Nostalgia’s

Kyle Smith

Last week, in the wake of the greatest day of college football in the history of the fucking world, some friends and I stumbled upon Richie Rich, which we caught in its first half-hour; we became entranced in a spell only Blank Check could break. Even the promise of beer failed to stop me from reading the film not as a story about a little boy who had it all (except, of course, for friends); but rather as a Hitchcockian homage concerning the butler, Cadbury, who becomes a surrogate father, finds love and beats up the guy who didn’t play Rudy.

But before Richie Rich, and sometime after that Notre Dame player made a textbook tackle that unfairly cost the Irish a win against USC, we were interrupted by the final scene in The Wedding Singer. The Wedding Singer was once a pretty important part in my life, as it is for most people our age. It never helps when you once dated someone who had the same silkish shirt as Drew Barrymore’s character. It only hurts more when you realize Barrymore’s only wearing that shirt ’cause the movie’s ga-ga for the ’80s, and that the real-life silk shirt that once held such promise and passion is either buried deep in a closet or gathering dust in a Goodwill, never to be seen again.

That’s what nostalgia is, after all, and The Wedding Singer is largely to blame for our generation’s propensity to love a decade we don’t remember. It’s also 100 percent responsible for the popularity of foul-mouthed grandmas. Poofy hair, oversized T-shirts, synth-pop; this means as much to me as the word “flapper.” To me, the 1980s don’t mean brightly colored clothes; my mother dressed me because, oh yeah, I was five years old in 1989. I didn’t listen to Journey, and though I did have a Teddy Ruxpin, I repped the Chipmunks on that shit.

But The Wedding Singer is able to convey a sense of sadness and loss, filtered through rose-colored happy glasses. It makes a strong case for the emotional rewards of cheap nostalgia; the past perfected in ways the present overlooks. The film ends with Sandler on an airplane in first class, after some bad Flock of Seagulls joke. Sandler tells the entire cabin his sob story about how Barrymore is going to marry some first-class a-hole. Then he discovers she’s on the flight. So he goes into coach with his guitar and sings a lovely song about “growing old with you.” And the boyfriend gets his due. And Billy Idol wears leather and goes, “Right!” Lovely.

What struck me with the scene is its ridiculous sense of unbridled – even childish – romance. Maybe the oft-criticized regressive nature of Sandler’s bread-and-butter vehicles was simply applied to a love story, replacing bathroom humor with lovesick hope, idealized by a comedian who was never really happy (it’s this reading of Sandler that only reiterates my claim that Punch-Drunk Love is one of the crowning achievements in cinema history).

I haven’t seen The Notebook, but based on its AWW (AWay-message Worth), the film sounds like a transcendental meditation on love and beauty. But I’m fairly confident that it’s not. Rather, I assume – and this is totally unfounded – that The Notebook continues in the tradition of Love Story and Pretty Woman, selling a highly sentimentalized, idealized and completely implausible version of love that an unintentionally brilliant friend of mine calls “stupid love.”

So when Sandler croons, “I’ll even let you hold the remote control,” in his impossible fantasy, there is some real sense of emotion. It’s not the “fake love” that chic culture critic Chuck Klosterman writes of – “fake love” implies nothing. “Stupid love” is just love for, well, stupid people: It comes signed, sealed, delivered with no room for imagination. Throw in a well-timed death or an acoustic guitar and teenage girls will weep.

I say this, and yet find it difficult to find myself not swayed by The Wedding Singer’s considerable pull. Maybe there’s something about love sometimes being too complicated and too complex for us to comprehend. Maybe there’s something really nice about having it all right there, on a flat screen, with people finally being happy in the face of unseen problems and difficult futures. Movies don’t let us know of the everyday pains and troubles of the real world because they can’t. The simplifying nature of linear storytelling has no room for the realities of life.

Last week I wrote about the beauty of college football; three days later was the aforementioned greatest day of college football in the history of the fucking world. Now I write about love. This Saturday might make my life turn into a John Cusack film. Or a new Cameron Crowe movie. Jesus, I hope not.4

Communication senior Kyle Smith is the PLAY film columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]