THE THING CALLED LOVE
Most of my favorite films remain so because I am emotionally attached to them. This is the key reason I collect movies, knowing that I will want to revisit them again and again throughout my life in hopes of recapturing the feelings I had on first viewing. I may not watch a film for five years or more, but at some point I’ll think of something in that movie or get in a mood to watch a marathon of a specific actor’s work, and that will often lead me back to old favorites. This month I’ve been revisiting the films of Samantha Mathis, an actor who appeared in many films that I once enjoyed but who I wouldn’t call a “favorite” actor. What does distinguish her to me is the starring turn she had in one of my most cherished films from the 90s, The Thing Called Love. Perhaps it’s my country music phase that prompted it, but I’ve been anxious to rewatch the film recently, interested to know if it still feels as cherished to me as always before. Tonight, I finally found the perfect opportunity.
The Thing Called Love has the unfortunate distinction of being the last film made by River Phoenix prior to his death, but when I watch the movie no sadness enters my heart. In other films by River, I do feel some twinges of sadness at the premature loss of such talent, but not with The Thing Called Love. Instead, I am always completely caught up in the joy of seeing so many actors at early points in their careers. And I am charmed by the quiet little story of country musicians seeking their big breaks in Nashville by auditioning weekly at The Bluebird Cafe. The story is simple and the characters memorable, and there are catchy tunes to propel the film forward. Though it is by no means a masterpiece, it is charming and makes me happy each and every time I see it. Besides River and Mathis, the cast also includes Dermot Mulroney and Sandra Bullock before she was quote Sandra Bullock unquote. There are also numerous appearances by legendary country artists who were huge names at the time — K.T. Oslin plays a lead role as the manager of the Bluebird, and Trisha Yearwood appears as herself in one scene. The Thing Called Love, like so many older films, is a blast from the past of country music, but it’s also a timeless story. And I never tire of reliving that story and walking the journey with the lead characters.
Each time I revisit this film, I find something different that catches my attention and steals my focus. Most of the previous years’ viewing have kept me riveted to the love story between the characters played by River and Mathis, but even upon its release in 1993, I was always charmed by Dermot Mulroney’s lovestruck songwriter. I was familiar with Mulroney by that time, having first “discovered” him as Dirty Steve in Young Guns, and I had followed his career from time to time during the years since. Now that sixteen years have passed since The Thing Called Love, I have come to truly adore Mulroney. And in tonight’s viewing of the film, I found my focus entirely upon his character. Where he once added interest to the central story of Mathis’s character, he now becomes a primary reason to return to the film sooner rather than later. Simply put, he is adorable and deserving of more screen time than he received.
Such newfound interests have always been my reasoning for not just watching a film one time. If I am impressed on the first viewing, I will surely be impressed even more the second time. If a film is endearing once, it will become even moreso when viewing multiple times over the next few years. Such films never grow old, and even when the scenery and clothing is dated and even humorous, the story itself just intensifies and becomes beloved over time. The Thing Called Love is beloved to me. And revisiting it is always time well-spent.
Posted on 22 August 2009, in What I Watch and tagged (Re)Visiting the Classics, celebrities, Dermot Mulroney, movies, pop culture, River Phoenix, Samantha Mathis, the 90s. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.