant was quoted as saying this character is most like him in real life…and he is terrific in the role, as is Toni Collette as the Mom…a really terrific film…
The Shawshank Redemption – Directed by Frank Darabont – released in 1994
A British film magazine voted this the best movie of all time, and even if it doesn’t top your list, there are few that have a more satisfying conclusion than this one…
Tim Robbins is Andy Dufresne – a young and successful banker whose life changes drastically when he is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife and her lover. Set in the 1940’s, the film shows how Andy, with the help of his friend Red, the prison entrepreneur, turns out to be a most unconventional prisoner.
Red: [narrating] The first night’s the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blind from that delousing shit they throw on you, and when they put you in that cell… and those bars slam home… that’s when you know it’s for real. A whole life blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it.
Morgan Freeman is “Red”, who befriends Andy and narrates the film, including some tough sequences when Andy is set upon by the prison’s sexual predators:
Red: [narrating] “I wish I could tell you that Andy fought the good fight, and the Sisters let him be. I wish I could tell you that – but prison is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile – prison life consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Andy would show up with fresh bruises. The Sisters kept at him – sometimes he was able to fight ‘em off, sometimes not. And that’s how it went for Andy – that was his routine. I do believe those first two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this place would have got the best of him.”
In Stephen King’s original story, “Red” was written as a white Irishman. In the movie, they left the line, “Maybe it’s ’cause I’m Irish”, in as a joke, even after they had cast Morgan Freeman as “Red.”
Andy Dufresne: You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?
Andy Dufresne: They say it has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.
You don’t want to know anything going into this for the first time, but it plays better every single time I see it…it is without a doubt one of the best movies of all time…
Andy Dufresne: [in letter to Red] Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
If the ending doesn’t make you cry with joy, you have no heart…