Chick LiteralSo Much For Those Happy EndingsAndrea Greb

Do me a favor.  Go through in your head the chick flicks you like.  Now try and come up with one where the ending doesn’t involve someone getting engaged, married or into a relationship.  I’m guessing you’re going to come up close to empty.

I can think of exactly one movie I’ve seen that ended this way, and it’s a movie I hated precisely because it ended this way.  It was Becoming Jane, and I remember leaving the theater in an actual rage, because how dare I pay money to go see a romantic comedy that didn’t end with the girl and the guy getting together?  It did not matter to me that the moral of the movie was that she was Jane Austen, writer of amazing chick lit before that was even a term.  Nope, because she didn’t have a Darcy of her own, I wasn’t interested in her story.  I believed that movies were for escapism, and that they should all have happy endings.

The thing is, the movies that have a happy ending have just that – an ending.  The story finishes when everything’s looking great – two people are just about to embark on some great adventure together and we can believe that nothing but the best will happen to them.  There’s no need for the movie to show the day-to-day tedium of being in a relationship, or any of the inevitable and possibly relationship-ending changes people go through.  No, the movies get to end things on a high note, and we as an audience get to suspend our disbelief and think that everything really will be happily ever after.

It’s a great trick that they can play in movies, this ending just when everything’s looking great.  Let me tell you, it works much, much less well in real life.  In fact, it doesn’t work at all in real life because you can’t just press pause the moment everything works out as you’d hoped.  Life goes on, and those perfect moments aren’t glorified with credits rolling while an inspiring pop song plays, they become mere moments that get lost in all the other things we have going on in our lives.

I’m a victim of trying to use romantic comedy plotting in my own life.  Sophomore year of college, I started dating this guy, but we both knew it wasn’t going to last because he was going to grad school on the other side of the country and I was headed off to a study abroad program.  So of course, I, the cold, heartless cynic, fell hard for him, but of course, I couldn’t admit my own feelings.  We went our separate ways and I tried to move on, but couldn’t, and just as I thought I might admit how I felt, I found out he was dating some girl in grad school.  Fast forward a few months and I decided to dramatically declare my feelings anyway, and of course the day I chose to do so was the day after he’d gotten dumped by his girlfriend, of course he felt the same way, and of course we were going to make it work long distance.

It sounds like the plot of a movie, and if it were a movie, that’s when the story would have ended.  Frankly, it’s when the story should have ended in real life, too, but instead, I had this one perfect moment that I had to try and turn into a whole perfect relationship.  Needless to say, this was easier said than done, and the relationship ended up dragging on longer than I should have let it, mostly because I believed that if it had begun in such a perfect way, surely it was meant to be.  It took me a long, long time to realize that just because your life has started to resemble the plot of a romcom does not mean you are making correct choices.

In real life, there are no fairy tale endings, and even fairy tales have started to acknowledge that happily ever after might not look as dreamy as imagined.  For now, I’m going to stop worrying about the happy endings and focus on the happy right nows.  The too-good-to-be-true movie moments are something I’ll savor in the moment, not something I’ll try and build an entire life around.  If I’m really lucky, I’ll fictionalize those moments and turn them into bestselling literature, but I suppose we can’t all become Jane.

Image via The Optimistic Muse

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  1. “In real life, there are no fairy tale endings”?
    Considering you look like you are at the beginning of said life, You can’t truthfully base this statement on your experience alone, right? Aaaah the grad school guy…
    The mistake was not to believe in this love story, you should believe. Always. Totally.
    The mistake is to forget you are living a story, your story, with twists and turns, one that will eventually lead to more irrational decisions and butterfly sensations.
    And of course, one that will end in one big fat happy ending.
    What hollywood and books should have taught you is that true Love is rare, so rare and so good that you will wonder why no one ever wrote the sequel to a fairy tale.
    I have been lucky enough to witness true fairytale love, the kind that would make “The Notebook” sound like a biography. So trust me on this… keep believing. Fairy tales do exist.
    But who knows if it is really your wish, you might become Jane, though if I were you, I would probably dream about “the unwritten story of Andrea Greb”.
    Sounds like the title of a romantic movie, right? Spoiler: I hear the ending is awesome. ;)
    Do me a favor. Live happily ever after!

  2. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who’s mind creates perfect rom-com plot lines out of my life :-P

  3. am i the only one here who saw Beaches and Silkwood?

  4. So true, happy happy-right-nows for everyone :)

  5. Another not so happy ending movie is One Day. Goodness gracious that movie was a roller coaster of emotions. I won’t say the ending, but good god. Not that it wasn’t a good movie because it totally is just Whew…that is all i’m going to say.

  6. Loved the articel! kudos for the happy right nows

  7. Bright Star falls into this category too!

  8. Thank you for writing this : ) It was really insightful and I definitely found that I could relate

  9. I’m kind of astounded you didn’t like Becoming Jane just because it wasn’t the usual glorified, ‘perfect’ romantic comedy. It’s why I love it. Things like that DO happen in real life, and the movie was capturing those moments. Things don’t always work out.
    Watch 500 days of summer – the ending is a complete twist, but again, things do happen like that in real life, regardless whether you want them to or not. There’s more meaning to movies like those than the endings. there’s a message too.

  10. i liked the movie Adam a lot because it didn’t have a typical happy ending

  11. Atonement was pretty depressing, so was A Walk to Remember. But then again in the latter movie, the leads got into a relationship.. I must say The Princess Diaries were utterly misleading for a preadolescent version of me.

  12. I loved Mona Lisa Smile because in the end it seems all the women go on to live exciting lives regardless of the their relationship status. I love this movie and I also loved Becoming Jane.

  13. 500 Days of Summer didn’t have your typical ending either. But, I LOVE that movie (and I love Zooey & Joseph). And I think I especially love it because I watched it not too long after I had gotten dumped by my boyfriend. So I was all bitter, but I actually felt better watching this movie since it wasn’t all lovey-dovey and showed realistic feelings involved in relationships…

  14. Too funny – I rail against stupid predictable rom-coms too, but was then SO SAD she didn’t get with James McAvoy at the end (probably because it was James McAvoy). It’s a great point, though – appreciating the moments of a relationship that make it wonderful, not whether or not it lasted. :)

  15. omg becoming jane is one of my FAVORITE movies and i feel so depressed after watching it that i rewatch the movie to watch the lovey parts and then it gets all sad and riuhedfjk it’s a vicious cycle