Movie makers have been entertaining us with divorce stories for many decades. Fortunately, in my divorce mediation practice, I rarely witness the knock-down, drag-out fights depicted in cinema, and that’s mainly because my clients come to me in the spirit of cooperation. But believe me, I know plenty of people who have bitter war stories of their own divorces. Were their battles influenced at all by the movies?
I am going to divide divorce movies into two categories: Revenge and The Kids.
Obviously, War of the Roses has become the ultimate metaphor for revenge in divorce. I haven’t seen the movie in years (nor do I really want to), but I can still hear the sound of screaming voices and shattering crystal. What about the garage sale in Waiting to Exhale? Was it terribly wrong for the jilted wife to sell her husband’s things for $1 apiece, including his skis and his fancy car? And personally, I loved the elaborate revenge plot hatched in The First Wives Club by three women who shared a nasty ex-husband. So smart and so well-executed! But let’s not lose sight of the fact that these movies are fictional.
Divorce movies about kids are a whole other thing. They are usually designed to tug at our heartstrings, and they generally succeed. Even though it was many, many years ago, Kramer v. Kramer is the seminal illustration of how senseless and damaging it can be to fight over custody of the kids. Fortunately, most courts now lean towards joint custody except in certain circumstances. And a more humorous and heartfelt look at kids in divorce can be found in Mrs. Doubtfire, where the late (great) Robin Williams’s character went to extraordinary means in order to spend time with his children. Also fortunately, most courts are now recognizing that fathers have equal rights. Then, there’s The Parent Trap, where identical twins who were separated by their parents’ divorce, accidentally meet each other years later, and then conspire to get their mom and dad back together. This rarely happens in real life.
I’d like to add a third category of divorce movies: Positivity. And now I can talk about my all-time favorite divorce movie, It’s Complicated. If you haven’t seen it, you need to, asap! It’s about a long-divorced couple who end up hooking up after their son’s college graduation. (IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: for those of you who don’t know me, I need to explain that I fantasize about Meryl Streep’s character’s kitchen, and NOT about hooking up with my ex!) Notwithstanding my kitchen envy, this movie resonates with me because it’s about how good life can be after divorce. About how the grown-up kids love both their parents despite the divorce. And about how exes can still effectively navigate the intertwining portion of their lives.
I’m struggling, though, to come up with some other examples of divorce movies that have a positive, yet realistic message. Your input will be appreciated.