I’m missing my home in Santa Monica because I’ve been away for a while. Fall is creeping up here in the Midwest, with gloomy skies and changing leaves. While some of it’s nice, I miss my sunshine. I miss the ocean breeze. I miss the atmosphere. So you can imagine I was happy with the surprising hit that came from the decidedly New York movie, HappyThankYouMorePlease (just out on DVD).
The movie is a warm, nuanced look at young relationships and has a terrific script. So much is woven throughout it’s hard to encapsulate. Suffice it to say that even though it’s about New York City, the movie is infused with so much joy and love it seems to belie the city’s reputation.
What struck me head on, though, was the following description of Los Angeles. One of the main characters is being offered work on the “left coast.” (There was a heartbreaking—to me—sequence of him driving up the PCH that made me sniffle.) He and his girlfriend must decide if they will stay together if he pursues this option. He says to her:
Dave [the one offering the work] told me this great thing about LA. … He said he figured it out. He said the whole town is a blank canvas and whatever you bring to it, that’s what it is. It’s just this random collection of neighborhoods where it’s always sunny, and it basically reflects wherever you are back at you. You’re happy, LA’s great. You’re not, LA sucks. But it has nothing to do with Los Angeles cause get this … [with significance] … There’s no such thing.
Truth. This is truth. It’s the weirdest thing. LA is exactly what you make of it. It has no identity of its own, it’s whatever you want it to be. This is why you can be yourself there. Everyone else is being themselves, too. Just who you are, right then, that moment, is what you are.
True, you’re only as successful as your latest project. You’re only as well-known as the people who know you right now. You’re only as happy or as zen as you’ve made yourself be. You can’t blame the town—it’s paradise, after all. You are what you bring to it.
I dig this. Other places I’ve lived, my self-definition came from externals (my job, my neighborhood, my town, my friends). LA, though, is all about me. I am who I am. I can have eyes wide open and learn everywhere I go, or I can shape my own little existence to be exactly what I want it to be. It’s my choice.
Personally, I love it. I’d rather have my tiny apartment eleven blocks from the beach in Santa Monica living on my own terms, than a three-bedroom colonial (which I had) in a traditional suburb (where I lived) with a high-paying job (which nearly killed me).
You don’t find out in the movie whether the couple stays in NYC or goes to LA, but I found myself hoping the girlfriend would at least give it a try. You can’t have too much sunshine in your life.