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Why Singles Lingers

October 4, 2006

I saw about 46 percent of Singles last night. The last time I saw Singles, I saw 74 percent, and the previous time, I saw 31 percent. Like the best Cameron Crowe movies, once you’ve seen it once, it doesn’t matter how much of the movie you catch in successive viewings. While his narratives are subtly effective, Crowe’s greatest strength is crafting clever, insightful comic episodes that somehow absolutely nail what it’s like to be a young person in America.

A number of thoughts occurred to me as I took snack-like doses of this movie:

  • If there is a movie with better music, I’m not aware of it. The soundtrack includes songs from Pearl Jam, Alice-in-Chains and Smashing Pumpkins when they were at the pinnacle of their powers: “State of Love and Trust” is one of the top 10 Pearl Jam songs, “Would?” might be the definitive Alice-in-Chains hit and “Drown” is the Smashing Pumpkins at their epic, overdubbed best. “Nearly Lost You” is the best one-hit wonder grunge hit ever and it’s not even close, and there are even two insanely catchy songs from the ’90s version of Elvis Costello, Paul Westerberg. The older stuff on the album is top-notch: the cover of “Battle of Evermore” by the Lovemongers (the band that eventually became Heart) doesn’t depart in the slightest way from Led Zeppelin’s original, yet is somehow inspired, and “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone makes you wonder if MLB could have been as big as Pearl Jam if Andy Wood had shot up just a little less heroin. There’s even a fun bit of punk prophecy from Mudhoney called “Overblown” that captures the overinflated hype that surrounded the Seattle scene before anyone had even heard of most of the Seattle bands. This is a soundtrack where the worst song is by Jimi Hendrix, and it only qualifies as the worst because it’s not one of his 20 or so best. The movie was so overstuffed with great tunes that the opening riff to “Spoonman”–which became one of Soundgarden’s biggest hits two years later–served as throwaway scene transition music (and is not found on the soundtrack).
  • I feel great pangs of nostalgia whenever I catch even five minutes (5.05 percent) of Singles. It makes me miss being a 20-something in the early ’90s even though I was 15 when the movie came out. As the movie progresses, I always enter a state of profound melancholy as I watch these characters’ youth and innocence slip away. Early in the movie everyone is unattached, friends and full of dreams. It reminds me of what it was like to be fresh out of college: when the possible careers, relationships, lives, friendships one could have seemed endless. I don’t regret the path my life has taken or the choices I’ve made but I miss the time when any and every path seemed possible. The beginning of Singles captures that, while the ending–where Campbell Scott moves out of the apartment complex to get a place with Kyra Sedgwick, the crazy red-haired chick moves to Mexico with an older sugar daddy and Bridget Fonda decides to give Matt Dillon a second chance–realistically captures the path to maturity when young people make the necessary choices to find and keep love.
  • Adding to the overall sense of nostalgia and missed opportunities is the fact that the movie stars three ridiculously likeable actors who should have been stars. Campbell Scott would have been a perfect thinking woman’s leading man, like a less sarcastic John Cusack; Bridget Fonda was really never any less charming or worse an actor than Meg Ryan; and Matt Dillon had the looks, voice and attitude to be Brad Pitt, but never had the right star-making role.
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Juan permalink
    October 7, 2006 6:57 pm

    Not as good as SAY ANYTHING or JERRY MAGUIRE, but I liked it a lot. And I agree about the music.

  2. October 9, 2006 7:44 pm

    I’m always torn about Jerry Maguire. I think it’s a good movie, but I never know what to make of the chemistry between Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger. The question isn’t whether they have chemistry–I think it’s pretty obvious they don’t–but whether their lack of chemistry is a strength or weakness of the movie.

    If you view Jerry Maguire as a traditional romantic comedy, then the lack of spark in the central romance is a great flaw. But there’s another way in which the absence of chemistry is representative of many real-life relationships. Jerry is attracted to Renee’s character for two reasons: 1) She’s the only one who’s there for him when he falls from grace, and 2) She is the antithesis of his previous girlfriends–she’s innocent, unsure of herself, needy and a homebody.

    Their love is not the passion of great lovers; theirs is the common attraction–the attraction of compromise, really–of two people who need each other and are willing to support each other in a particular moment in their lives.

    Two scenes in the movie seem to indicate that Cameron Crowe chose two incompatible actors on purpose: one is from the wedding video, when the camera pans to Jerry, and he’s wearing a look of sheer terror; the other is when Jerry, Renee, Cuba Gooding and his wife are all having lunch together, and Cuba and his wife find out some good news (I forget what the good news was exactly). Cuba and his wife (Regina King) go crazy, kissing and embracing each other, telling each other how much “I love you, baby!” while Jerry and Renee sit and watch awkwardly. They know that they don’t share the passion of Cuba and his wife–and I’m sure it depresses Jerry, after having that sex banshee in the opening scenes–but they both know they’ve made the proper, mature choice in marrying each other. Each, in some way, makes the other want to be better.

    On a fairly unrelated note, you gave me the idea of making a list of the best Cameron Crowe movies.

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