Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Who Knows What the Tide Could Bring?

"We both had done the math. Kelly added it all up and knew she had to let me go. I added it up and knew that I had lost her. 'Cause I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone. I was gonna get sick or get injured or something. The only choice I had, the only thing I could control was when and how and where it was going to happen. So I made a rope, and I went up to the summit to hang myself. I had to test it, you know? Of course. You know me. And the weight of the log snapped the limb of the tree, so I couldn't even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing, and that's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope and all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in and gave me a sail. And now here I am. I'm back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass. And I've lost her all over again. I'm so sad that I don't have Kelly. But I'm so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?"

Chuck (Tom Hanks)

If the general story of "Cast Away," which premiered 15 years ago today, seemed familiar to you, it should have. It was based on a poem ("Enoch Arden") that was written more than 150 years ago by Alfred, Lord Tennyson when he was England's poet laureate.

It served as the basis for a number of movie projects long before "Cast Away," which premiered on this day in 2000, was made. In the silent era, D.W. Griffith made a film called "Enoch Arden," as did Christy Cabanne. An Australian movie named "The Bushwackers" was made in the 1920s.

Then, after talkies had been around for about a decade, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne appeared together in a movie called "My Favorite Wife" in 1940, which was being remade with Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin as "Something's Got to Give" in the months before Monroe's death in 1962. When that project was canceled, a remake was made with Doris Day and James Garner called "Move Over, Darling."

Another movie from 1940, "Too Many Husbands," starred Jean Arthur and Fred MacMurray. It was remade more than a decade later as "Three for the Show" with Jack Lemmon and Betty Grable.

And 1946's "Tomorrow Is Forever" starred Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles — and was the first credited film appearance for Natalie Wood.

All those movies were inspired by Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, which was about a fisherman who went to sea and was shipwrecked. He was missing for 10 years, then was rescued, only to find upon his return that his wife (and presumed widow) had married his childhood friend, with whom she had had a child. Not wishing to spoil her happiness, he never revealed his identity to her and died of a broken heart.

Each adaptation had different circumstances — and, in some, it was the wife, not the husband, who was marooned on an island — but it was basically the same story — a significant other was missing and presumed dead.

The story usually picked up after that significant other had been rescued, but "Cast Away" was different. The viewers followed Chuck (Tom Hanks), a FedEx employee whose plane went down in a storm, through his years of isolation on an uncharted island.

The audience had no idea what had become of Chuck's girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), until he was rescued and brought back to Memphis (which, for those of you who do not know, is the base city for FedEx). It was then he learned that Kelly had married someone else after she had given up all hope of finding him alive. It wasn't a childhood friend. It was Chuck's dentist.

Hanks was nominated for Best Actor, which I thought was appropriate, and he lost, which I didn't necessarily think was appropriate. I thought Hunt deserved a nomination as well — not for Best Actress, because she didn't have nearly enough screen time for that, but as Best Supporting Actress (hey, if Beatrice Straight could win for five minutes of screen time in "Network," why not Hunt?). Her part was important to the beginning and the end of the story.

Of course, Hunt won Best Actress for her work in "As Good As It Gets," and she got a Best Supporting Actress nod for "The Sessions." Many actresses would consider their careers successful if they had those to put on their resumes, and I don't doubt that Hunt is proud of her career, but I have felt strongly about this for a long time now. I really believe she deserved a nomination for "Cast Away."

"I always knew you were alive," she told Chuck when they were reunited. "I knew it. And everybody said that I had to quit saying that, that I had to let you go."

Then she said the words every person would like to hear from another: "I love you. You're the love of my life."

And Chuck replied, "I love you, too, Kelly. More than you'll ever know."

When I saw her deliver this line the first time, I wished the movie had given some attention to what was going on in what had to have been a frantic search for Chuck. That must have been a poignant story. We saw Chuck's transformation from a clock–driven courier to man isolated on an uncharted island where time was, by and large, irrelevant. But we didn't see the emotional roller–coaster ride Kelly's character must have gone through in the search for evidence of what had become of Chuck.

We only got hints of what it must have been like for Hunt's character, first from her husband when he came to Hanks' welcome–home rally and then from Hunt herself.

That part of it was never really explored in those other movies I mentioned, either. That was a missed opportunity.