(God’s Sonnet by Timothy J. Verret; “it’s how I cope to hope in ‘you would?'”)
You would create a world where none were hurt.
You would exact a world a perfect peace.
You admit you would nothing to assert,
would no power for decrease or increase.
I would cry a river for hurt incur.
I would throw this world into a deep pit.
I admit I am NOT God. Would I were,
I would love them, but I’m a “sick” misfit.
“Peace be with you all, as much as you would,”
says Jesus. “I know you would if you could.
It’s the ones who challenge you that are good
for you to challenge them. That’s brotherhood!”
It’s a given you’ll be misunderstood.
Give understanding anyway. You would?
(“am I crazy?” film reviews by Timothy J. Verret)
It is quite apparent that both films, GIRL, INTERRUPTED and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, are asking the audience the same question: “Am I crazy?” While on the surface it might seem both films have the same answer to that question, i.e., “depends who you ask,” the answer goes deeper than that. Both films end with the freedom found in the “escape” from a mental institution, but the two films’ deeper answers are found beyond “depends who you ask” and rest in another question needing an answer, “Why are those deemed ‘crazy’ locked away in mental institutions when the REAL ‘crazies” are walking around free?” I hope I can attempt to explore all these questions and answers in reviewing both of these films to arrive at neither a question nor an answer but instead a revelation….but, knowing me, there’ll still be a question or two!
GIRL, INTERRUPTED is based on Susanna Kaysen’s 1993 autobiography about a year she spent in a mental institution. Actress Winona Ryder plays Susanna in the film and Angelie Jolie (Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress) plays Lisa, a sociopath who challenges Susanna on this “am I crazy?” question. I’m not saying either Susanna or Lisa are NOT “crazy,” but what I am saying is that they both have a thirst to understand their inner workings which probably makes them as sane (probably MORE sane) than most who do NOT thirst to understand their inner workings. I loved the book and I loved the movie, but the book “attacks” more than the movie, thanks to Kaysen’s sharp observations into madness, stripping away from the reader the preconceived notion, “am I sane or insane?” After the reader turns the last page of the book, Kaysen does indeed have the last words to this notion: “I don’t know. What do YOU think?” Thank God director James Mangold cast Angelia Jolie as Lisa. Truth be told, when Jolie is not on screen, the film coasts along pretty calming and safe (and that’s hard for me to say, as I’m a Winona Ryder fan). But all is forgiven when Jolie shows up in a scene, wherein “attack” is a huge understatement where Lisa is concerned. Interesting to note is that I saw Angelina Jolie on INSIDE THE ACTOR’S STUDIO and James Lipton was interviewing her about her role as Lisa. Jolie said either before casting or after, she found Kaysen’s book that she had read as a teenager and when she flipped through the pages, all of Lisa’s lines were highlighted and underlined. Talk about willing yourself to play the role you know you have to play at some point in your life. What struck me so interesting about GIRL, INTERRUPTED is toward the ending of the film, not when Susanna was discharged from the mental institution but what she said before she was discharged. Susanna’s roommate was Georgina (Lisa called her “Georgie Girl”) who was a pathological liar. When Lisa steals Susanna’s diary and all read it together without Susanna, Georgina is distraught and angry at the things Susanna wrote about her. When Susanna is leaving the institution, she tells Georgina as a sort of peace offering, “You know, what I write in my diary, I don’t know what I’m saying, Georgina. Maybe I’m the liar?” Georgina replies, “Maybe not.” This is how the film gives us mirrors. All the characters in GIRL, INTERRUPTED are mirrors for one another and mirrors for us. If we say, “that Lisa, she sure is crazy!” (and we do many times in the film), we might as well be saying, “that so and so in our life (to include us), he or she sure is crazy!” Of course, I’m talking about “the speck and the plank” (Matthew 7:3-5), as I always seem to be talking about. “Crazy” is NOT insanity. “Crazy” is sanity in a world of insanity. “Crazy” is you and me muddling through an insanely rigid and cold world that wants to label us as SOMETHING so we can be “boxed in,” “you are different than me, and I don’t like that, so you go over there (or “down there,” which is more appropriate) and I’ll stay over here.” If we break free from of all of this, then how we can be “crazy?” Mental institutions are for those who the world beats up in this way and, if I’m being honest, if mental institutions were for people who beat up on others, EVERYONE would be in them and there would be no one walking around free.
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST is another film based on a book, this time by Ken Kesey, and another film set in a mental institution. The central protagonist in the film and book is Randall P. McMurphy, but the book tells the story from the point of view of Chief Bromden, the enormous Indian who all the patients think is “deaf and dumb,” until he speaks to McMurphy and becomes the sole figure who finds redemptive freedom by picking up an enormous fountain and throwing it through a window, escaping the institution and running through the “green pastures” (Psalm 23:2). I think you would have to be living under a rock if you have not heard the name, “Nurse Ratched,” a term synonymous with “mean” and one with a horrifying bedside manner. Ratched is the nurse who despises disruption and disorder, and McMurphy is the epitome of disruption and disorder. Jack Nicholson as McMurphy and Louise Fletcher as Ratched both won Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars for their performances. There was one particular scene that truly stayed with me, and it’s a scene less than a minute where the camera has Nicholson in closeup, no dialogue, but we can hear everything that his character, McMurphy, is saying. It’s toward the end, and what I heard McMurphy say is, “How the hell did I get myself in here? They’re trying to break me, but they won’t do it! They’ll shock me senseless, for sure, but Chief is my friend and if the shock is that bad or if it’s a lobotomy (which it was), Chief won’t let me live like that. He’ll put me out of my misery and then he’ll pick up that fountain that I secretly know he can pick up and throw it through a window and break out of here. His very act of freedom will be how I break out of here, too!” This is EXACTLY what happens in this film. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST is about patients asking, “Who’s the crazy one in here? Is it us for being in here or it is that Nurse Ratched over there behind that glass and the other hospital staff telling us we’re crazy in here?” We don’t need the answer to this question, because Chief gives us the answer, i.e., “crazy or not, I’m outta here!!!!”
Not to get too personal (though I will), I have to talk about my many visits to mental institutions. “Was I crazy?” “Depends who you ask.” But if you’re asking me, I WAS “nuts,” but it was because I was “cracked.” Truth be told, I still think I’m “nuts” (“cracked”) on any given day or, better yet, on any given hour. But what is this “crazy” and this “nuts” if I voluntarily admitted myself into these mental institutions, which I did? Is it “crazy” for someone to voluntarily admit themselves to a mental institution? Is it only “crazy” if someone INvoluntarily is admitted to a mental institution? Maybe the “voluntarily admitted myself” is the “crazy” and the “nuts” part of it, because I’m NOT “crazy” or “nuts” for wanting to understand why I am like I am, why I need what I need, why I think like I think, why I feel what I feel. If you think that is “crazy” or “nuts” about me, challenge yourself to answer these same questions. And notice I didn’t put question marks behind these questions, because you don’t have to answer them if you don’t want to. You can stay “sane” as long as you need to, as long as that is working for you, as long as that is how you “roll,” and just plain as long as you possibly can in an insane world.
So, have I come to a revelation? I think I have. In reviewing GIRL, INTERRUPTED and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, I wanted to come to an understanding of these films’ question, “Am I crazy?,” but instead I seemed to have come to understand my own answers to this question. I understand now that I will NOT allow anyone to call me ANYTHING, nor anyone to “box me” or label me ANYTHING. And if they call me ANYTHING or “box me” or label me ANYTHING, I don’t have to answer them back. I can hear what they called me and I can sit with what they called me and ask myself, “is this speck or is this plank?” But none of this has to alter me inside in any way, shape or form….unless I let it. I’ve been called A LOT in my life, some good, some not so good, and that has all altered me in more ways than I care to mention. But what can’t alter me RIGHT NOW is what ANYONE chooses to call me, “box me” or label me. I struggle like Kaysen and McMurphy to understand myself better. I have been both Lisa and Nurse Ratched on more than one occasion. But what I DON’T struggle with or what I have NOT been both (actually, I’m lying….I AM BOTH!!!!) is me finding my own path, journeying, discovering, weeping, laughing, etc. I think they call this “living.”
“Am I crazy?” “I don’t know. What do YOU think?” or, more appropriately asked, “I don’t know. what do YOU think about asking yourself this same question?”
(God’s Sonnet by Timothy J. Verret; “it’s how I cope to hope in Hem and Shawl, opted and fashioned by ‘All Abba!’ for me.”)
You’re living it all for you and for them.
You’re serving your own ego. Martha served
to impress them, her apron a “hurt hem.”
The Hem of His Garment is you deserved.
I do it all to ask, “Aren’t you impressed?”
You respond, “Not really. Why? You’re ashamed?”
All I know is Abba, The Father, blessed
me to touch His Hem, so why me acclaimed?
“All Abba!” all we cry. We’re adopted
to sonship, The Father we impress all.
Let them have their say. Says Abba, “Opted!
Opted and fashioned you mine, Hem and Shawl.”
Bless their hems, they love you as best, “Ah ha!”
Bless our hems, we love them best, “All Abba!”
(God’s Sonnet by Timothy J. Verret; “it’s how I cope to hope in vegan for Jesus Christ, gorging on The Mystique Physique of Jesus, My Bread and Blood.”)
You eat the bread but you still go hungry.
You drink the blood but you’re still a parched throat.
You eat the world’s buffet of food junkie.
You drink the world’s bloodshed until you’re bloat.
I eat the Bread of Christ; yes, I’m vegan.
I drink the Blood of Jesus; yes, not flesh.
Bread and Blood of Spirit is Feeling;
bread and blood of world is “eat-meat” unfresh.
“Eat and drink My Bread and Blood, My Mystique,”
says Jesus. “For you, They’re My Cells and Yeast.
Fast in the world but gorge on My Physique.
Don’t ‘eat-meat’ or drink blood from God’s ‘Good’ Beast!”
Noah’s Ark had boys and beasts for The Flood.
New Flood Coming? Jesus, My Bread and Blood.
(a “carpe vita tua” [“seize your life”] film review by Timothy J. Verret)
Once again, God has the most impeccable timing of bringing me films to see at EXACTLY the impeccable timing God wants me to see them. This is the case in point of my watching of DEAD POETS SOCIETY. It’s a film about “carpe diem” (“seize the day”) but for me, the film elevates the viewer to “carpe vita tua” (“seize your life”) while one still has all those “days to seize” of one’s inevitably short life.
DEAD POETS SOCIETY is directed by Peter Weir (WITNESS  and FEARLESS ) and stars Robin Williams as a very unorthodox teacher, John Keating, in a very orthodox school, and features a cast of very talented young actors. The students have never been taught by anyone quite like Keating. The first day in Keating’s class, Keating has every student rip out (actually, tear and shred) the pages of the introduction, “Understanding Poetry,” to the book they will be studying. Keating in his unorthodox teaching proceeds to help each and every student find their own voice not only in poetry but also in their own lives. This is vital because there are three students highlighted in this film who need to find their voices. There is Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) who wants to be an actor though his father wants him to be anything but an actor. There is Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles) who wants the most beautiful girl he ever saw to fall in love him even though she is way out of his league. And then there is Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) who is painfully shy and feels a deep sense of low self-worth (boy, can I identify with that!). It’s Anderson, in particular, of great interest to me, because what Keating is able to teach Anderson is something Keating teaches all of us, i.e., “carpe vita tua” (“seize your life”).
The late Robin Williams is who we all know (knew) and love (loved), and his performance in DEAD POETS SOCIETY is unlike anything Williams has (had) shown us before. The “manic” Williams is the “merciful” Keating in Williams’ great performance in this film. John Keating teaches unorthodox methods that the faculty deem careless and irresponsible. What the faculty can’t grasp is that the rigid rules and regulations they impose on their students is what will impose on their students conforming to rigid rules and regulations and, basically, their students becoming robots. But that’s what the faculty wants, i.e., they want robots because then they won’t be challenged when it comes to their rigid rules and regulations. In school or not, the world wants robots, too. Robots have no freedom to be who they are created by God to be. A school (or a world) that turns out robots at graduation is a school (or a world) that turns out robots to live robotic lives. Keating won’t have that imposed on his students, and he goes to great lengths to ensure his students are exactly who God created them to be, i.e., precious and free. Keating probably wouldn’t admit he’s doing God’s Work in DEAD POETS SOCIETY, but this is EXACTLY what Keating is doing, i.e., doing God’s Work with his students to teach them, “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). Keating is “good, pleasing, and perfect” to God for Keating is doing God’s Will with God’s Students.
Perry auditions for a play and gets the role of Puck in William Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. Sidebar: As an actor myself, I remember doing a Puck soliloquy in an acting class and because my elements are fire and wind, Puck’s elements, one of the students in my class exclaimed, “Timothy, that’s the best Puck I’ve ever seen!” Perry defies his father by playing free-spirited Puck and because of this, Perry’s NOT free-spirited father tells Perry he will be leaving this orthodox school to go into another orthodox military academy. Perry can’t accept the caged “orthodox life” that Keating taught him never to live, so Perry accepts the free “unorthodox death.” Overstreet conforms not to this world and pursues his romantic interests toward the most beautiful girl he ever saw and in a very touching scene, when Overstreet is in the audience next to her watching Perry in his play and grabs for her hand and probably because of the spell the play casts, she’s led to grasp Overstreet’s hand right back. And then there is Anderson. Thank God director Weir understands that Anderson is his shining “pupil” in DEAD POETS SOCIETY. When Keating is let go from his teaching position, it is Anderson who makes the first move to not conform to this decision. One of Keating’s teaching methods was to have each of his students stand on a desk so they could get a newer and better perspective on their lives from Up There. When Keating is leaving the class for the last time, it is Anderson who is the first one who stands up on his desk and says to Keating, “O Captain, my Captain” (from a poem by Walt Whitman, what Keating taught his students to call him). It is also Anderson who director Weir gives us as the final image of the film, so that we are left with, “Anderson, O Captain, my Captain, we see you up on that desk from where we are sitting, and we join you Up There!” Anderson is now “carpe diem” (“seize the day”) when Keating leaves but, more importantly in that final image now and forever, Anderson is “carpe vita tua” (“seize your life”).
With an Oscar-winning screenplay by Tom Schulman, DEAD POETS SOCIETY is a film where we are all invited to graduate, in school or not, to a higher plane in life and a higher life on a plane of “seizing your life.” It is a film that invites us to be fearless, daring, courageous, to “not conform to this world but renew your mind.” Robin Williams in an inspiring performance gives us John Keating who takes the minds and hearts of each of his students and gives them an “O Captain, my Captain” who they can follow to nonconformity, In doing so, we also can follow Keating, in school or not, to leave behind our robotic lives and discover what is God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will,” and this will is to “seize our lives” and NOT be held captive to any “O Captain, my Captain” who wants to teach us to conform.
“Rules were made to be broken.” Indeed, they were! But we don’t break rules just to break them. We break rules to be taught by God (and Keating) that we “break free” from conformity, because we won’t be robots for anyone when we “seize your life.”
(God’s Sonnet by Timothy J. Verret; “it’s how I cope in not holding back the love of forgiving myself through ‘The Forgiveness King,’ Jesus Christ.”)
You can’t forgive yourself. What will it take
for you to say, “All I’ve done wrong, All done?”
You weren’t You back then. You were you heartbreak,
feared days of sun. Now, you’re You through The Son.
Can I forgive myself, forgetting me
of the past who lived for the victim trap?
I thought, “Look! I’m on The Cross! Can’t you see
what’s done to me? Save me!” Christ said, “Mine! Scrap!”
“Forgive yourself for I forgive it all,”
says Jesus. “Listen not to others ‘blame.'”
If He forgave it “Father God,” our call
is, “So do I forgive it all the same.”
“Forgive them, Father. They know not The Fee.”
He Paid It, we cash It, “I forgive me.”
(God’s Sonnet by Timothy J. Verret; “it’s how I cope to hope in Me! Originality! Jesus’ Thoughts, my ‘taughts.'”)
You’re an original, no doubt, a gem.
You’re a special soul with a special dream.
Pursue this with fervor, run it with Him,
commit it to Original God….GLEAM!
I’m an original me, though I doubt
if I’m original enough. Plain louse?
God says, “Wonderfully made.” I say, “I’m grout.”
I’m original mortar for God’s House.
“I speak not my own original thoughts,”
says Jesus. “But I’m still Me, Jesus Christ!
You be you, but still Me; My thoughts, your ‘taughts.’
Original one, for you, unique sacrifice.”
There is no such thing as normality.
All there is? You! Originality!
(a painting and poem by Timothy J. Verret)
For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known. – 1 Corinthians 13:12
I see through a glass
face to face
I know in part
shall I know
even as also I am known
there WILL be
(God’s Sonnet by Timothy J. Verret; “it’s how I cope to hope in drawing nearer to Jesus just for today, this daily leavened bread, all the race to The End.”)
You draw near for the nearness of one touch,
one hope that will near you to one embrace.
Is It that near The End? Is It that much
closer until you have no one to race?
I draw near to God, nearer when I’m far
from God’s Touch and Embrace. I am distance
when my heart is, “come closer, please.” Sidebar:
Draw near to me despite my resistance.
“Draw near to God ’cause its near to The End,”
says Jesus. “It’s not now but it is close.”
Get nearer to Jesus ’cause He’s our Friend.
“Come closer, Jesus, please, ’cause we’re morose.”
Let anyone with ears take to His Hear.
God’s Love SO close, so draw near for It’s near.
(an “I love you and ALWAYS will!” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
Even though I’m a HUGE (and I’m talking HUGE!) Jessica Lange fan and even though I typically love those “rag-to-riches” films like SWEET DREAMS about country singer Patsy Cline, I was not prepared to write a film review because this film was a bit “TV-movieish” for such an intensely-feeling person as myself, BUT there was a line in this film that I can’t shake, as it has stayed with me for several days now since seeing SWEET DREAMS. It is a line that Patsy’s husband, Charlie, has her speak to him over and over (two times, actually). Patsy is actually a “patsy” often enough to her wild-and-crazy husband, Charlie, and when their marriage seems headed for divorce, Charlie wakes up Patsy in the middle of the night and takes her to the bar where they first met. They are dancing outside in the rain, and then Charlie asks Patsy to look him in the eyes and say with the utmost conviction, “You screw up a lot, Charlie, but I love you and I always will!” She struggles to say the line the first time but the second time makes it stick. I think the reason I can’t shake this line is because this is the EXACT line God speaks to me every day of my life, i.e., “You screw up a lot, Timothy, but I love you and I always will!” So, given this line, I’ll write a film review of SWEET DREAMS keeping this line in mind.
In SWEET DREAMS, Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline doesn’t “screw up” one bit; she is completely marvelous and completely stunning. I loved Lange larger-than-life (I can see that on a bumper sticker or a T-shirt) as Patsy Cline, giving this driven-to-succeed singer an emotional landscape (a term synonymous with the acting of Jessica Lange) that, even though the film is “TV-movieish” as mentioned, no man-made TV screen (nor movie screen, for that matter) can hardly contain. The landscape of Lange (I can see that on a bumper sticker or T-shirt, too) is impeccable and not matched by many, many actresses coming or going and leaves us with “I love you and always will, Ms. Lange” every time Lange takes to the screen (and Lange is pretty much in every scene in this film, so that’s a lot of “every times”). Ed Harris plays Charlie, and he’s also great, as is Ann Hedgeworth as Patsy’s mother. I’m reminded of another rags-to-riches film, COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER (1980), a much better film than SWEET DREAMS, with an equally as-impressive-as-Lange’s performance from Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn. So, what makes COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER “filmish” and SWEET DREAMS “TV-movieish?” It certainly isn’t the lead performances; let’s get that straight right off the bat. While Spacek won the Oscar for Best Actress for COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER, Lange did not win the Oscar for SWEET DREAMS, and to not give Lange an Oscar for ANY performance she has given or will give is always a “we didn’t love you this year, Ms. Lange,” which is always a total letdown for me. I think the main difference in these two films comes down to their screenplays. COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER has a very rich screenplay with memorable lines and attention to time and space and place. SWEET DREAMS, outside of the line I mentioned above which was very personal for me, has a pretty “uneventful” screenplay and not much attention to time and space and place. It’s the difference in these screenplays where in SWEET DREAMS, Patsy gets hit by her husband and he calls her “slut” and “whore,” whereas in COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER, Lynn also gets hit by her husband and she says, “You promised Daddy you wouldn’t hit me and look at you already.” Can you hear and, more importantly, feel the difference?
I also want to make the above clear that it’s not so much that Lange lip-syncs Patsy’s tunes in SWEET DREAMS while Spacek in COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER sings Lynn’s tunes with her own voice. That is very minor to me, because how could we possibly fault any actress if her singing voice lends or won’t lend credibility to her real-life singer’s songs? It’s a moot (or “mute,” whether to sing or not) point anyway, because watching Lange lip-sync Patsy’s tunes is like watching Patsy sing Patsy’s tunes, in part to a total marriage of song-to-mouth which Lange masters. And like Spacek, Lange in her performance goes beyond songs and mouth to give us body and heart and soul as she sings, something great singers (Barbra Streisand, comes to mind) know how “great” all of that truly is. Spacek did all of this with her own voice, hence one reason, maybe the only reason, she won the Oscar and Lange didn’t (of note, Spacek won the Oscar over Mary Tyler Moore’s brilliant performance in my favorite film of all time, ORDINARY PEOPLE of the same year; maybe Ms. Moore should have sung her part in ORDINARY PEOPLE, as it would have probably made her film family a whole lot happier!).😂
What SWEET DREAMS does have going for it is Jessica Lange, mostly, and Ed Harris and Ann Wedgeworth, in three terrific performances. It also has going for it Patsy Cline’s songs which, as the film details, started off as “honky-tonk” songs until Patsy met with a manager who told her it was her love songs, her “softness,” that was her meal ticket….and everyone ate it up! Songs like “Sweet Dreams” and “Crazy” and “I Fall To Pieces” are worth the money to buy the soundtrack alone for SWEET DREAMS. Patsy just melts our hearts and sings our sorrows in and out of love (albeit, “codependent” love) with her beautifully and deeply-nuanced voice and beautifully emotional and haunting attention to time and space and place. Unrequited love and “love on the rocks” is all about beautifully emotional and haunting attention to time and space and place, i.e., “time” as in late-night crying, “space” as in bed for weeks, and “place” as in a heart that “falls to pieces.” This is all where SWEET DREAMS excels in the sweet language of love, i.e., “I love you and I ALWAYS will!.” Lange gives Patsy Cline everything she’s got to bring us all this sweet language of love.
“You screw up a lot, Patsy, but I love you and I always will!” Same goes for me, same goes for you, and same goes for Jessica Lange who “I love you and ALWAYS will!”