The first hour of this drama details the vocational and familial humiliations of a strikingly short, round-faced Dustin Hoffman, who writes jingles for a living.
One’s discomfort is not eased by a building distaste for his fidgety, garrulous character. Dustin’s evisceration intercuts the dating misadventures of Emma Thompson, for whom one feels no distaste at all. On the contrary, one wonders what’s wrong with the male population of England – as if one doesn’t know.
They meet halfway through the picture. Shortly thereafter, Emma persuades Dustin to return to his daughter’s London wedding, from which he has been all but explicitly excluded. There, they are seated at the children’s table.
Dustin makes a very nice toast and thanks to Emma’s cheery influence, is warmly accepted at last. Dustin and Emma agree to meet the following day. He does not show up because of a minor arrhythmia which lands him in the hospital absent the pills he left home in Cleveland or somewhere. They soon get it all straightened out. The end.
This movie raises an interesting question: What does one do when one’s significant other -- the very inventive and discriminating person to whom one so frequently turns for fresh ideas and telling phrases, upon whom one relies for inspiration and guidance in the production of cinematic observations and other literary works -- reveals self as well satisfied with the described sequence, viewing it as romantic in a good way?
Does one find a different room – perhaps inadvertently implying distain for the other’s predilections? Does one uncork a snappy rat-tat-tat of smart cracks or merely punctuate a strained silence with non-committal sighs?
None of the above. One remains in place, resists the urge to self-expression, and thinks of other things. For what is accomplished by slinking away, mitigating another’s joy, or affecting superior wisdom?
By rising to the requirements of one’s better self, one will often wrest ultimate advantage from banal, tawdry, even borderline-degrading experiences. And, looking back, one will never have anything to be ashamed of.