The Great Movie Compromise

At a recent gathering of friends, I overheard my husband proudly telling the newlyweds in our group that we had just celebrated our 45th anniversary. Since they had only been married a few weeks, they seemed duly impressed by our longevity as a couple.

“Any tips for a long and happy marriage?” asked the recent groom.

“Take turns picking which movies you go see,” responded my husband.

The young couple exchanged glances and made a beeline for the buffet table.

Although they failed to grasp the wisdom of my husband’s advice, it made perfect sense to me. We both love movies. We just like different kinds of movies, and striking a happy balance each weekend as we select a DVD or head out for the local multiplex has been the secret to wedded bliss.

I like art films and movies with a message. I enjoy movies that have twists and turns and avoid the obvious. I like a movie that makes me think about its story long after I’ve seen it. I love musicals. And all right, I will admit to taking in my share of romantic comedies.

My husband, on the other hand, loves action movies. You know the kind. Big explosions, lots of car chases, high body count and a fake blood budget that would settle the national debt. Justice has to be meted out in such a way that the bad guy always gets what is coming to him, and the good guy emerges unscathed, his hair perfectly coifed. If a terrorist or two meets his or her demise, all the better.

That said, I feel compelled to explain that he is the kindest and gentlest of men, which is why he also likes animated movies with talking cars and toys that come to life. He is big on uncomplicated plots with happy endings. Happy endings are high on his list of requirements for a thumbs-up movie.

Signs of our disparate tastes in films appeared early in our relationship. On our first movie date, we went to see “Fistful of Dollars,” still one of his all-time favorites. Considered a classic by many today, when we saw it in 1964 it was criticized as being brutal and excessively violent, especially by me.

On our next movie date, I suggested “The Pawnbroker,” the story of a haunted pawn shop owner who survived the Holocaust, but whose family did not. Stark and honest and with a tragic ending, the movie’s realism was considered by some to be brutal and violent, especially by my husband.

Since we were compatible in all other areas, we quickly realized we would have to come up with a plan that would overcome our wildly divergent tastes in films if our relationship was to survive. Enter the Great Movie Compromise. We agreed that we would take turns picking movies and that the one not choosing would have to accompany the one choosing without complaint.

Over the years I have seen every movie in the respective Die Hard, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, James Bond, Bourne, Pirates of the Caribbean, Matrix, Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Mission Impossible, Mummy, and Lara Croft series (in the spirit of full disclosure, my husband did admit he has a thing for Angelina Jolie). There have been countless plotless movies whose sole reason for existing is to blow things up and an endless number of kung-fu imports where the actors’ lips keep moving after the dialog has stopped. We’ve also seen all eight of the Harry Potter movies, but they don’t count because I love them too.

Over those same years, my husband has squirmed and yawned his way through myriad foreign language films with subtitles and slept through any number of musicals. He’s hunkered down for what he calls his now-that-I’ve seen-them-put-me-on-a-suicide-watch movies: “Sophie’s Choice,” “The English Patient,” “The Piano,” “Midnight Cowboy,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List.” He’s also accompanied me to a variety of female-oriented movies (I hate the term “chick flick”) where his was the only body in the theater with testosterone coursing through it.

As this weekend approaches it is my turn to select a movie. Last weekend my husband chose the DVD version of the aptly named “Shoot ‘Em Up,” a blood-soaked movie with absolutely no redeeming value. This weekend, we are going to see “The Debt,” a movie I know has a decidedly unhappy ending.

Fair is fair. Pass the popcorn.

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