Home is undefinable. It’s not a place, not even a feeling, but a million different things at once. Built upon a mosaic of memories, thoughts, emotions and ideals, it is unique to every single individual, and endures and transforms with them throughout their life. It’s dually impermanent and ineradicable, something that can manifest in friends, family, and art – specifically, for me, in films. My home lies in films rendered through battered DVDs re-watched countless times in my childhood, films that make me laugh till my lungs creak and collapse, and films that melt my heart into a puddle of emotion. Some are objectively ridiculous, others genuinely splendid, but above all – they bring me ease and comfort like no other films I’ve seen.
I managed to memorize the first few verses of All Star by Smash Mouth (famously featured in the opening credits) purely by re-watching this film over and over in the third grade. That’s how obsessive I was, and for good reason. Yes, subjectively, it’s a really great time, but it’s also an excellently layered (wink-wink) and structured film. I clung onto the satirical fantasy swarming this film with utter joy when I was younger, gleefully basking in Princess Fiona’s brash and beautiful personality, and enraptured by the unique romance completely separate of the Disney films that were dominating most childhoods.
Combined with the film’s body positive message, the central romance impressed upon me the concept of true, faceless, unconditional love that other films like Cinderella and The Little Mermaid lacked greatly. The fact that Fiona’s character development is equal with Shrek’s and that she’s given ample time to shine (despite not being the film’s titular character) also made a huge impression on me. There’s been plenty of ridicule over the past few years, but all memes aside – Shrek was the cornerstone of my childhood, and a film that kind of changed my life. I’m reminded of that with every wonderfully familiar re-watch.
4.) I Love You, Man
This film is a more recent addition to my mental “Comfort Films” catalog, but nevertheless one of my favorites. The soundtrack is killer, the L.A. setting is warmly immersive, and above all Jason Segel and Paul Rudd’s chemistry is off the charts. I adore films with genuine portrayals of male friendship, that don’t shy away or throw a “no homo” at platonic male intimacy. The friendship in this film is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
The humor, which drives Segel and Rudd’s chemistry, is top-notch as well. It thrives off of the awkwardness of situations as well as the genuine camaraderie between the two leads. It’s also more low-key than most gross-out mainstream comedies, which may be why it’s not as widely recognized and loved. I can’t exactly pinpoint exactly what made me fall in love with the film – maybe it was the scene with Paul Rudd screaming under the Venice boardwalk while Vampire Weekend plays in the background – but I found myself re-watching it over and over just within the last summer. It’s absolutely addictive, an instant serotonin injection, a spoonful of warmth. Simply put: I love I Love You, Man.
Blind scorn is what kept me away from truly watching and enjoying this film when I was younger, due to the intense criticism of the story and fandom I was surrounded by. But the recent Twilight Renaissance, in which there was an online resurgence of appreciation for the film series, gave me the chance to revisit it with a new perspective – and I became hooked. I finally understood why the large fan base for the amusingly melodramatic film series has persisted, and though all the installments are entertaining in their own right, my appreciation was strongest for the first film. Completely unique, it opens up the series and sets a high bar that the films succeeding it fail to reach – largely thanks to Catherine Hardwicke’s female perspective lending an appropriate slant on the story.
The ridiculous dialogue and acting, moody setting, fantastic soundtrack and score (shout out to Carter Burwell), and elaborate story-line meld in a delightfully kitschy way, all awash in blue-tone color grading. It’s become a pop culture landmark for good reason, with instantly recognizable scenes like Edward’s vampire reveal (“I know what you are.” “Say it.”) and the iconic baseball scene, as well as an overwhelmingly 2000s feel that evokes strong nostalgia now. It’s compelling, unique, and curiously enjoyable in a way I can’t put into words. But I find myself continually falling back into re-watches without complain, and I doubt that will change anytime soon.
I struggle to remember a time before this film, when I wasn’t swept away by the gloriously gory story of Dave Lizewski and his alter-ego, Kick-Ass. Uniquely intimate (in light of the current Marvel and DC films ruling the superhero genre), the film is an underdog tale rife with satire and ridiculousness – but with the self-awareness to make up for it. It poses the question: “why hasn’t a truly average person become a superhero?” and then answers it with rapid-fire violence and a hell of a lot of style. It oozes cool in every sense, and is absolutely entrancing.
Not only was it my introduction to Matt Vaughn’s distinct direction, but it opened my eyes to the magic of editing in film, and what brilliant action movies look and sound like. It was the catalyst for the comics (primarily Marvel) affair I had throughout middle school, and though it’s a phase long behind me, it’s definitely shaped me into the person I am today. It encapsulates my middle school experience, an era that, though embarrassing and slightly painful to reminisce on, was the start of me carving out my own identity. The role that Kick-Ass has played in that journey is irreplaceable, and I will continue to revisit the film throughout my life to give thanks for what it has given me, and rejoice in the action-packed wonder that it is.
1.) Frances Ha
The perfect comfort film. A plot-less, meandering tale clocking in at a brisk 86 minutes, that asks very little of its viewer and offers in abundance. I can’t recall precisely how many teary-eyed and exhaustion inspired re-watches I’ve had with this film, because it has turned into something I reach for during my lowest of lows. It’s re-assuring in its solid black and white color grading and in Frances’s messy and careless disposition. She finds beauty in the broken, the crooked and strange, and asks us to do the same. “I like things that look like mistakes,” she says at one point, in reference to her emotionally charged and gorgeously clumsy choreography piece. She’s a bright and hyper soul, rarely in the same setting for more than 5 minutes onscreen. The narrative drift is grounded due to her, and instead of large jumps from Sacramento to NYC to Paris feeling alienating, it just feels like a new playground for Frances. A second home.
This comfort and openness that Frances emanates is something I was able to absorb readily during my first watch, and I was shocked to feel it intensify during every following viewing experience. I love each re-watch more than the last, and that’s not something I can say for many films. It’s the way that Frances adapts through mistakes with ease, and proffers that sense of ease to everyone she comes in contact with that has kept me coming back again and again. It drifts through the screen as well, as if Frances herself is embracing the audience. It heals me no matter how broken I am, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. This film is my home.