Watching chick flicks seemed like a good diversion during chemo. No big issues, just love and happiness, a hunk or two, and a gorgeous female lead who looks just like me. In my mind, at least. Well, I guess I chose the wrong flicks, because the movies we rented on Netflix kept jolting us with plots that involved women dying of breast cancer. And they did sort of look like me.
First, we watched Stepmom , released in 1998 with Susan Sarandon as Ed Harris’s ex-wife and Julia Roberts as the stepmom-to-be. Susan’s breast cancer treatment has not worked and the doctor tells her she can no longer do anything. She is terminal.
I was pretty annoyed with Susan throughout the movie, largely because she tried to be a quiet martyr, not letting those around her know how ill she was, taking treatment by herself, throwing up in her home, alone. Not that I wanted others to stand around the toilet with her, but I did want her to tell Ed and Julia what was going on. She eventually did and the movie ended with a nice warm shot of the three of them and their shared kids. In my heart, I decided that Susan was miraculously cured and that one day she went to the door for a UPS delivery and there was Tim Robbins.
Then we tried The Family Stone , a 2005 release. Diane Keaton is the woman with breast cancer this time. She is also the mother of five kids—Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, Brian White, and Elizabeth Reaser. The family is chaotic and Mom once again is reluctant to let them know that her cancer has returned. She eventually shares the news and the family deals with it—pretty doggone well, in fact. The final scene is the next Christmas—no mom, just the rest of the chaotic family, going along as usual. It was a little difficult for me to take home a positive message from this one. Maybe it was quieter in heaven? I dunno. Diane’s love continued in the love of her family? That’s sweet, but a little more extreme of a message than I needed at that point.
And here is the frustrating thing: In reviews, Diane’s illness is seldom mentioned—just the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker plays an uptight businesswoman who does not fit it. Yes, that is the big news, folks. The mom dies of breast cancer, but the big news is that Sarah Jessica Parker does not fit in.
So, we gave up on chick flicks and watched Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) . Plenty of people die there, but no big deal; they don’t stay dead for long. And Johnny Depp is just a delight. He is having so much fun it is hard not to enjoy his crazy, ghoulish frolics.
Throughout the Pirates movies, I kept thinking what fun they must have been to make.
They ultimately transported me into multiple fantasies—the fictional world of the pirates themselves (plus a nice little love story with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley) and my own personal fiction of being behind the scenes, watching how makeup was applied, how the sets were built, how Johnny swung from all those ropes.
So, ultimately, Johnny and his pirates provided the diversion we needed. The hunk, the romance, even the gorgeous female lead who does not look like me in the least, but is lovely nevertheless. So thanks, Johnny. Let me know next time you're in town. We'll go out and swing on some ropes.