Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Movies: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

So you've probably seen E.T. like 600 times and you can't believe that I hadn't ever, until now. But it came out the year I was born, and we didn't watch movies when I was a kid, and what teenager wants to see a ten-year-old kid's movie? And anyway, I have a feeling that I would have been deathly afraid of E.T. In all honesty, I was a bit frightened watching it now, and I'll be 26 this week. I was also terribly upset. I cried, and cried, and cried, starting in the middle (when E.T.'s ravaged body is found in the creek in the woods, and he's all pink and emaciated and about to die) and going all the way through the elating rescue, and to the end, when E.T.'s spaceship comes back to get him, and he has to say goodbye to his new friends. I'm generally quite wary—even disdainful—of the word "magical," but there's no way around it; not only are flying bicycles and instantly healed wounds and childhood friends that parents can't see magical (all found in the movie), but the darned thing is just magical all around; just the sound of E.T.'s gravelly voice, simultaneously ancient and naive, saying "Ell-i-ott" (the name of his friend and the movie's human hero) moves one to profound realizations about the beauty of language and communication and friendship and the development of each of these (E.T. is like a baby and an wizened old man at the same time—both cute and hideous). And of course, there is the cutest childhood performance of all time by Drew Barrymore.

And somehow, all of this cuteness is never cloying, and the profundity never reaches or grasps, talks over our heads, or down to us. The movie makes us see the world with fresh eyes, kids again; we're scared, we're sad, we're worried, we're triumphant, we're in love (the non-sexual kind, which is plain and simple and not at all confusing, unlike the adult version). That's the magic; I wish it could last forever (without, perhaps, so many tears).

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