Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday Morning Teatime: The Sick Girl

I rented "Love and Other Drugs" from Redbox last night. (Be warned, if you're interested in seeing it - it's rated R for a reason.) I found it to be, albeit heavily peppered with sex, very deep and emotionally charged. It's nothing like a "typical" romantic comedy, that's for sure.

Anne Hathaway's character, Maggie, has early-onset Parkinson's and meets drug rep Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) at the doctor's office. They fall into a no-strings-attached fling which (predictably) deepens as the movie progresses. But, of course, Maggie's symptoms start to get worse, and will only continue to do so. Repeatedly throughout the film, she calls herself the "Sick Girl" and Jamie hears a lot of advice to find himself someone who's healthy, from her and from others, too.

(I'd go into a screenwriter's critique about how the script was, interestingly, far more centered on Jamie and his own personal bildungsroman than about Maggie at all - she was really just a catalyst - but I don't want to bore all you normal people out there. You've been spared!)

The "sick girl" thing, though, really got to me.

See, I was born six weeks prematurely and, after the incubator and then the oxygen tank at age 2 and the doctors telling my parents I wouldn't live until I was in elementary school and open heart surgery at age 5...well, I'm a stubborn little mule, it seems. And also, of course, God works mighty miracles! But I only ever got to an adult height of 4'10" and have suffered my entire life with severely reduced lung capacity. As a child and teenager, it was around 10% of normal - now, my pulmonologist tells me it's up to 50%. I take inhalers every day. I get winded a lot. Running and going up long flights of stairs can be challenging. Smoke and bonfires pose real threats if I'm not careful.

I'm like Maggie, though, in that I just want to get on with it. I can manage. I don't want to be treated differently or pitied. I don't act needy. I don't know any other way of life so I just live. It might take me a little more time to walk places (short legs also don't help that), but I'll get there.

Maybe it was the late hour, or the long week I've had, or lots of other reasons, but the climax of this movie really made me cry. Maggie cannot ask Jamie to take care of her as her Parkinson's gets worse, so she pushes him away. It takes him several weeks and a new job offer in another city, but he finally realizes he wants to step up to the challenge and goes to find her. She's on a bus to Canada with other patients who can't afford their medicine. He gets the bus to stop, and outside, they have this dialogue (with some slight edits on my part, by the way):

Jamie: I'm full of crap, okay? No, I'm...I'm knowingly full of crap. Because, uh...I have never cared about anybody or anything in my entire life. And the thing is, everybody just kind of accepted that. Like, "That's just Jamie." And then you! You. You didn't see me that way. I have never known anyone who actually believed that I was enough. Until I met you. And then you made me believe it, too. So, uh...unfortunately...I need you. And you need me.
Maggie: No I don't.
Jamie: Yes you do.
Maggie: No I don't.
Jamie: Yes, you do.
Maggie: Stop it, stop saying that.
Jamie: You need someone to take care of you.
Maggie: No, I don't!
Jamie: Everybody does.

Cue the waterworks.

And that's when I realized it. I'm not nearly as sick as a Parkinson's patient (praise God) and my condition isn't going to get any worse. But, as much as I hate to admit it, I'll always be just a little bit of a sick girl, too.