Cozy Christmas Cage
With the dulcet tones of Bing’s White Christmas in the background, it’s hard not to feel the holiday spirit tugging at your heartstrings. Even the Grinch can’t deny Mr. Crosby! For me, the song evokes beloved childhood memories of snowy Christmases past, and I yearn for those sweet, uncomplicated years. But that is the point, right? It keeps us coming back for more to have ourselves a Cozy Christmas Cage!
Hollywood contributes to my nostalgic traditions through a plethora of Yuletide movies. And while I prefer the classics, I do have a few contemporary favorites as well. The Family Man (2000) with Nicolas Cage is one of them. For the cynics, please suspend your disbelief for a little while because this plot contains a subjective spin on Frank Capra’s iconic movie It’s A Wonderful Life.
The Family Man gives us a reverse perspective. Instead of George Bailey, the financially bereft family man who wishes that he was never born, we have Cage’s character, Jack Campbell, who is single, successful, and wealthy. He has an abundance of the requisite material possessions (including women), but he’s lonely.
Even after he receives a message from Kate, his old college girlfriend, he refuses to admit that anything is missing from his life. With a quick nod to Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, Jack dismisses his regrets by saying, “I took the road less traveled.” This statement foreshadows the upcoming events.
After his encounter with a gun-toting would-be robber (his version of Clarence the angel), Jack is thrust into an alternate reality for a glimpse of the “other” path – the one he didn’t take.
During Jack’s “what if?” adventure, he vehemently objects to his suburban blue collar life, and he constantly searches for ways to escape from it. Both the tense and comical moments are memorable because of Cage’s boisterous, yet sincere performance. He has large, soulful eyes and a natural ability to transition smoothly from funny man to Wall Street hound dog.
Jack’s epiphany doesn’t happen until he’s about to lose this imaginary life (e.g. we don’t know what we got until it’s gone). He finally realizes that he made a mistake when he chose a career and money over love. And yes, he gets the proverbial second chance to change his fate. Back to reality, and cue the dramatic music as Jack races to stop Kate from leaving. And they all lived happily ever after.
So why do we return to these predictable and overly saccharine movies (a.k.a. modern fairytales)? Well, no matter how improbable the story might be, we keep coming back because it resonates with us on a personal level. In the midst of our mind-numbingly commercialized nonstop holiday shopping marathon, we earnestly want to feel something other than an empty bank account.
We also desire an intimate connection with those around us, and we desperately crave second chances, especially if we are haunted by past regret and what-ifs like Jack. We try to escape through these types of films because there’s usually a guaranteed happy ending. Or, as in The Family Man, there is an emotionally satisfying conclusion and a promise of more to come.
And ultimately, we love: “love.” Even the grouchiest Scrooges of the world pray for love to be victorious. Because if love isn’t the winner, then we all lose, and maxed-out credit cards are all that remain. People are more than plastic, and life isn’t meant to be a spectator sport. Through these simple stories, I’m reminded of the true reason for the season.