ONE STAR – Destructive Values
What does it take to really change a life? Will money, a new home, a new marriage, a new family transform us, or are these things just outward apparel we put on, leaving our inner selves unchanged?
In one of the most disturbing and dysfunctional films we’ve seen, “She’s So Lovely” proudly proclaims that a person cannot change.
Though the film implies that in this instance the lack of change is due to the persistence of love, what is shown to us is not a healthy love of two committed souls encouraging one another’s growth, but is instead a dysfunctional codependence of two deeply damaged persons whose addiction to one another continues to destroy their lives.
Although the plot of the film could have been an intriguing one yielding a valuable exploration of human behavior, there is nothing redeeming about this film. There is no person in the film who is presented in a healthy, moral or growing manner.
This lack of nurturing love and spiritual presence is the reason that change and growth is impossible.
The story begins with a hysterical young pregnant woman, Maureen (Robin Wright Penn), whose psychotic husband is missing.
Maureen is distraught. With the anxiety of an addict in need of a fix, she frantically tries to find him. But her husband, Eddie (Sean Penn) is not only unavailable, but we soon discover that he is in the habit of abandoning her.
This is the nature of addictive relationships. Fused to one another in clinging desire, they must flee from one another to “catch their emotional breath.”
Maureen turns for help to the local bar where she is like a member of the family. It is there that she is known, although it becomes painfully clear that she is not safe in their care.
Maureen’s two friends, Shorty (Harry Dean Stanton) and Georgie (Debi Mazar) share concerned glances with each other as they watch Maureen’s alcoholic tremors, but they offer no act of real care.
Obeying the “live and let live” beliefs of their lives, they simply watch as Maureen is taken advantage of by another bar patron, a predator who gets her drunk, beats and rapes her.
In true dysfunctional fashion, Maureen then sets up Eddie to “do something crazy,” while claiming to be keeping him from doing it.
When Eddie does respond by having a psychotic break and shooting a mental health attendant, he is hospitalized for 10 years.
Maureen's response is to cut off all contact with him whatsoever. She doesn’t call him, doesn’t visit him, divorces him, marries someone else, has children, and begins a whole new life.
It is here that the film is so disappointing. In a single frame with the words “Ten years later,” we move into Maureen’s new world.
But we have no idea how she got there. How did she get together with her new husband, Joey (John Travolta)? What kind of relationship do they have? What kind of person is he? What changes did Maureen make, if any, to become a wealthy suburban housewife compared to her earlier life of poverty and alcoholism in the inner-city?
Instead of giving us what could have been an intriguing study of human lives in the process of growth and change, we are given only the superficial external changes. Maureen now lives in a very wealthy suburban house with her daughter by Eddie and her two daughters by Joey, she dresses differently, has a new hair color and a whole new life.
But it is not really new. When she is told that Eddie is getting out of the hospital, she decides to leave everything new to return once more to her life with Eddie, Shorty and Georgie.
The reaction of her new husband is so dysfunctional, immature and unwise, that Joey is shown to be just as “crazy,” as Eddie. His actions are so caricatured that we lose sympathy for him and find it difficult to relate to or care about any of the troubled people portrayed.
“She’s So Lovely” presents a picture of human beings that is so dysfunctional and spiritually lacking that it removes hope that anyone can ever grow and change.
However, we know that this simply is not true. Unhealthy and immoral lives can be changed. Not easily, and not without God’s help, but growth and change is what true life is all about.