I love “simple.”
I can’t do “simple” but I love it. (My failure at “simple” due, in part, to my obsessive self-questioning, such as the most recent, “Is it ‘I can’t do ‘simple’, or is it ‘I can’t do ‘simple’ myself’?” “And should the words ‘simple’ in the previous sentence have full quotation marks around them or just half?” You cannot do “simple” grappling with paralyzing conundrums like the foregoing. Nor can you use the word “conundrums.” Or is it conundra? You see what I’m talking about?)
It’s not that I automatically love things because I can’t do them myself. (There, “myself” is necessary. Or is it? Yeah, it probably is. I’ll tell ya, I can’t imagine Hank Williams having these problems. Williams’s best works were described as, “Three chords and the truth.” I bet he never thought, “I wonder if I should slip another chord in there.” He just stuck to the three and the rest is history.)
There are definitely things I cannot do myself that I don’t love. Oregami, for example. I can’t do oregami but that does not make me reflexively all gaga about it. I mean, oregami’s fine, if you have time on your hands and an appropriately weighted sheet of paper. Now that I think of it, origami is also “simple”. Demonstrating that within “simple”, there lies a subsection of “simple” I care minimally about.
I never thought about that before. Look at that, a new insight! And you guys were there at its arrival. You know, we should all get together and talk about that. “Do you remember what you were doing when I my illuminating insight showed up?” That could be a crackling good conversation.
Now, before I spend the entire post on the extraneous “sidetrack” of “simple” – demonstrating if more evidence were required that I’m not – let me tell you about Maudie.
Maudie is unqualifiedly “simple.”
And it’s wonderful.
Let me also report that Maudie is the best film set in Nova Scotia I have ever seen in my life, and I have seen… another one. Goin’ Down The Road. And Maudie’s better than that one. Though Goin’ Down The Road was not too shabby itself. Better than anything I’ve seen coming out of New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island, I can tell you. Or Ontario, for that matter, and they’re supposed to be the English-language, cultural standard-bearers. And there’s little Nova Scotia, beating it like the proverbial rug. And they’ve got coal there, to boot!
Maudie is the biographical depiction of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis, a physically-challenged (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) painter of her rustic, proximate surroundings – flowers, birds, a team of oxen – who becomes ultimately recognized enough to merit inclusion in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and catch the enthusiasm of vice-president Richard M. Nixon. (Which triggered a glimmer of respect for the disgraced former president.)
Seeking an escape from the domination of her aunt/guardian, Maudie hooks up with a cold and unbending door-to-door fish peddler named Everett Lewis, insinuating herself into his one-room-and-a-sleeping-loft abode as his personal housekeeper.
The movie portrays Maudie’s developing recognition as an artist, along with Maudie and Everett’s unlikely relationship, which evolves eventually into marriage, although a demonstrably bumpy one. At one point, after a devastating argument, Everett reveals to his buddy/coworker,
“Well, she left me.”
To which his knowing associate replies,
“What took her so long?”
That’s an example of the pared-down authenticity of the exchanges matching, in its screenwriting predilection, the uncluttered clarity in Maudie’s artwork. Another example:
Maudie and Everett deliver some post-card-sized paintings to a storekeeper who offers them for sale to the public. When the storekeeper dismissingly remarks, “My five year-old son can do that” the gruffly protective Everett shoots back, “Well, he didn’t. Maud did. And you’re an idiot.”
One final example, because I like it:
Sharing a bed together (‘cause there’s only one bed in the cabin), Everett experiences some inevitable “stirrings”, and as he is about to make his move, Maudie, responding with neither outrage nor trepidation instead calmly inquires,
“Are you going to do that?”
(Spoiler Alert: He doesn’t. Maudie demanding a marital quid pro quo.)
Sally Hawkins, whom I have seen and enjoyed before, most particularly in Mike Leigh movies, is – yes, simple – but also credible and beguiling. Ethan Hawke is too pretty by half – no visible signs of tattoos or eye-threatening fish hook mishaps – but he’s such a consummate actor you come to accept that this admirable physical specimen has not left Nova Scotia behind and traipsed off to Hollywood to find assured fame and fortune as a movie star.
Not to get too “criticky” about things, but Maudie’s photography is frequently “too beautiful”, clashing with the guileless unshowiness in Maudie’s paintings. It’s almost as if the Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce said, “While you are filming the movie, could you make it so people will want to come here?” (My research reveals that Maudie was actually shot in Newfoundland and Labrador, so apparently they couldn’t.) (Further research reveals the relocation was precipitated by the Nova Scotia provincial government’s rescinding its subsidizing film credit program. Making me a big smarty-pants.)
Not all movies need to be Maudie.
But I am glad that, once in a blue moon, one of them is.
“Once in a blue moon.” That’s kind of how Maudie would put things. Whoa! Could I have possibly caught the “simplicity” bug?
But most likely, it will wear off.
Hey, at least I didn’t say “dissipate.”