Thursday, February 08, 2007

Starman Analysis

I watched STARMAN on TV last night, and was reminded again what a good story it is. (Yes, Jeff Bridges does some really strange acting in it--my husband did a wonderful impersonation of the stare, and had me rolling around laughing--but it fits.) This time I was noticing how well the plot was constructed.

It's really a relationship movie, and it's a hard relationship to portray well. In 3 days the woman has to go from encountering an alien who looks like her dead husband (she watches him grow from a freaky alien BABY, for goshsakes) to wanting to stay with and help him, to being completely in love with him enough to want to (a) have his baby and (b) venture off to a different planet, if he'd let her. Wow. That's some transition to try to get viewers/readers to buy into. Here are some of the reasons why I think it worked, and is still a good movie lo these many years later:

  • There's a really good reason why Jenny doesn't shoot him at the beginning, even when she's scared to death and is holding a gun on him: he is the image of her dead husband. As a new widow, she just couldn't shoot him until she found out more about that.
  • She really does try to get away. She doesn't just give in and happily say "okay, alien, I'll help you." She nearly hits another car just to get the driver's attention; she leaves a note in a gas station bathroom; and even when she's beginning to like him, she plans to dump him and catch a bus.
  • You can see her decide to stay, and understand why. It's only after she witnesses him perform an unusually caring, miraculous act (bringing a deer back to life) and then sees him get beaten for it that she understands that he's an amazing being, that he can't do this without her in a world so strange to him, and that she will help.
  • The love comes gradually, but is visible. There is a transition: fear, interest, respect, gratitude, friendship, love.
  • Each of them takes risks for the other. She stands up to a group of bullying (big) men for him; he carries her through a fire, and brings her back to life. She tracks him down and gets him away from the cops; he gives her the gift of a baby who will be part him and part her husband (so he's giving her back a part of her husband, in a weird way).
So it works, at least for me. There are a couple of moments that are clearly parallel to the Jesus/Mary story as well, I think (the woman is left with an "unexplained" baby who will "know all that I know and become a teacher"), which gives further food for thought. But mostly on this watching I was picking up hints for how to pull a short-term, high-transition love story off in fiction. {s}


Renée said...

I loved that movie! I haven't seen it in a long time. I know I completely bought the love story aspect back then in my naive, romantic, teenage stage, it'd be interesting to see if I would still accept it now that I'm old and cynical. ;o)

Isn't it fun to have a deeper insight into the whys and hows of storytelling now that we're creating stories of our own? It's one of those writing perks I never knew existed before, but thoroughly enjoy.

Susan Adrian said...

Hi Renee!!

It is fun. However, I'm sure it's somewhat annoying for my husband when I rhapsodize about how some plot element was handled in the middle of a movie. {g} Thankfully I don't do that in theatres....

Anonymous said...

STARMAN rates up there with some of the best romantic movies I've seen. My kids, however, won't watch it because they find it too sad.

And I dissect plots in my head all the time too. But then, I live in my head a lot. Pam