Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Monday, June 16, 2003

Failure of the Day: Cinematic Medical Memoirs

Finally saw Frida this weekend, which is what I did instead of going to Bucky's birthday dinner (because I was still just too utterly exhausted on Saturday night from my long work week to move off the couch). I loved Frida, and if it wasn't the Nancyest movie ever, it was pretty damn close. I thought they really kind of underplayed the disability/ medical hell part, and I would have liked to see more of that.

But then that got me thinking about what the Nancyest movie ever is, and I think it's this little indie film called Medicine Show, which is a romantic comedy about a guy with colon cancer. That sounds pretty unlikely, I know, and neither romantic nor funny, but so it goes. It's a pretty terrific movie that had no theatrical or video release; it's only ever been on cable. I stumbled upon its first-ever airing last month, which might make me the first person other than the director's mother to see it.

It was one of those rare-for-other-people-but-not-for-me kind of coincidences. In fact, I can tell you exactly when I saw it because it was the day that I wrote the "Reading Material" blog entry, which makes it May 16, interestingly enough, one month ago today. In that entry, I lamented not being able to find a book to read about a woman with a lot of diseases, because I hadn't finished writing it yet. What I was getting it is this thing that I am nearly always looking for: that specific combination of medical hell, beauty, and a precise marbling of Fuck Off. It's very hard to find, as you might imagine. I lamented the lack of it in this blog at 11 AM; Medicine Show debuted at 3 PM. Would that all my pleas were answered so promptly.

All of which is either very encouraging or very discouraging, depending on either luck or fame. Because I can see something like a little genre developing for these kinds of stories, and one wouldn't necessarily think they would be incredibly widely appreciated, but the difference between the reception of Frida and the reception of Medicine Show is pretty stark—Oscar noms vs. a Friday afternoon debut on Cinemax. It might be that people are more interested in the medical history and attitudes of famous artists, especially when you get to see Selma Hayak's excellent breasts several times in the bargain, rather than just Jonathon Silverman's excellent ass.

None of which is to say that Medicine Show is as good as Frida—it isn't—only that there's a thematic similarity between the two. And that kind of puts me back where I started because I don't know if Frida was more successful than Medicine Show because of the whole famous artist/excellent breasts/better film aspect or because Frida didn't take place almost entirely in a hospital. I know this though: if it was really because of the latter, I'm seriously screwed.


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